One of Precision Crop Tech’s drones, spraying down onto a farm field. (Contributed)

Agassiz study to look at drone use for pesticide application

The study will be the first in Canada to use drones to apply pesticides to farm fields

Studying different ways of applying pesticides to plants isn’t new to Markus Clodius. After all, that’s his main job at the Agassiz Research and Development Centre. But this summer might see Clodius researching whether a new kind of technology will be just as effective for putting pesticides on fields: drones.

“This kind of efficacy trial isn’t new to me,” Clodius said. “But this kind of efficacy trial with this kind of tech, that’s very new.”

Using drones in agriculture isn’t as avant-garde as it might seem. Government research facilities in Summerland and Atlantic Canada have used drones to monitor plant stress, while commercial growers have used drones for everything from manure application to visual reconnaissance.

But this study would be the first time drones have been used for pesticide application in Canada.

“This is kind of a dry run for us at this point,” Clodius explained. The trial — which is a partnership between the Agassiz Research Centre, provincial authorities, commercial representatives and Precision Crop Tech, an Abbotsford-based drone company — is still waiting for permits before it can do any sprays this summer.

“If pesticide application with drones are to become commonplace in the long term, there’s a number of regulatory hurdles that will have to be cleared,” he added.

RELATED: Drone operators subject to age limit, certification under new federal rules

Transport Canada has a role in licensing drones and their pilots. The provincial government has a role in licensing commercial pesticide applicators. Health Canada is responsible for deciding which pesticides can be applied in which ways, under the Pest Control Products Act.

Clodius’ study would be looking at the information Health Canada needs to make decisions for the Pest Control Products Act: how does the product work with a drone, how much is needed for proper coverage, what the pesticide drift is like and how much residue there is.

“Our piece of this is to look at the pesticide labels themselves, where Health Canada has regulatory authority, and say does this work with a drone?” he explained.

“Ultimately the decision is theirs, but we want to feed them information in hopes of getting the labels changed for small growers who basically wouldn’t have access to these things otherwise.”

Right now, pesticide application is limited to ground vehicles and manned aircraft. Using drones to apply pesticides would be considered an aerial application, and so would only be appropriate for pesticides that specifically allow for that kind of use.

But Clodius will be testing to see if drones can be just as effective as hand-held boom applications.

SEE ALSO: Century of farming research celebrated in Agassiz

This week, Clodius will be planting 10-plots of leeks in the Agassiz Research Centre field and inoculating them with thrips, a sucking pest no bigger than an eyelash. Then, likely sometime in July, he’ll be working with the owner of Precision Crop Tech to use drones to test two different kinds of pesticides on the leeks.

If it goes well, more studies could be in the future, as Health Canada decides what other information it needs to make decisions on what pesticides are drone-worthy.

“It’s hard to predict right now what way it will go,” Clodius said. “But that fact that these are being used for this purpose in other jurisdictions already suggests to me that there’s going to be economic pressure on our growers to adopt it sooner or later.”

According to Clodius, growers in China, Japan and parts of the United States are already using drones for pesticide application, and having the regulatory systems in place for them.

“Other countries have already been early adopters of this technology,” he said. “I expect that we’ll eventually follow. But we have some hoops to jump through first.”



grace.kennedy@ahobserver.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Just Posted

FVRD chair calls B.C. incineration plan for Philippines waste ‘disturbing’

Metro Vancouver ‘uniquely capable’ of safely disposing of waste coming back to Canada, say officials

RCMP believe Missing Hope teenager was headed to Chilliwack

Keely Reeze Loewen, 18, last in contact with a family member on June 13

Chilliwack residents reminded to ‘stand by your pan’ after kitchen fire Tuesday

Unattended pot on stove leads to fire and smoke damage in McIntosh apartment unit

Session will help Chilliwack seniors with paperwork plans

The June 25 info session will cover POAs, wills, and more

Question period won’t change after Chilliwack trustee motion fails

Public participation will continue to be limited to items on the night’s agenda

VIDEO: ‘Avengers: Endgame’ to be re-released with new footage

‘Avatar’ holds global box office record at $2.788 billion, while ‘Endgame’ stands at $2.743 billion…

B.C. teen killed by falling tree near Victoria

Second youth also injured in freak incident during field trip at Camp Barnard near Sooke

Elias Pettersson wins Calder Trophy as NHL’s top rookie

Vancouver forward first Canuck to win award since Pavel Bure in 1992

VIDEO: Acknowledging skeptics, finance minister vows to build Trans Mountain project

Bill Morneau said he recognizes ‘huge amount of anxiety’ in Calgary over future of oil and gas sector

Shovels could be in the ground on Trans Mountain by September, CEO says

Ian Anderson points to weeks likely required for NEB to reinstate 2016 regulatory record

Scorpion gives birth after hitching ride in B.C. woman’s luggage

A Vancouver woman inadvertently brought the animal home from a trip to Cuba

RCMP allows officers to grow beards

Members can now wear beards and goatees, as long as they’re neatly groomed

Girl, 10, poisoned by carbon monoxide at B.C. campsite could soon return home

Lucille Beaurain died and daughter Micaela Walton, 10, was rushed to B.C. Children’s Hospital on May 18

30 years later: B.C. woman uses sidewalk chalk to reclaim site of her sexual assault

Vancouver woman didn’t think her powerful story, written in chalk, would ignite such support

Most Read