Throughout the year, the Eastern Virginia Agricultural Research & Extension Center (Eastern Virginia AREC) conducts research on small grains and soybeans for the benefit of farmers across Virginia. A variety of field plots are planted, some of which are wheat and include the application of a biosolids product. Each May in conjunction with the Virginia Small Grains Association, researchers with extension come together to provide updates on its test plots.
Use of technology in these trials continues to improve the quality of soft red, hard red wheat, and barley. Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV) imagery can be used to predict breeding to improve malt quality in barley, to phenotype breeding lines, and to determine fertility need in season.
Joseph Oakes, Superintendent, Eastern Virginia AREC, said, “the aerial imagery can be applied to several crops, including wheat. You can tell which lines stay green and which lines are high performing throughout the season.”
In addition, the normalized difference vegetative index (NDVI) is greatly improved with the use of UAV technology rather than a handheld meter calculating the plant and tiller density, currently a rather tedious yet necessary process.
Oakes added, “Ideally, NDVI would be used for mapping fields to create a variable rate for a sprayer for more precise application.”
Eastern Virginia AREC currently performs trials examining fungicide and wheat diseases. These trials provide insight for farmers across the Commonwealth, Virginia Crop Improvement Association, and Virginia Tech, all of whom are continuously looking for more disease resistant and sustainable lines and methods. Examining fungicide and wheat diseases is especially critical during the month of May and June when the weather and cooler temperatures can increase and take a turn up on a dime.
Next fall the Eastern Virginia AREC will host a similar event with the Virginia Soybean Association. The use of biosolids application testing is a beneficial research opportunity that the Virginia Biosolids Council is planning to move forward with in partnership with the Eastern Virginia AREC.