J. Lowenberg-DeBoer: Economics of Autonomous Equipment for Application of Biopesticides

Bio Information

James Lowenberg-DeBoer holds the Elizabeth Creak Chair in Agri-Tech Applied Economics at Harper Adams University (HAU), Newport, Shropshire, UK. He is responsible for economics in the Hands Free Farm (HFF) team at HAU. He is also president of the International Society of Precision Agriculture (ISPA) and co-editor of the journal Precision Agriculture.

His research focuses on the economics of agricultural technology, especially precision agriculture and crop robotics. Lowenberg-DeBoer’s research and outreach is founded in hands-on experience in agriculture, including production of maize and soybeans in NW Iowa in the USA.

Presentation Abstract

Many biopesticides have no residual action. This is desirable from an environmental perspective, but can be problematic from an economic point of view. To achieve acceptable levels of pest management, no residue biopesticides must often be applied weekly or every few days. With humans operated equipment frequent application of biopesticides is sometimes economically feasible for high value horticultural crops, but rarely for commodity crops like grain and oilseeds. Autonomous equipment creates the potential for using biopesticides more widely and effectively. For example, for the owner of an autonomous sprayer, the marginal cost of an additional application, other than the biopesticide, is minimal. For farmers who rent robots or hire robot services, the economics of application may be different than for owners.

Research focuses on management of Cabbage Stem Flea Beetle (CSFB) in oilseed rape (OSR) in the UK as a specific example, but if the concept has profit potential there it might be more widely replicated for other arable crops. This is an example of the agricultural opportunities that become available when human labor constraints are no longer binding. The research should be of interest to pest management research, agri-tech economists, farmers, and entrepreneurs and venture capitalists in agri-tech.


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