Sponsor Agency: WSU-CAHNRS 2014 Emerging Research Issues
Khot, L. R.; Peters, T., Zhang, Q.; Granatstein, D.; Whiting, M
Fruit cracking due to early summer rain remains the key concern for fresh market sweet cherry growers worldwide. Existing mechanical rainwater removal techniques (e.g. orchard sprayers or fans, aerial helicopters) are used by growers but there has been little systematic research on when and how much water needs to be removed from cherry canopies and the effectiveness of water removal. Through these research efforts, we have developed an in-field sensing system to monitor real-time rainwater level of orchard canopies to assist grower decision making. Sensing system constitutes array of wetness sensors placed in canopies transmitting logged data in real-time to base station over wireless network. Also evaluated were mid-sized unmanned aerial helicopters, an emerging technology, as a viable alternative to manned helicopters flights to disperse canopy rainwater. The developed in-field sensing system was used to conduct field experiments for optimizing mid-sized unmanned helicopter flights in modern cherry architectures and also to evaluate efficacy of an orchard air-blast sprayer in rainwater removal from such canopies.