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Smart farming technology to tackle UK farming’s invasive Black-grass problem

  • Black-grass weed significantly reduces wheat crop yields, costing farmers’ money and impacting the UK’s agricultural economy
  • Tech and digital farming companies will work with strategic partners to develop a solution
  • Technology will include sprayers, cameras, data analysis with AI, and a digital platform to map and monitor Black-grass growth across a three-year period
Cornelia Dürr

Cornelia Dürr >

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A team of experts from Bosch, BASF Digital Farming, Chafer Machinery and Rothamsted Research will use precision farming technology and artificial intelligence to help reduce the persistent problem of Black-grass in UK farms. Black-grass (alopecurus myosuroides) is a weed that inhibits the growth of wheat crop, reducing its yield and therefore damaging the productivity of farms.

It is one of the biggest challenges facing farmers in the UK today and it is threatening the sustainability of UK cereal production. It is estimated that the weed is responsible for annual wheat loses of up to 800,000 tons, with associated economic losses of approximately £400 million*.

Bosch is the lead partner in the research and development (R&D) project consortium, which comprises recognised experts from BASF Digital Farming, Chafer Machinery, and Rothamsted Research. Together they have been awarded a grant of £1,452,614 from DEFRA and Innovate UK, the UK’s innovation agency, under the Farming Innovation Programme – Small R&D Partnership Projects.

Each partner brings unique expertise: Bosch is one of the leading companies for sensor and software technologies and will steer the project in collaboration with digital agriculture specialists BASF Digital Farming and sprayer manufacturer Chafer Machinery. Together they will be supported and guided by the input of renowned academic experts in Black-grass from Rothamsted Research.

Technical details

Using the Bosch Smart Spraying camera technology and software, Chafer will design innovative boom sprayers to detect, identify and map Black-grass at different growth stages within cereal crops across a farm. The smart sprayer technology will be tested on commercial farms selected from the Rothamsted Black-Grass Research Initiative (BGRI).

Agronomists from Rothamsted will label the images and will support Bosch in training algorithms to recognise Black-grass in cereal crops. This information is then processed and analysed by BASF Digital Farming and delivered to its advanced xarvio Digital Farming Solutions crop optimisation platform. In the platform, the information will be used to map infield populations to support the development of integrated weed management plans for targeted Black-grass control.

Overall, the persistent problem of Black-grass should reduce in severity and the ambition is, with enhanced mapping, to improve sustainable Black-grass management programmes.

Additionally, beside a superior performance in Black-grass control, the project could result in reduced herbicide volumes sprayed in-field. This would minimise unintended direct consequences on other organisms and reduce the potential for leaching into other vulnerable ecosystems, such as waterways.

Partnership information

Bharath Jayakumar, Innovation Lead at Bosch UK, said: “At Bosch we’re constantly looking for solutions to the challenges people face and it’s particularly exciting when we see a way to develop new technologies to solve a problem. We believe our sensor, software and AI technology can make a difference for UK farmers and will help them to target Black-grass better in their fields.”

Daniel Ebersold, Head of Digital Farming Project House (Smart Machinery), BASF Digital Farming, said: “We are committed to helping UK farmers optimise crop production. By working together on this important project our shared aim is to find an innovative solution using smart farming technologies, agronomic expertise and artificial intelligence that will measurably reduce the impact of Black-grass infestation over time.”

Rob Starkey, Managing Director, Chafer Machinery, said: “Integrating innovative technology to maximise the efficiency and accuracy of herbicide application is a key part of Chafer’s strategy to help UK arable farms increase productivity and reduce unnecessary impact on the environment. The Smart Sprayer project is a unique opportunity, working with leading industry partners, to contribute to the development of cutting-edge technology which will help solve the UK Black-grass problem”.

David Comont, Rothamsted Research, said: “Black-grass has become the UK’s most pressing weed problem, resulting in considerable wheat yield losses annually and causing ever-increasing herbicide use as farmers attempt to control this species. Developing “smarter” systems which can automatically monitor and more precisely spray this weed has the potential to maximise control, whilst reducing both herbicide use and costs to farmers.”

The funding was awarded as part of Defra’s Farming Innovation Programme and the UKRI Transforming Food Production challenge.

