High-tech help for agriculturists

A pilot program is under way to use technology for cotton production in Greece by means of a system in which the simple touch of a button will help farmers cultivate their fields and protect the environment. The project, carried out by the Goulandris Natural History Museum in cooperation with the United States Department of Agriculture, involves obtaining scanned images of fields and processing the data obtained. Stamatis Stamatiadis, director of the museum’s soil laboratory, told Kathimerini that the images are obtained by a detector-camera that can scan even what is not visible to the human eye. «For example, it can record ultra-violet rays,» he said, explaining how the system provides information concerning the plant’s condition, any disease it might have, its growth rate and how much fertilizer it may need. «The information is then fed into a computer programmed to instruct a machine to give the plant the necessary amount of fertilizer, neither more or less,» explained Stamatiadis. The system may seem complicated, but the user simply needs to press a button – technology does the rest. «The system enables us to use only as much fertilizer as a plant needs, making for a better and more economical management of soil and the greatest possible environmental protection,» he said. Apart from preventing too much fertilizer or pesticide from reaching the environment, it can also diagnose environmental problems. «The detectors can pinpoint raised levels of nitrogen and phosphorus in an area of the sea, indicating an overabundance of seaweed and, therefore, more pollution.» Telecommunications technology is already being used to monitor climatic changes (satellite images are used for this) and was used last year by the Agriculture Ministry to record cotton production. «When we are dealing with large areas, the detectors are placed on satellites or aircraft. But when we want information about each individual plant, the detectors can be carried on a tractor,» said Stamatiadis, although he said that the technology was more applicable to large areas. «Nevertheless, with the research we are doing now into cotton cultivation, we are trying to implement this technology with smaller expanses, such as those we find in Greece,» he said. The system will not be difficult for farmers to implement, since, in effect, they need do nothing more than push a button to activate it.