Medium 9781780648507

Automation in Tree Fruit Production: Principles and Practice

By: Zhang, Q.
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Automation in agriculture is made possible by the integration of advanced agricultural technology and precision agriculture management. This book, uniquely, will focus on applications of automation to the important industry of tree fruit production.ÊWritten by experts in agricultural automation technology from around the world, chapters in this book cover topics such as automated tree fruit production systems, plant stress sensing and high-throughput phenotyping in precision horticulture, the economics of automation in tree fruit production, light interception sensing systems for canopy management, precision irrigation and water management, precision technologies for pest and disease management, opportunities for the application of robotics in tree fruit production, and the mechanical harvesting and handling of fruit crops. The book is a representative, concise overview of the variety of technologies currently being applied to tree fruit crops around the world and the challenges faced by engineers and farmers that these technologies raise. It is aimed at researchers and graduate students of agriculture systems, agricultural and biological engineering, crop and soil sciences, horticulture, precision agriculture, and other relevant disciplines. It will also be of use to agriculture consultants, engineers, and other professionals such as agricultural equipment manufacturers and management professionals who use precision agriculture technologies.

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1 Tree Fruit Production Automation

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1

Tree Fruit Production

Automation

Qin Zhang*

Washington State University, Prosser, Washington, USA

1.1 Introduction

One solution for producing high-quality, high-yield fruit, with minimal dependence on seasonal human labor, is to create a means for automatous mechanized precision production in orchards. This involves three key technologies: agricultural automation; mechanization; and precision farming. Among them, mechanization and precision farming are at the core of a comprehensive system using automation technologies.

As one of the top-ranked engineering accomplishments of the 20th century, agricultural mechanization has made revolutionary changes in field crop production technology and made it possible to achieve high yields using minimal human labor to meet continuously growing needs for food, feed, fiber and fuel. To make machines operate efficiently, one feature of mechanized production is the uniformity of operation in a field.

Even though tree fruit production is quite different from field crop production, many of the fundamental mechanization technologies for field crop production can be used directly or modified for use in tree fruit production. The uniformity of mechanized production increases efficiency at the expense of being able to respond to crop growth variabilities often caused by inter- or intra-field soil type, fertility and moisture variance.

 

2 The Economics of Perennial Crops’ Production Automation

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2

The Economics of Perennial

Crops’ Production Automation

R. Karina Gallardo1* and David Zilberman2

Washington State University, Puyallup, Washington, USA; 2University of California Berkeley, Berkeley, California, USA

1

2.1 Background

During the 20th century, technological innovations played a major role in improving agricultural productivity. Five decades ago, futurists envisioned agricultural farms that today are not that far away from that vision. In today’s agricultural fields, soil sensors, drones, satellite images, efficient irrigation and mechanical harvesters, among other technologies, are a regular component of farming practices (Lusk, 2016).

It is interesting to note that mechanization devices have been readily available for grains, beans and cotton since the 1960s. However, mechanization devices for fruit and vegetables in general are lagging behind. Today, mechanical harvesters are massively used for some fruit or vegetables

 

3 Sensing for Stress Detection and High-throughput Phenotyping in Precision Horticulture

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3

Sensing for Stress Detection and High-throughput

Phenotyping in Precision

Horticulture

Sindhuja Sankaran*, Chongyuan Zhang and

Afef Marzougui

Washington State University, Pullman, Washington, USA

3.1 Overview

Sensing is a critical component of automation in tree fruit production, which includes site-specific management of resources (water, nutrients), precision chemical application for disease control, mechanical harvesting, and other crop protection applications to enhance the production efficiency and environmental stewardship. Another application of advanced sensing technologies that has developed in the past decade is crop scouting. The sensing technologies have a potential to assess abiotic (water stress, nutrient deficiencies, etc.) and biotic (bacterial, viral, fungal diseases, insect damage, etc.) stress conditions in different crops, sometimes in asymptomatic stages. The sensor technologies are greatly beneficial in determining the regions within an orchard that have anomalies (unhealthy or poorly performing trees), rather than specific types of disease or stress condition. The identification of such localized regions through remote sensing technologies can assist in the scouting process, thereby enhancing the scouting efficiency and decreasing the associated costs. Similarly, in the past few years, there has been great interest in high-throughput crop phenotyping using sensing technologies to assist genetics and breeding programs towards crop improvement efforts. The controlled studies (­focusing on one or few traits at a given time, e.g. disease resistance) and assessment of relative differences between different cultivars enhance the feasibility of using sensing for crop trait/phenotype

