Across the world, a spectacular sea of distinctive yellow sunflowers is now blooming and waiting to be harvested. In Ukraine, it is expected that the 2021 sunflower harvest would increase to between 16.5 to 17.5 million mt due to a rise in acreage and yield improvement. Different from the last season, this year Ukrainian farmers are grabbing a new harvest-aid tool – agricultural drones to protect their sunflowers.
The mature sunflowers, with the fat head holding all the seeds, remain moisture for an extended period before Mother Nature doing the desiccating. They should be dried down to 15% moisture or less before being harvested for seeds.
Natural sunflowers dry down can be slow and uneven. Therefore, farmers usually spray desiccants to speed up the drying process and render the same piece of land ready for harvest at the same time. This can also decrease yield losses due to inclement weather, lodging and bird depredation if the optimal reaping time is missed.
However, these fleshy heads own rough hairy stem 2 to 4.5 metres high after the flowering stage, which means that traditional tractors lose its magic for these mature, giant yellow disk flowers. High-clearance machinery with four long legs used to be the only answer for desiccating sunflowers.
Since high-clearance tractors are not always within reach, farmers have resorted to more high-tech equipment such as XAG's autonomous drones. These agile, terrain-adaptive drones can easily reach up to 4 meters, allowing desiccants to be sprayed from an appropriate height without damaging any crop.
Using drones to shave a week or two off the maturing process and keep these yellow blooming flowers dried down at the same pace can be advantageous for growers. Otherwise, they are likely to experience late-season stalk disease in their crops.
Drones as the flying guards are spraying down, while sunflowers are swaying mildly in the wind for their drying process. Have you seen such a beautiful scene?