Evaluating machine vision in vegetable production

Recent research at the University of California-Davis shows that machine vision is better than hand-weeding and cultivation of broccoli and lettuce during times of rainy weather.

Machine-vision cultivation is a commercial reality for vegetable growers but is it improving integrated weed management in these crops? University of California-Davis research results that appeared recently in Weed Technology, a publication of the Weed Science Society of America showed machines gained the upper hand over hand-weeding and cultivation of broccoli and lettuce during times of rainy weather.

Hand-harvested crops such as broccoli and lettuce are easily threatened by weeds. Uncontrolled weeds can result in lower yields, reduced quality, and decreased harvest efficiency.

The current study timed how long it takes a laborer to hand-pick weeds versus machine cultivation. It also tested whether smaller amounts of herbicide or none at all could be applied to the crop with the use of machine cultivation. Reducing the use of herbicides would have economic and environmental benefits.

The many variables at play produced mixed results. Herbicides proved the most effective method against weeds. But with the heaviest use of herbicide tested, the lettuce yield was not improved—the herbicide also affected the crop’s growth.

In rainy weather, when both hand weeding and machine weeding are difficult, herbicides again provided the best weed deterrent. In dryer seasons, machine cultivation was more effective than hand weeding.

In California and Arizona, lettuce and broccoli are grown year-round, and cultivation is an important part of the process. More accurate and timely cultivation may be the greatest benefit that machine-guided cultivation has to offer.

Posted by Vision Systems Design

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