PRECISE CONTROL OF RODENTS IN ALFALA FIELDS USING DRONES

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ABSTRACT

Rodent control is a challenge to any alfalfa grower in the world. Many rodent species are attracted to alfalfa fields, their population in the field increases, and they can cause huge damages to the crop. The rodents’ damage can reduce the alfalfa yield by up to 30-40% (accumulated) and can reduce the number of growing seasons. The rodent populations can also prevent the grower from using advanced irrigation methods, such as SDI (Subsoil Drip Irrigation systems) because of their damage to the subsoil irrigation pipes. In this study, we suggest a novel and innovative method to control the rodent populations in the field. It begins with monitoring the field by drone (with a high-resolution RGB camera), identifying the rodents’ foraging areas in the field (through picture analysis), and precision poisoning by drone using a unique custom-made system – only where the rodents are active in the field. In our experiments, we show that we can control rodent populations using only 3-5% of the amount of poison that would have been used practicing broadcast poisoning. 

Key Words: Rodent control, alfalfa, drip irrigation, drones

RODENT DAMAGE AND RODENT CONTROL

Since the soil is not cultivated for a few years in alfalfa crops, if winters are not severe, the rodent populations in the fields can thrive and cause huge damages to the crop [1,2]. Moreover, because alfalfa crops are harvested several times each year; the additive yield loss due to the rodents’ damage can be very high. 

The predominant methods used today for rodent control are poisoning (being either broadcast poisoning by aircraft or agromachinery, or precision poisoning by hand directly in the rodents` burrow openings); using traps; and flooding. Using the flood technique causes extensive water loss and soil erosion in the field. Poison types and amounts are limited by regulation in each area, and broadcast poisoning can cause secondary damage to other animals and can developed a stability of the rodents to the poison during the time.