Information technology gives a leg up to China’s spring farming

Drones are spraying pesticides in a wheat field in Shenqiao village, Tongling, east China’s Anhui Province, April 2, 2021. (Photo by Mei Jianguang/People’s Daily Online)

As spring farming of this year kicks off, high-tech machines are being employed at a high-yield rice demonstration field, both in the air and on the ground, in Duhu Township, Taishan, Jiangmen, south China’s Guangdong Province, making the farm work much easier during the busy season.

Farmer Li Shengye, who contracted 800 mu (53 hectares) of land at the demonstration field, is freed this year from the tiring tillage that always tied him up in the previous years, thanks to the new agricultural machines.

“It took four people and one tractor eight days to spray the pesticide in the past, but now a drone does it all in just two days, which can be operated by only one single person,” Li told People’s Daily.

The secret to the improved efficiency lies in several “cuboids” in the field – a smart system that can identify pests, Li introduced.

These cuboids are lighted up at night to attract pests, and then take photos of the bugs and upload them to a cloud platform which gives recognition results in seconds, said Lin Xiaojun, project director of Greenagri, the developer of the smart system. The system can recognize around 20 kinds of common pests, as well as their amount, Lin introduced, adding that the system can reach 90 percent accurate.

“It analyzes the identification results and makes predictions. Once the results hit alarm value, the system would notify relevant management departments and farmers,” Lin said.

“For example, once the alarm value for rice planthoppers hits 100, notification is pushed to my mobile phone,” Li said.

“I’d always follow the suggestions of the others in the past and spray pesticides whenever there were bugs in the field. Now, with the help of the system, I know exactly when, how much and which pesticides shall be used, which not only reduces the total use, but also ensures food safety,” he noted.

In fact, the smart system is not the only high technology applied there. For instance, a small climate monitoring system is installed to check the illumination, temperature and wind velocity in the patty fields.

To monitor the growth of plants, agricultural microclimate, soil moisture content, and plant diseases and insect pests through an internet of things enabled by big data and cloud computing is like doing a physical examination for the rice and quantifying all the indexes, Lin said. The monitor results, combined together, are able to reflect the overall situation of the fields and offer a basis for farmers to make decisions, he added.

The No.1 central document of China issued this year proposed to develop smart agriculture, establish a big data system for agriculture and rural affairs, and advance the in-depth integration of a new-gen information technology and agricultural production and operation.

“We have satellites up in the sky, drones in the air, meteorological stations on the ground, and cameras in the fields, which offers us all-round and all-weather monitoring services. We can check the growth of the crops sitting at home instead of placing our feet in the muddy fields,” said farmers.