Each year, agricultural producers are becoming more and more acutely aware of global warming. This is due to the occurrence of a large number of pests in the fields, which damage agricultural crops and cause economic damage to farms. Over the past few years, the number of pests has reached such a level that the damage they cause to crops in tilled areas has reached 35%. The use of modern agricultural chemistry has a short-term effect as it causes resistance in pests. Luckily, there are companies in our country that have developed and successfully applied original techniques of plant protection using entomophages and drones in the fields. Fly&See is one of them.
Fly and See is Russia’s leading company in the integration of unmanned aerial vehicles into various human activities. Drones perform a number of agricultural tasks — from field monitoring and agricultural analysis to plant disease control using ultra-low volume spraying techniques, as well as pest control through the distribution of useful entomophage eggs to fields.
In order to maintain positions on the global and domestic markets, one needs to use modern technology. Organic farming biotechnology is becoming increasingly important day by day. And organic agricultural products are 2-3 times more expensive.
Drone agricultural aviation is currently one of the most innovative areas. The company’s specialists have taught drones (UAVs) very effective methods of spraying bio-formulations, to introduce entomophages and attract bees to the fields for better pollination. Developments are currently underway to artificially pollinate gardens with drones, and new methods are being developed to control rodent species using biological baits carried by drones.
All these technologies allow saving a significant part of the harvest, increase the efficiency of the agricultural technologies and, finally, securing financial soundness of farms by growing more qualitative products in bigger amounts.
Agriculture is a quite conservative sector. Innovations in this sector are difficult to take root and promote. But not so long ago, autopilots for combine harvesters were a curiosity, and today they are in almost every farm. Or, for example, discriminatory application sprayers which were a novelty a couple of years ago and are now firmly established in Russia’s fields.
Today, the most popular technology among farmers is the introduction of entomophages by means of UAVs. Entomophages (from Greek Entoma — “insects” and phagos — “devourer”) are predators that are dangerous to pests and affect the natural regulation of their numbers. Among the entomophages are trichogrammae, affelinus, pseudafici used to control aphids, coccids and other insect pests, as well as some ants that eat leaf-eating caterpillars.
Many pests, such as cotton budworm and cabbage earworm, European corn borer, grass moth, fir seed moth, leaf-rolling moth, and Potato and tomato tuber moth are the real scourge of fields. With the help of a special dispenser attached to the drone, it is possible to lay eggs of the trichogrammae and chrysopidae on different crops.
Trichogramma is a small egg fly whose larva feeds on the eggs of lepidopteran pests. The trichogramma is effective for 217 plant pest species. At our latitudes, trichogramma is used against 70 different plant pests. Its timely application saves up to 40% of crops such as sunflower, corn, soybean, chickpea, sugar beet, mustard and rapeseed
Trichogrammae are used in gardens against fir seed moths, leaf-rolling moths and in vineyards against grape-berry moths.
The effective technology of applying the trichogramma against egg-laying pests implies precise determination of the beginning of pest flight. Pheromone traps are used to do this, then the pest egg laying initiation and mass egg laying periods are calculated. Efficient application of the trichogramma implies that it is introduced two or three times from the beginning of summer according to a certain scheme. The practice of 2019 showed that if the technology is followed, the efficiency of pest destruction is up to 80%.
For example, in one district of Krasnodar Region, specialists treated over 500 hectares of soybeans with a 3 gram dosage of trichogramma eggs per 1 hectare during June-July. The crop yield was 40-42 quintals per hectare, with an average regional yield of 22 quintals per hectare in 2019.
Chrysopida is a small insect of neuropteran family. Female chrysopida is very fertile and lays 900-950 eggs in one generation. A chrysopida larva is a predator that feeds on aphids, ticks and caterpillars of the first generation of lepidopteran pests. The introduction rate of chrysopida is even lower than that of the trichogramma, from 200 to 1000 eggs per hectare. Chrysopida is introduced either manually or with the help of a drone.
The next entomophage, which is also actively used in agriculture, is the habrobracon. It is a small hymenopteran insect. The habrobracon is known to infect more than 75 species of lepidopteran pests. Females of the habrobracon parasitize on almost all types of leaf-eating and cut worms, as well as on grass moth and fir seed moth. They are very active and migrate long distances in search of food. Habrobracon does not eat pest eggs, but adult caterpillars of 2 or 3 years of age.
It should be noted that the combined use of the above entomophages makes it possible to fight plant pests with up to 90% efficiency.
Working in combination with entomophages, drones show very high productivity. In one flight that lasts 13-14 minutes, a drone can introduce useful insects over an area of 18-20 hectares. Flight assignments for drones, which take place in automatic modes, are programmed using special software.
The existing intensive agricultural technologies solve the problem of plant protection by implementing a strategy of total elimination of the whole complex of insects that are present in the agrobiocenosis. At the same time, more and more aggressive chemicals are used year by year, which together with pests destroy useful entomophages and bees. By contrast, biological defence technologies are aimed at forming a natural biota of the field and the natural regulation of insects.
The use of a chrysopida, trichogramma and habrobracon allows saving 5-7 quintals of sunflower per hectare, 4-6 quintals of corn per hectare and 7-10 quintals of soybean per hectare. Besides, using entomophages is more cost-saving. As compared to the traditional agricultural chemicals, the entomophages introduction service is 1.5 cheaper.
Any decision in agriculture must be justified agronomically and economically in order to obtain high yields and improve product quality. For this purpose, the use of drones is the most prospective.
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