Novadrone and Sevilla University researchers are collaborating in a Research and Development project to help the rice crop industry to optimise rice production. During two years several flights will be conducted. The research study has two main objectives.

The first objective is to compare in real time, satellite captured images with drone captured images, in the aim to find better correlations between satellite images and the health of crops.

The second objective is to analyse nitrogen and health status of plants. Images captured with an agricultural drone and using PPK (Post-processing Kinematics) technology, high precision georeferences of the images will be obtained. At the same time, stem samples are taken at the field to be analysed in the laboratory and map health of the rice crops and correlate nitrogen levels.

Agricultural drone bring benefits to rice crops optimisation researchers. Rice was first grown in Spain by the Arabs about the year 800. For many years rice cultivation was confined to a limited number of rivers and estuarine areas which run into Mediterranean sea. Valencia was the leading region. In 1860 approximately rice was introduced in Tarragona in the Ebro river delta and around 1930 rice cultivation spread to non-Mediterranean regions (Font de Mora, 1939).

Since 1970 Seville, in the Andalucia region, is the leading rice-producing region in the country. In the last season, the cultivated area of rice in Andalusia stands at 23,687 ha (58,531Acres), with 89% of it concentrated in the province of Seville and a total production of 208,080 tonnes.

Rice production in Spain will depend on the capacity of the rice sector to confront forthcoming challenges stemming from a more competitive environment. Presently, there are three circumstances which can negatively affect the competitiveness of Spain rice sector:

a) the inadequacy of its farm structure;
b) the scarcity of irrigation water and the potential increase in the price of this resource; and
c) the growing restrictions environmental regulations. However, these circumstances do not affect all rice producing regions equally.

In addition, both Seville and Extremadura are well suited for growing indica rice in high demand in Europe. It has the largest farms and it has been the leading region in introducing indica rice.

Seville has been the most innovative region in rice farming. However, future developments in rice production will depend on the capacity of the industry to introduce new technologies to optimise rice crops.

Because its greater precision and resolution than the satellite image, its flexibility to capture images even daily basis and its lower costs, the use of drones and multispectral sensors is the best tool available today to optimise rice cultivation.

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By Press