Cambridge University Farm is working on a smartphone app to measure ground cover in potato crops.
“Ground cover is a key input for yield prediction model, irrigation scheduling and blight predictions,” Marc Allison, a researcher at the Farm, explained.
The current technology for measuring it was tried and tested but cumbersome, he said. It usually involved carrying a wooden-framed grid into the field and counting the number of squares more than half filled with green leaves. “It works well, with reproducible results.”
That was better than “drive-by-estimates” which could be as much 10-15% out, and have a negative impact on the accuracy of yield predictions or irrigation scheduling.
The app worked by the user taking a photo of the potato crop, which would then be uploaded to Cambridge University Farm servers for image processing. “In testing last season, it correlated well with the grid system.”
Users were probably not going to be sent the ground cover result, but instead the figure would be automatically inputted into yield prediction or irrigation scheduling services provided by CUF, and growers would then be sent recommendations back either via email or the smartphone, Dr Allison said.
“We’re doing further testing this season with a group of about 15 growers and agronomists, with the aim to roll it out the following season if results are good.”