PCF case results

Autonomous hypercart  for crop sensing - Ruben Van De Vijver - update December 2017

To  monitor crop status like disease development in potato crops, a motor driven controlled and steered hypercart equipped with different sensors was built by ILVO. This hypercart was constructed from an aluminium frame with a width of 2.25 m, a height of 2.3 m and a length of 3 m. Different sensors can be mounted on a moving beam in order to scan crops in a plot of 0.85 m by 3 m. The hypercart can be equipped with up to five sensors to gather RGB, multispectral, hyperspectral and height information about the canopy i.e. (1) a RGB camera (D90, Nikon, Japan), (2) a multispectral camera (Sequoia, Parrot, ), (3) a hyperspectral snapshot mosaic camera (made by 3D-one and based on an IMEC CMOS-chip, 41 bands from 470-975 nm), (4) a hyperspectral linescan sensor (Imspector  V9, 430-900 nm) and (5) a LiDAR sensor (SICK, LMS111). During field measurements, the hypercart was covered with a black cloth to eliminate external light disturbance. A combination of 18 halogen spot lights (50W, OSRAM Decostar) mounted on the moving beam produced artificial light conditions in order to generate uniform and stable lighting conditions. The hypercart can operate completely autonomous thanks to the use of two lithium-ion accu packs (each 5kWh) and a highly efficient power management system. Propulsion and steering is realized with two brushless DC motors (Motenergy, ME0201013501, 2.4 kW) steered by a Curtis controller and a Controllino mini PLC module. Communication between user, sensors, the moving beam and the steering and propulsion system is done by an integrated shuttle pc (Shuttle, DH170). Thanks to this fully equipped and motorized hypercart the early detection and monitoring of potato diseases and other crop characteristics will take a rolling start!

In addition, thesis student Jordi Demarest (VIVES en ILVO) received a "Best thesis in electro-mechanics" award at VIVES for his hard work on the hypercart!! Well done Jordi!! More info can be found here

Schematic of a hypercart

ECPA conference - Irene Borra-Serrano - update July 2017

Participation in the "11th European Conference on Precision Agriculture – ECPA 2017" (16-20/07/2017 in Edinburgh, UK).
with the poster entitled ‘Non-destructive monitoring of grassland canopy height using a UAV’. The poster can be found here.
During the conference different aspect of Precision Agriculture were presented and provided us with an overview of the current state of the research done in this field. The sessions covered topics such as Satellite applications, Precision Horticulture, Crop disease, UAVs applications, etc.
The congress was a great opportunity to know what other groups are working on and learn from them techniques or procedures to apply. Moreover new contacts for future collaborations were made.

Drones & Research - Irene Borra-Serrano - update May 2017

Participation in the "Drones and research at the university: state of play in Belgium" day the 31st May 2017 in Louvain-la-Neuve at the UCL (Université Catholique de Louvain). An oral presentation entitled; “Grasslands monitoring” allowed us to present the ISENSE project and in more detail the work carried out in the PhD.
This activity was equally aimed at researchers working in the development of drones and at researchers that use drones as a working tool. The aim was to identify research groups in the field of drones in Belgian universities and research institutes to encourage collaboration and to share information. It was an interesting day with many different topics.

Start field experiment - Ruben Van De Vijver - update April 2017

After weeks of preparation, finally the field experiment has started. Several potato diseases were inoculated and planted into the soil in the course of several months during which potatoes thrive. The field experiment included six different diseases caused by different types of pathogens such as viruses, bacteria, nematodes, fungi and oomycetes (pseudo-fungi). To encompass a broad range of physiological symptoms, both soil borne and airborne pathogens were chosen as soil borne pathogens primarily attack the rooting system, while airborne pathogens mainly infest leaf tissue.

The soil borne pathogens like Verticillium dahliae (Figure 1) and Globodera rostochiensis were blended into the soil to create a homogenous mixture of infected soil. 

Figure 1: Verticillium dahliae inoculum in a concentrated (left) and a diluted suspension (middle)

For this blending process a concrete blender was used (Figure 2) as an efficient method to reach a homogeneous mixture. Other soil borne diseases such as Pectobacterium carotovorum were inoculated onto the tuber two days before the planting. Airborne diseases like Alternaria solani were inoculated during the growing season as the infection period was significantly shorter compared to that of soil borne diseases.

Figure 2: practical setup for the inoculum preparation

After blending the soil, the potatoes were planted by hand in previously drilled holes (Figure 3). These holes allowed the precise application of infected soil around the potatoes tuber, which is necessary to control the concentration of pathogens.

Figure 3: Drilled holes allow the precise application of infected soil around the potato tuber

After the planting the measurement campaign begins where we collect hyperspectral data by different types of sensors to create an extensive dataset for disease detection.

COST meeting - Irene Borra-Serrano - update March 2017

Oral presentation at the 3rd general COST Meeting in Oeiras (Portugal) entitled: “Evaluation of persistency of forage grasses in a breeding context using UAV imagery”. This meeting summarized the current state of phenotyping in plants and facilitated the expansion of our network.

Earth Observation Day - Irene Borra-Serrano - update Dec 2016

Attendance to the Belgian Earth Observation Day 2016 on the 8th December 2016 in Saintes. Interesting day with many different topics that allowed us to know what other research groups are working on in Remote Sensing and establish contact for future collaborations.