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Better detecting weeds with remote sensing technologies at Charles Sturt

remote sensing

Charles Sturt University’s Graham Centre for Agricultural Innovation is aiming to improve the way remote sensing technologies can be used to detect weeds in complex ecological landscapes, through a new project. 

The project will help land managers effectively prevent weed spread and reduce herbicide use. It will centre on better using technologies to identify weeds in native grasslands, woodlands, coastal dunes, alpine areas and other diverse natural systems. 

Remote sensing technology is already used in many agricultural and environmental contexts, but there are still challenges to overcome, according to Charles Sturt’s School of Agricultural, Environmental and Veterinary Sciences lecturer in livestock production management, Dr Jane Kelly. 

remote sensing
Image credit: Charles Sturt University

“Complex natural systems make it difficult to distinguish weeds from other vegetation, especially during early stages of weed growth,” Kelly said. 

“Remote detection techniques can also be expensive, technically-challenging and inaccessible for many land managers.” 

The two-year project will test the limitations of available remote sensing technologies, including airborne and satellite platforms and high resolution RGB (Red, Green, Blue), hyperspectral and multispectral sensors. This is in combination with machine learning. 

“The project will use three nationally-significant ‘model’ weed systems, including hawkweeds, African Lovegrass and Bitou Bush to investigate the limitations of this technology,” Kelly said. 

“They’ve been selected on the basis of the differing growth habit, colour and texture of the weeds, and for the variety of invaded landscapes and weed management objectives.”  

Study sites will be located within Kosciuszko National Park, the Monaro and the North, Central and South Coasts of NSW. 

The project also aims to provide robust guidelines for using remote sensing in weed detection across a variety of landscapes. 

“The intent is to build an online portal and a community of practice to share tools and knowledge between researchers, governments, natural resource management groups and a range of end-users,” Kelly said. 

This Charles Sturt project is supported through the federal government’s Established Pest Animals and Weeds Management Pipeline Program – Advancing Pest Animal and Weed Control Solutions. 

It brings together drone, machine learning and remote sensing researchers Charles Sturt associate professor Lihong Zheng and Dr Remy Dehaan, Queensland University of Technology associate professor Felipe Gonzalez, and weed management experts from the NSW government. 

Other partners include Southeast, North Coast and Murray Local Land Services, Mid Coast, Eurobodalla and Bega Valley Shire Councils, the Illawarra District Weeds Authority and XAg Australia. 

To read more about the project, click here. 

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