 

4 Light Interception and Canopy Sensing for Tree Fruit Canopy Management

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Light Interception and Canopy

Sensing for Tree Fruit Canopy

Management

Francisco Rojo1*, Jingjin Zhang2, Shrinivasa

Upadhyaya3 and Qin Zhang4

Escuela de Agronomía, Pontificia Universidad Católica de Valparaíso,

Casilla 4-D, Quillota, Chile; 2Shanghai Jiao Tong University, Shanghai, China;

3

University of California Davis, Davis, California, USA; 4Washington State

University, Prosser, Washington, USA

1

4.1 Introduction

Plants need light to perform photosynthesis, a process by which they transform solar energy into chemical energy that is stored in different organs as a carbohydrate. This important substance can then be used by the plants to maintain all the physiological processes that are required for its survival or its reproduction. It is for this reason that solar radiation is a key factor to consider when we want to evaluate plant productivity (i.e. plant biomass or yield, depending on the particular goal that people have in mind). The effect that light has in a crop’s productivity has been long exploited in agriculture; trellis systems have been analyzed in terms of their capacity to intercept light, or yield predictions have been used to target the management of crops to achieve potential yield at each location within a field or orchard.

 

5 Precision Orchard Systems

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5

Precision Orchard Systems

Matthew Whiting*

Washington State University, Prosser, Washington, USA

5.1 Introduction

Without intervention, most orchard trees will grow to great height and girth, forming a globular or triangular structure. Iteratively, throughout the domestication of tree fruit crops for large-scale production, orchardists and pomologists, in both empirical and theoretical ways, have learned and studied horticultural management strategies to improve both the quantity and quality of fruit produced. In designing and planting a new orchard, growers face increasing pressures to reduce the environmental footprint of production, meet local and global market demands for produce safety, and efficiently and consistently provide a healthy and safe product in a changing climate. Tree fruit orchard systems (i.e. the strategic manipulation of fruiting habit and vegetative growth) are varied, depending on crop, cultivar, rootstock, and location. The decision to plant a new orchard is challenging, because it is difficult to change any key element, cultivar, rootstock, tree spacing, and training system, once the trees are planted

 

6 Variable Rate Irrigation on Center Pivots

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6

Variable Rate Irrigation on Center Pivots

R. Troy Peters*

Washington State University, Prosser, Washington, USA

6.1 Introduction

Variable rate irrigation (VRI), also sometimes referred to as ‘precision’ or ‘site-specific’ irrigation, is the ability of an irrigation system to apply different amounts of water to different areas of the field.

Center pivot irrigation is the largest single method of irrigation in the USA. This chapter discusses the various VRI options for center pivots, when they might save water, save energy, and create higher crop yields, and when it might be unreasonable to expect these kinds of improvements. Some of the remaining challenges associated with

VRI are discussed, and a simple soil-water balance model is used to illustrate water savings estimates for various soils and how VRI might be used to take advantage of significant in-season rainfall events. The benefits of VRI on other irrigation systems such as drip can be readily extrapolated from the discussion centering on center pivots since similar principles apply.

 

7 Precision Technologies for Pest and Disease Management

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7

Precision Technologies for Pest and Disease Management

Lav Khot1*, Gwen-Alyn Hoheisel1, Yasin Osroosh1 and Reza Ehsani2

Washington State University, Prosser, Washington, USA; 2University of California, Merced, California, USA

1

7.1 Introduction

Precision pest and disease management has become increasingly important in tree fruit production with the rising incidents of invasive insects, pests and pathogenic infestation. As consumers are becoming technology savvy, demand for quality produce that can readily be traced back to the source has been growing steadily. Regulatory agencies are also pushing for best management practices and traceability to effectively address produce safety and environmental concerns. Integrated pest and disease management (IPDM) is vitally important in such efforts.

The success of IPDM is heavily dependent on effective infestation monitoring. Monitoring is carried out with the purpose of spotting pest and disease damage and identifying pests and their key natural enemies, also known as beneficial organisms. As a basis for decision making, monitoring provides valuable information about the population densities and developmental stage of insects and their natural enemies. Over the years, technology has enabled us to transition from traditional labor-intensive pest and disease monitoring to digital ‘smart’ insect traps, pest modeling with orchard weather data, and remote sensing for disease infection mapping.