-ENDS-

Note to Editors

* The costs of human-induced evolution in an agricultural system,
https://www.nature.com/articles/s41893-019-0450-8

About Innovate UK:

Innovate UK drives productivity and economic growth by supporting businesses to develop and realise the potential of new ideas. We connect businesses to the partners, customers and investors that can help them turn ideas into commercially successful products and services and business growth. We fund business and research collaborations to accelerate innovation and drive business investment into R&D. Our support is available to businesses across all economic sectors, value chains and UK regions.
Innovate UK is part of UK Research and Innovation. For more information visit www.innovateuk.ukri.org

Contact persons for press inquiries:
James Bolton
phone: +44 1895 87-8049
email: James.Bolton@uk.bosch.com

Cornelia Dürr
phone: +49 7062 911-1986
email: Cornelia.Duerr@de.bosch.com

Mobility Solutions is the largest Bosch Group business sector. It generated sales of 45.3 billion euros in 2021, and thus contributed 58 percent of total sales from operations. This makes the Bosch Group one of the leading automotive suppliers. The Mobility Solutions business sector pursues a vision of mobility that is safe, sustainable, and exciting, and combines the group’s expertise in the domains of personalization, automation, electrification, and connectivity. For its customers, the outcome is integrated mobility solutions. The business sector’s main areas of activity are injection technology and powertrain peripherals for internal-combustion engines, diverse solutions for powertrain electrification, vehicle safety systems, driver-assistance and automated functions, technology for user-friendly infotainment as well as vehicle-to-vehicle and vehicle-to-infrastructure communication, repair-shop concepts, and technology and services for the automotive aftermarket. Bosch is synonymous with important automotive innovations, such as electronic engine management, the ESP anti-skid system, and common-rail diesel technology.

About xarvio Digital Farming Solutions, a brand by BASF Digital Farming GmbH
xarvio® Digital Farming Solutions is at the forefront of the digital transformation of agriculture, optimizing crop production. xarvio® offers digital products, based on a global leading crop modelling platform. The technology delivers independent, field-zone-specific agronomic advice that enables farmers to produce their crops most efficiently and sustainably. The products - xarvio® SCOUTING, xarvio® FIELD MANAGER and xarvio® HEALTHY FIELDS are used by farmers in more than 100 countries worldwide. More than 90,000 farmers and consultants have signed-up for xarvio® FIELD MANAGER, setting-up a field area greater than 12 million hectares in 18 countries. xarvio® SCOUTING has been downloaded by more than 7 million users. For more information please visit www.xarvio.com or any of our social media channels.

Rothamsted Research is the longest-running agricultural research institute in the world with a proud history of ground-breaking discoveries. Our founders, in 1843, were the pioneers of modern agriculture and, through independent science and innovation, we continue to make significant contributions to improving the sustainability of agri-food systems in the UK and internationally. Our strength lies in our gene to field approach, which combines science and strategic research, interdisciplinary teams and partnerships. Rothamsted is also home to three unique resources, open to researchers from all over the world: The Long-Term Experiments, Rothamsted Insect Survey and the North Wyke Farm Platform. We are strategically funded by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC), with additional support from other national and international funding streams, and from industry. We are also supported by the Lawes Agricultural Trust (LAT). https://www.rothamsted.ac.uk
@Rothamsted

The Bosch Group is a leading global supplier of technology and services. It employs roughly 402,600 associates worldwide (as of December 31, 2021). The company generated sales of 78.7 billion euros in 2021. Its operations are divided into four business sectors: Mobility Solutions, Industrial Technology, Consumer Goods, and Energy and Building Technology. As a leading IoT provider, Bosch offers innovative solutions for smart homes, Industry 4.0, and connected mobility. Bosch is pursuing a vision of mobility that is sustainable, safe, and exciting. It uses its expertise in sensor technology, software, and services, as well as its own IoT cloud, to offer its customers connected, cross-domain solutions from a single source. The Bosch Group’s strategic objective is to facilitate connected living with products and solutions that either contain artificial intelligence (AI) or have been developed or manufactured with its help. Bosch improves quality of life worldwide with products and services that are innovative and spark enthusiasm. In short, Bosch creates technology that is “Invented for life.” The Bosch Group comprises Robert Bosch GmbH and its roughly 440 subsidiary and regional companies in some 60 countries. Including sales and service partners, Bosch’s global manufacturing, engineering, and sales network covers nearly every country in the world. With its more than 400 locations worldwide, the Bosch Group has been carbon neutral since the first quarter of 2020. The basis for the company’s future growth is its innovative strength. At 128 locations across the globe, Bosch employs some 76,100 associates in research and development, of which more than 38,000 are software engineers.

Additional information is available online at www.bosch.com, www.iot.bosch.com, www.bosch-press.com, www.twitter.com/BoschPress.

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