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How to Use Drones in Peach Orchards in South Carolina




Drones are becoming increasingly popular in the agricultural industry, and peach orchards in South Carolina are no exception. These unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) are being used for a variety of tasks, from monitoring crop growth to spraying pesticides.


One of the main benefits of using drones in peach orchards is the ability to quickly and efficiently survey large areas of land. Traditional methods of crop monitoring, such as walking through the orchard, can be time-consuming and labor-intensive. With a drone, farmers can quickly fly over their fields and collect data on crop health, growth patterns, and potential problem areas.


Another advantage of using drones in peach orchards is the ability to spray pesticides and fertilizers with precision. Traditional methods of applying these substances can be imprecise and can lead to waste. Treating large trees with fungicide and insecticide is also usually ineffective because of the size of the tree. Drones, on the other hand, can be programmed to fly specific patterns and deliver the correct amount of chemicals exactly where they are needed. They also are not limited by the height of the tree and can effectively spray large trees. This not only reduces the amount of chemicals used, but also helps to protect the environment.


In addition to these benefits, drones can also be used to detect and monitor pests and diseases in peach orchards. By using multispectral imaging cameras, drones can identify areas of the orchard that may be infested with pests or infected with disease. This allows farmers to quickly take action and protect their crops.


Despite the many benefits of using drones in peach orchards, there are also some challenges. One of the main challenges is the cost of purchasing and maintaining a drone. Another challenge is the need for skilled operators who can safely and effectively operate the drone. At Aero AG, we remove those challenges by bringing the equipment and skilled operators to you!


Despite these challenges, the use of drones in peach orchards is growing in popularity. With the ability to survey large areas of land quickly and efficiently, spray pesticides and fertilizers with precision, and detect and monitor pests and diseases, drones are becoming an essential tool for farmers in South Carolina. As technology continues to improve and costs decrease, the use of drones in agriculture is expected to become even more widespread in the future.


Pests


In South Carolina, some of the common pest problems on peaches include:


Peach tree borers: These pests are the larvae of a type of moth that burrow into the trunk and branches of peach trees, causing them to become weak and die.


Japanese beetles: These beetles feed on the leaves, flowers, and fruit of peach trees, causing significant damage.


Scale insects: These small, sap-sucking pests can infest the bark of peach trees and weaken them over time.


Spider mites: These tiny spider-like creatures feed on the leaves of peach trees, causing them to become discolored and distorted.


Aphids: These small, soft-bodied insects feed on the sap of peach trees, causing leaves to curl and discolor.


Common diseases affecting peaches in South Carolina include:




Brown rot: The most common disease affecting peaches. The disease begins at bloom. Infected flowers wilt and turn brown very quickly. Shoot infections (usually from flower infections) result in small (1 to 3 inches) gummy cankers, which provide the source of infection for fruit rot.





Peach scab, also known as “freckles”: Disease symptoms occur on the fruit as

small (less than ¼ inch in diameter) velvety dark spots and cracks. In cases of severe infection, spots may join together to form large dark lesions. Leaf infection is usually not observed.






Powdery Mildew: This disease is primarily a problem on green peach fruit but can also occur on leaves and young shoots. It appears as a powdery white coating on infected surfaces, and new shoots and leaves may be distorted. Young fruit develop white, circular spots that may enlarge. Infected areas on fruit turn brown and appear rusty. Symptoms usually occur on green fruit and disappear as the fruit develops.



To combat these pests, farmers may use integrated pest management techniques, which includes the use of chemical pesticides, biological control methods, and cultural practices such as proper sanitation, crop rotation, and pruning. The use of drones for monitoring and precision treatment can also be of great help for farmers. At Aero Ag we use the Mavic 3m to monitor tree conditions and the DJI Agras t40 to apply materials for farmers.


https://hgic.clemson.edu/factsheet/peach-diseases/


Treatment schedule


The schedule for chemical application for peaches can vary depending on the specific pest or disease that is present, as well as the growth stage of the trees and the weather conditions. However, in general, chemical applications for peach orchards in South Carolina are usually done at specific intervals throughout the growing season.


Pre-bloom: Before the trees start to bloom, a dormant oil spray is typically applied to the trees to control pests such as scale insects, mites, and bud moths.


Bloom: During the blooming period, a fungicide is typically applied to protect against diseases such as powdery mildew and leaf spot. Avoid insecticide during bloom to protect honeybees.


Post-bloom: After the blooming period, a pesticide and/or fungicide is typically applied to control pests such as Japanese beetles, aphids, and plum curculio, and diseases such as scab and brown rot.


Pre-harvest: Before the fruit is ready to be picked, a pesticide is typically applied to control pests such as tarnished plant bugs and plum curculio, and to protect the fruit from diseases.


It's important to note that these are general guidelines and that farmers should consult with a professional agronomist or entomologist for specific recommendations and a detailed schedule for chemical application, as the need for application may vary depending on the weather and the orchard conditions.


Organic options


There are several organic options for controlling pests in peach orchards. These include:


Biological control: This method involves using natural predators or parasites to control pests. For example, ladybugs and lacewings can be used to control aphids, and parasitic wasps can be used to control pests such as peach tree borers and plum curculio.


Cultural control: This method involves using cultural practices to reduce pest populations. For example, proper sanitation, crop rotation, and pruning can help to reduce pest populations and make the orchard less attractive to pests.


Neem oil: This oil, derived from the neem tree, can be used as a pesticide to control a wide range of pests, including aphids, mites, and whiteflies. It works by disrupting the pest's growth and reproduction.


Horticultural oil: This oil can be used to control pests and diseases on fruit trees, by smothering the pests and suffocating them.


Bt (Bacillus thuringiensis): This is a natural bacteria that can be used as a pesticide to control caterpillars and other pests.


Diatomaceous earth: This natural powder is made of fossilized algae and can be used as an insecticide to control pests such as aphids, mites, and whiteflies.


Companion planting: This method involves planting certain plants alongside peaches that deter pests. For example, planting marigolds around the orchard can help to repel nematodes and Mexican bean beetles.


Copper fungicide: Copper fungicide is a natural fungicide that can be used to control fungal diseases in peach orchards.


It's important to note that organic pest control methods may not be as effective as synthetic chemical pesticides, and that farmers should use a combination of methods for best results. Also, it's recommended to consult with a professional agronomist or entomologist for specific recommendations, as the need for treatment may vary depending on the orchard conditions and the pests present.



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