 

8 Precision Nutrient Management

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8

Precision Nutrient Management

Gerry Neilsen* and Denise Neilsen

Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, Summerland, British Columbia, Canada

8.1 Introduction

In horticultural production systems, increased precision in the application of both water and nutrients can lead to improvements in the efficiency of nutrient uptake by the crop, particularly when using simultaneous applications – a process that is commonly referred to as f­ertigation.

­

Fertigation principles and practices have previously been reviewed

(Haynes, 1985; Bar-Yosef, 1999). Fertigation has been applied to a wide range of perennial fruit crops, including apple (Neilsen et al., 1999), sweet cherry (Neilsen et  al., 2004a), pecans (Wells, 2015), peach (Bussi et  al.,

1991), grape (Treeby, 2008), blueberry (Vargas et al., 2015), coffee (Bruna et al., 2015) and citrus (Alva, 2008).

This chapter will focus on cumulative fertigation research undertaken primarily in high-density apple and cherry as a case study of the practical application of fertigation. Thus the information is most relevant to semi-arid fruit-growing regions, where irrigation is required to achieve production. However, the principles may also have relevance to more humid regions where supplemental irrigation is used as a buffer against erratic precipitation. Fertigation is of particular interest in orchards that are located on coarse-textured sandy loams, loamy sands or sandy soils.

 

9 Precise Crop Load Management

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9

Precise Crop Load Management

Caixi Zhang1* and Du Chen2

Shanghai Jiaotong University, Shanghai, China; 2China Agricultural

University, Beijing, China

1

9.1 Introduction

The development of fruit size and quality depends on many factors, such as the leaf–fruit ratio, genetic and climatic factors, position in the canopy, tree age, water and nutrient supply, source–sink relationship and crop load (Dennis, 2003). The management of crop load is one of the most important areas of orchard management that growers face each year, because most fruit species often set more fruit than necessary if growing conditions are optimal (Westwood, 1993). An excess of fruits with respect to vegetative growth may lead to low fruit size and to irregular or alternate bearing in many perennial crops, particularly in apple, pear, plum, olive, and citrus (Monselise and Goldschmidt, 1982). For most tree fruit species, the alternation of large and small crops is caused by competition between the current season’s crop and the coming season’s flower buds.

 

10 Mechanical Harvest and In-field Handling of Tree Fruit Crops

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10

Mechanical Harvest and In-field

Handling of Tree Fruit Crops

Manoj Karkee1*, Abhisesh Silwal1 and Joseph

R. Davidson2

Washington State University, Prosser, Washington,USA; 2Washington

State University, Richland, Washington, USA

1

10.1 Introduction

Through intensive automation and mechanization, agricultural productivity has substantially increased in the past century. Farming technologies commercially adopted over the course of the 20th century include equipment for field operations, such as tractors, planters, sprayers and combine harvesters, as well as irrigation systems, all of which have profoundly altered the structure of agriculture (Silwal et al., 2016a). The production of row crops like corn and wheat has seen unparalleled reduction in labor use and improvement in crop yield and quality through the application of these technologies. However, commercial adoption of mechanization and automation technologies for fresh market tree fruit crops such as apples and pears is still limited.

 

11 Opportunity of Robotics in Precision Horticulture

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11

Opportunity of Robotics in Precision Horticulture

Thomas Burks1*, Duke Bulanon2 and Siddhartha Mehta1

University of Florida, Gainesville, Florida, USA; 2Northwest Nazarene

University, Nampa, Idaho, USA

1

11.1 Introduction

The motivation towards adoption of mechanization and automation technologies for fruit production has been associated primarily with labor productivity, labor cost and availability, as well as other factors such as cultivar/varietal improvements, fruit quality and safety, disease and pest pressures, environmental concerns and regulations, and global market pressures. Although the vast majority of progress has been realized during the past 50 years, there seems to be an accelerated effort in developed countries in the past decade as two major factors come to bear. The first is rapidly escalating labor cost along with a shrinking labor force, while the second is a significant acceleration in agricultural automation technological development enabled by aerospace, defense and industrial efforts. The concept of appropriate automation becomes crucial, since global market pressures limit the cost of automation to competitive levels.

 

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