TrentU Master’s Student Uses Drones to Study Farmland Sustainability

Mason Wrozyna, from Newtonville Ontario, graduated from Trent University’s Environmental and Resource Sciences program.

He then pursued his Master’s degree at Trent University in Environmental and Life Sciences.

He was excited to share with us his neat research project – featuring DRONES!

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Generally, soils within a farm field are studied and researched as a uniform unit – but they really are composed of many different components.

Because soils are studied uniformly, farmers usually apply fertilizers and pesticides in equal amounts.

This leads to an excess of fertilizers that are used – which can have harmful impacts on the environment.

Mason is using unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs/drones) equipped with multispectral sensors to create different vegetation indices – to help “break up the soil”!

These maps help display vegetation health over specific areas.

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Using these maps, along with a large number of soil samples, Mason hopes to find a link between vegetation health and soil nutrients.

If successful, vegetation can show us what is going on in the soil without using costly and time consuming soil sample techniques.

This could ultimately help farmers use fertilizers more precisely!

Mason has just finished up his field work collecting soil samples and images with the UAV.

He plans to analyze the soil samples in the lab over the winter and has already begun to analyze the UAV imagery.

So far, the imagery has made it obvious that vegetation health is NOT uniform throughout each farm field! Mason hopes this can be explained once the soil samples have been analyzed.

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As our climate changes and weather patterns become more extreme, it becomes harder for farmers to produce sustainable yields year after year – and Mason’s research can help us understand soil health more accurately.

 
“The public needs to be more aware of the issues surrounding agriculture,” Mason says. “There is a large amount of evidence that says many of us will experience food shortages on the global scale within our lifetime. Urban sprawl is taking up valuable farmland and it is important, now more than ever, to ensure that we are maximizing the production and sustainability of the farmland that we still have left.”
 

Mason told us, “Trent University’s commitment to environmental issues made it easy to take an abstract research idea and turn it into a reality. There was a point in time when I thought that this project was too complicated and too specific for it to even happen but the university’s reputation and community quickly eliminated my doubts. People and organizations that wanted to make a difference immediately wanted to become involved and before I knew it I was on a farm with a drone flying overhead! It really proved that with some motivation and hard work that anything is possible.”

Thank you Mason for your amazing research project!

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