Outstanding Research Paper on Agricultural Drones Wins Editors' Choice Award

Elvira de Lange of UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology assembled the project team.
Winning an Editors' Choice Award was a milestone for an international research team, including UC Davis entomologist Elvira de Lange.

De Lange assembled a project team that wrote a research paper on the agricultural use of drones, published last February in the Journal of Economic Entomology (JEE). It went on to win the JEE 2021 Editors' Choice Award and will be recognized at the Entomological Society of America (ESA) meeting, set Oct. 31-Nov. 3 in Denver. ESA announced the awards online

The paper, “Drones: Innovative Technology for Use in Precision Pest Management,” is the work of first author Fernando lost Filho, a doctoral student in entomology at the University of São Paulo, Brazil, and a former UC Davis exchange student; remote sensing expert Wieke Heldens of the German Aerospace Center, Wessling, Germany;  engineer and drone communication expert Zhaodan Kong, associate professor, UC Davis Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, and deLange, a former postdoctoral fellow in the Christian Nansen laboratory at the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology and now of The Netherlands. 

“Drones can be equipped with a range of attachments, such as sensors, pesticide sprayers, and natural enemyreleasers, and can therefore contribute to more sustainable agriculture in various ways,” said deLange, whose research interests include plant-insect interactions, integrated pest management, chemical ecology and precision agriculture.

Agriculture drones, she said, "are highly versatile and have great commercial potential.” 

Their paper, one of the first-of-its-kind to summarize scientific literature on the use of agricultural drones for pest management, covers the use of drones with remote sensing equipment to detect pest problems from the air. It calls for the increased use of actuation drones, to provide solutions such as spraying pesticides and releasing biocontrol organisms.

For the JEE Editors' Choice award, the editors-in-chief nominate papers based on citation, readership and Altmetric scores. The winners are determined by a vote of the JEE subject editors.  JEE co-editors-in-chief are Frank Zalom, UC Davis distinguished professor of entomology; Mike Brewer, entomology professor, Texas A&M University; and Nan-Yao Su, distinguished professor of entomology at the University of Florida. JEE is ESA's largest journal by publishing volume and the most-cited journal in entomology. (See ESA website.)

Crop Monitoring Procedures. As agriculturists know, improving crops and crop monitoring procedures are crucial. “Early outbreak detection and treatment application are inherent to effective pest management, allowing management decisions to be implemented before pests are well-established and crop losses accrue,” the authors wrote in their abstract. “Pest monitoring is time-consuming and may be hampered by lack of reliable or cost-effective sampling techniques. Thus, we argue that an important research challenge associated with enhanced sustainability of pest management in modern agriculture is developing and promoting improved crop monitoring procedures.”

Drones can target pest outbreaks or hot spots in field crops and orchards, such as Colorado potato beetle in potato fields or sugarcane aphid in sorghum, the scientists pointed out. “Pests are unpredictable and not uniformly distributed. Precision agricultural technologies, like the use of drones, can offer important opportunities for integrated pest management (IPM).”