Reality check in the field: KWS tests innovative robot systems to combat weeds in sugarbeet farming

Einbeck, October 28, 2019

The demand for greater sustainability in agriculture and stricter regulatory conditions for pesticides – those two challenges are leading to a greater focus on the opportunities to combat weeds sustainably by means of robots. Various manufacturers have specialized in developing different systems to combat weeds in sugarbeet farming. KWS SAAT SE & Co. KGaA plans to compare the performance of these innovative systems with conventional methods in field trials next year. Cooperation partners accompanying the studies are the University of Göttingen (Department of Agricultural Technology) and the Institute of Sugarbeet Research (IFZ).

These field robots are able to distinguish sugarbeet from weeds, since they are equipped with cameras or because the location of the seeds is recorded digitally when they are sown. Other possibilities include mechanical weed control or high-precision, selective spraying of weeds with pesticide: The range of solution approaches currently being developed is extremely diverse. But what are the advantages of the different systems, and what influence do they have on the agronomic traits of varieties? The trials next year are intended to answer those questions and bring the various stakeholders closer together.

“As a plant breeding company, our task is not only to deliver top-class seed. We’re tackling the latest challenges in agriculture and helping farmers with advice in a spirit of partnership,“ said Dr. Stefan Meldau, the manager of the project at KWS. “With our practical comparisons directly in the field, we aim to present new, sustainable solutions for combating weeds in sugarbeet farming next year and foster dialogue and cooperation between robotics manufacturers, breeding companies and farmers.“

Innovative solutions are required in both conventional and organic farming. Particularly in organic sugarbeet cultivation, manual weed control results in high annual costs; it is also difficult for farmers to find enough seasonal employees to remove the weeds in the field using a hand hoe. “KWS knows what it’s talking about from its own experience,“ added Meldau. “We’re aware of the challenges in both conventional and organic agriculture. Our objective is to allow everyone to leverage our experience from both areas profitably for conventional and organic farming.“

Dr. Peter Hofmann, the member of KWS’ Executive Board responsible for the Sugarbeet Segment, also emphasizes how important a focused, forward-looking commitment is in the sugarbeet arena. “We continue to invest in the future viability of sugarbeet by providing varieties that deliver better and better performance and also by looking at new technologies. I feel sure that innovative robot systems will be able to make an important and lasting contribution to combating weeds in sugarbeet farming,“ said Hofmann.

The companies taking part in the series of trials so far are:
Farmdroid, Bosch Deepfield Robotics, F. Poulsen Engineering

About KWS*
KWS is one of the world’s leading plant breeding companies. In the fiscal year 2018/19, more than 5,500 employees in 70 countries generated net sales of EUR 1.1 billion and earnings before interest and taxes (EBIT) of EUR 150 million. A company with a tradition of family ownership, KWS has operated independently for more than 160 years. It focuses on plant breeding and the production and sale of seed for corn, sugarbeet, cereals, rapeseed, sunflowers and vegetables. KWS uses leading-edge plant breeding methods to increase farmers’ yields and to improve resistance to diseases, pests and abiotic stress. To that end, the company invested approximately EUR 200 million last fiscal year in research and development.

*All indications excluding the results from the companies accounted for using the equity method AGRELIANT GENETICS LLC, AGRELIANT GENETICS INC. and KENFENG – KWS SEEDS CO., LTD.

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Dr. Stefan Meldau
Dr. Stefan Meldau
Project Manager Business Development
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Britta Weiland
Britta Weiland
Corporate Communications
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