Optimising potato dry matter through remote sensing

This AHDB sponsored field lab will use new technology to assess in-field variation of potato dry matter for decreased inputs, higher quality and yields.

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Field Lab Timeline

    3/26/2018 11:00:00 PM
  • Initial idea expressed

    Initial idea expressed
  • 5/27/2018 11:00:00 PM
  • Methods discussion

    Methods discussion
  • 5/29/2018 11:00:00 PM
  • Potatoes planted

    Potatoes planted
  • 5/30/2018 11:00:00 PM
  • Proposal submitted

    Proposal submitted
  • 6/2/2018 11:00:00 PM
  • Proposal accepted

    Proposal accepted
  • 6/4/2018 11:00:00 PM
  • First weekly drone survey

    First weekly drone survey
  • 7/15/2018 11:00:00 PM
  • Progress updates

    Progress updates
  • 8/14/2018 11:00:00 PM
  • Crop sampling ID

    Crop sampling ID
  • 8/30/2018 11:00:00 PM
  • Last weekly drone survey

    Last weekly drone survey
  • 9/3/2018 11:00:00 PM
  • Harvesting plan discussion

    Harvesting plan discussion
  • 9/10/2018 11:00:00 PM
  • Pre-harvest meeting

    Pre-harvest meeting
  • 10/19/2018 11:00:00 PM
  • Dry Matter assessments

    Dry Matter assessments
  • 10/31/2018 12:00:00 AM
  • First year trial review

    First year trial review
  • 11/5/2018 12:00:00 AM
  • Results report and next steps

    Results report and next steps
For further information hover over the above milestone marks
  • Discussion

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  • Achievements

    October 2018

    Potato sampling and dry matters

    Almost all of the dry matter sampling and analysis has now been done. One field had to be dessicated and harvested before being sampled due to this year's pressure on potato harvests and generally low yields due to the wet cold spring and hot dry summer. The dry summer has also meant less variation in dry matter content across the fields, however other fields have shown some variation.

    The coordinator noted that it has been a difficult year to undertake the trial due to this weather - as differences in dry matter and lower yields will mean that evaluation of the technique will be hard. Despite this there has been considerable interest from other land owners and he thinks it has been very worthwhile to trial. There will be a meeting to discuss the results and year's progress likely in December when the triallists are less busy with harvesting.

    Milestone: Pre-harvest meeting

    September 2018

    Drone surveys nearing completion

    The majority of the final drone surveys have been completed, and a ground-truthing plan for the potato sampling as the leaves show senescence has been established. This will be carried out over the next few weeks. Any fields not showing senescence will be surveyed a further time by the drone before sampling.

    Milestone: Last weekly drone survey

    July 2018

    Progress update

    On June the 30th, there was an issue with the drone overheating at the end of its two flights, due to not being able to cool down and at the end of the second flight it descended too quickly and suffered damage to the airframe. The last of the sites were unable to surveyed on this day. As the researcher has several spare airframes, the camera was re-mounted on a new drone which allows the latest software to run and has temperature monitoring, so the hope is to avoid a similar incident in the future.

    There will be further updates in the next month.

    Milestone: Progress updates

    June 2018

    Trial underway

    All fields have emerged following late planting and approval for flight operations gained from the relevant land owners. Weekly flights of the LLEO drone are underway weather permitting.

    The coordinator has joined the researcher for some of the flights to provide site orientation and background coupled with introduction to site security or land owners representatives where required.

    Crop development has been very rapid given the high daytime temperatures and long day length. It is estimated that crops are about two weeks behind normal annual development.

    Milestone: First weekly drone survey

    May 2018


    13-15 fields will be chosen within the farms and the drone flights and imaging will occur weekly:

    • 7 fields of two varieties at the first farm
    • 5 fields of one variety at the second farm
    • Potentially at least two more fields of a further two varieties, subject to approval from a third land owner.

    The assessment results will be verified in the field with the usual practice of digging up samples and measuring the dry matter content in the lab.

    The coordinator will use his experience to confirm that the crop models generated by the Low Level Earth Observation (LLEO) drone are correct, by visually validating areas within fields to collect samples based on their different crop growth profiles. He will also manage the field-work contractors that dig, bag and transport the potato tuber samples from the representative areas of the five potato fields. As a specialist in growing potatoes for processing he will oversee the evaluation of crop samples and will collate the results to produce a cost-benefit report for wider distribution to its community members.

    At the end of the trial, the farms involved will also assess the business benefit to the technique. As this currently is an expensive tool they want to be able to weigh up the cost-benefit of the time taken for arranging logistics, access and for time taken to interpret and act on the analyses outcomes.

    Milestone: Methods discussion

    May 2018


    The aim of the field lab is for the farmers to be able to use remote sensing drones developed by the researcher to generate maps of potato dry matter variation in-field shortly before desiccation.

    The data will likely be imported into software and field zoned for desiccation at different dates using GPS controlled patch spraying to give even dry matter across fields. This hopes to then increase potato quality, yield and lessen inputs by greater precision in understanding where nutrients are lacking.

    The cost of equipment is high, and so the cost-benefit will also be analysed.

    Milestone: Initial idea expressed

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