Growing crops is a year round business in the Desert Southwest. For many people who live here it is their livelihood.
One department of the University of Arizona is making a major difference in the agriculture industry through research being done here in Yuma.
With funding from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, researchers will develop new disinfectants, grow new breeds of melons, and educate farmers, retailers and consumers on safe melon production practices.
The students designed a semi-autonomous aerial vehicle, more commonly known as a drone, to operate like honey bees by spraying pollen over date palm trees at a nursery in Yuma.
Traditionally the cultivation of dates has been very labor intensive. For example, workers have had to climb and pollinate each female tree by hand. But drones are changing the way things have been done for thousands of years.
“GPS is used on just about everything,” says Paul Brierley, head of the Yuma Center of Excellence for Desert Agriculture (YCEDA). “Rows that are perfectly straight allow closer cultivation — enough room between the plants and the knives to minimize waste.”
Brierley said there’s a growing consensus, including himself, around the county that the quality of mobile phone service has gone down this year, and the usual summer respite when there are fewer users hasn’t happened.