Can UAV technology be used for peanut variety selection?


Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University

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We proposed to validate the use of UAV technology for field selection of drought tolerant peanut varieties. This will help peanut industry as a. whole: breeders will have improved tools for selection; farmers will have better yielding varieties; and shellers and processors will have higher quality peanuts from cultivars with improved water use efficiency, which will positively affect maturity and the oleic fatty acid content. During three years of experimentation, we measured plant characteristics associated with water deficit stress on several Virginia- and runner-type genotypes grown in small plots under rain exclusion shelters. Water stress was imposed by covering the plots with the rainout shelters for three weeks from beginning flowering. During this time, the plots were not irrigated nor rained. Wilting was used as the measure of plant stress and was visually assessed. At the same time, wilting was remotely monitored using Red-Green-Blue (RGB), near infrared (NIR), and infrared (IR) plant properties. For these measurements we used handheld devices. After three weeks of water deficit, rain shelters were removed and RGB, NIR, and IR plant properties were assessed with sensors on a drone. We have shown that Green Area (GA) and Greener Area (GGA) derived from the RGB properties, the Normalized Difference Vegetation Index (NOVI) derived from the NIR, and Canopy Temperature (CT) derived from IR were good estimators for wilting, yield, Sound Mature (SMK) kernel content and Crop Value. In addition, both ground and aerial sensing were equally suitable for field selection of drought tolerant varieties, but aerial sensing was faster and more accurate as the information came from the entire plot and not just few plants within each plot. 

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