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Autonomous Robotic Platform for Digital Agriculture: Cover Crop Interrow Planting

Project Team

  • Dr. Dokyoung Lee, Associate Professor, Dept. of Crop Sciences
  • Dr. Girish Chowdhary, Assistant Professor, Dept. of Agricultural and Biological Engineering

Abstract

Autonomous robotic control systems have great potential for agricultural field applications, including crop planting, fertility and pest management, and crop harvest. Effective cover crop management practices can conserve and protect soil erosion and prevent nitrate-N loss via leaching, surface runoff, and subsurface tile drainage in the Midwestern agricultural land. Although cover cropping practices provide many aspects of soil and water conservation, these practices are not commonly adopted by farmers due to the frequent failure of cover crop establishment caused by delayed planting. One possible solution to allow for earlier planting is through interrow planting of cover crops while the primary crop is still standing. However, this interrow planting for a large area is only possible with a small autonomous tractor that can drive under crop canopy between the rows. Therefore, this proposal suggests an advanced cover crop planter using an autonomous robotic platform in order to overcome the limitations of conventional planting methods. The objective of this proposal is to develop an autonomous tractor platform for cover crop interrow planting. We expect that the autonomous tractor will be able to collect real-time digital data and optimize cover crop seeding rate and seed-to-soil contact. This technology development will provide not only a tool for successful cover crop establishment but also the foundation of future autonomous and digital agriculture.