By Haley Apel
The next generation of agricultural technologies and systems is the focus of three USDA-funded research projects within the Biological Systems Engineering Department at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln. The projects were announced Oct. 17 by the National Institute of Food and Agriculture’s (NIFA) Agriculture and Food Research Initiative (AFRI).
“Technology is front and center in agricultural production,” said NIFA Director Sonny Ramaswamy. “NIFA is investing in research on precision and smart technologies to maximize production efficiencies, including water and fertilizer use, and to produce nutritious food, new biofuels and bioproducts.”
The projects focus on high-resolution depth sensing of soils, next-generation spray drift mitigation and variable rate irrigation technology. Work in these areas has already been established and with support from AFRI, Nebraska researchers can continue to develop these technologies.
“Three of the 17 agricultural technology projects recently funded by the USDA are led by Nebraska’s Biological Systems Engineering Department, which is a testament to the innovative approach by our researchers,” said David Jones, interim department head of biological systems engineering. “Through these research projects, we will be able to bring the latest engineering technology to Nebraska’s biological systems.”
The three projects are:
High-resolution depth sensing of soils. Yufeng Ge, assistant professor and advanced sensing systems engineer, was awarded a three-year $499,896 grant to develop an instrumented soil penetrometer for gathering real-time and simultaneous prediction of a number of soil properties.
Innovation in drift reduction technologies. Research led by Joe Luck, associate professor of biological systems engineering and precision agriculture engineer, is focused on reducing negative impacts to society and the environment resulting from spray drift of pesticides. The four-year, $499,916 project will introduce next-generation technologies for controlling spray droplets during field applications.
Advancing variable rate irrigation technology using unmanned aircraft systems. Advancing variable rate irrigation technology across the Great Plains and the Midwest through improved water efficiency of irrigated, row-crop agriculture is the focus of a three-year, $499,978 grant awarded to Christopher Neale, professor in the Biological Systems Engineering Department and director of research at the Robert B. Daugherty Water for Food Global Institute at the University of Nebraska.