HYDERABAD: In what can open the gates for hybrid seed production in Telangana, the state government is looking at drones and unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) as a method in aiding paddy pollination.
Experts feel that this system will be necessitated in future as human or mechanical intervention might not be preferred on account of increase in labour costs and possible damage if machines are used for aiding pollination.
At present, a research is underway at the AgHub, an agriculture innovation hub of the Professor Jayashankar Telangana State Agricultural University (PJTSAU), in pursuance of the state government’s emphasis on using technology through Artificial Intelligence for Agriculture Innovation (AI4AI).
As part of the research, experts at PJATSU and a Hyderabad-based drone company are working with UAVs to facilitate pollination in paddy plants. The windfield produced by drones have a significant impact on distribution of paddy pollen, thus influencing hybrid rice breeding.
What researchers are trying to determine now through their experiments is how effective drones will be in facilitating paddy seed production. As of now they have completed the research on the first crop cycle in the two-crop cycle time period they have chosen and the results have been favourable.
The results accessed by Express show that pollination through the traditional methods of using a rope and stick, show a seed yield rate of 100 per cent and 86 per cent respectively.
Through natural wind, pollination was at 36 per cent. In contrast, pollination through drone returned a 64 per cent seed yield.
Though it is less compared to rope and stick, it is much higher compared to wind. If a cost-benefit analysis is made, drone method is better because for what one spends, return one gets is more.
“With learning from current season and some agronomic modification in future, we will be able to bridge the yield gap and put this innovation to use,” a researcher said, pointing out that the yield percentage could go up sharply.
Prem Kumar Vislawath, co-founder of Marut Dronetech, the city-based drone startup involved in the research with PJATSU, said: “Breeding hybrid varieties is a major factor contributing to global rise in agricultural output over the last few decades. For this, an efficient pollination control system is necessary to avoid the unwanted self-pollination or sib-pollination of the female parental line. This research will provide a historical overview of pollination control systems and their use in hybrid crop breeding.”
How UAVs help in pollination
The windfield produced by the rotor-wing UAV has a significant impact on the distribution of rice pollen, which directly influences hybrid rice breeding
The system is expected to help in saving an estimated 60 million euros