Farm Robots
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Robots and Our Crops
Fungicides: Robots can either apply localized treatment or destroy infected plants.

Herbicides: Farm Robots will reduce the need for herbicides by pulling weeds for composting or simply cutting the tops off of such plants. Either way, they will collect the material for composting. Of course some farming practices don't even require this. Such as tomatoes grown by being inserted into a flattened hay field. Prevents soil erosion and keeps the moisture in the ground while also minimizing weed growth.

Pesticides: The robots will carry containers into which they will vacuum up "harmful" insects with bellow base air systems which don't require the same power requirements of a regular vacuum. Also they will only be vacuuming up already identified insects at specific points. So no need for continuous operation. Plus their targets are quite small so we are talking about a hose of at most may be 1/2 an inch in diameter. The insects will be sucked into a container of either water where they will drown or if the day is sunny enough, and to reduce weight, into a black container which will become extremely hot and kill them by the heat. Nasty but no chemicals involved. Once full the container will be emptied into a special re-cycling bin. May also use a robot that "squishes" insects, but that would depend on the number and size of the insects. Don't want a clumsy robot damaging the plants while trying to squish an insect on the surface of a plant.

One of the main advantages of robots over pesticides, from an evolutionary perspective, is that an insect's genetic variation to their resistance to toxins is much higher than their physical variation.  Insects adapt to poisons quite rapidly which forces farmers to use different pesticides over time or worse yet more pesticide.  This happens because there is enough genetic variability and exposure levels in fields that the harmful insects adapt fairly rapidly to toxins. The survivors are then left to breed and pass on the resistant traits. Robots have the advantage over pesticides because, as I stated earlier, nature does not provide as much variability in the physical attributes of an insect as it does for their resistance to toxins.  Therefore, it will be harder for insects to adapt to being caught by robots, and the robots improve more rapidly than insects.  Robots will use vision for identification and some physical means to collect and/or kill the harmful insects while leaving the beneficial ones alone.  Pesticides kill indiscriminantly. This fact alone makes robots benificial for farms and the environment .

Robots are not a perfect solution, but they will at least reduce the need for pesticides for some crops. Therefore, robots will reduce the need for both mechanically delivered poisons and genetically modified plants that produce their own.  In our increasing knowledge of how to do remarkable things with genetic manipulation, we will probably also bring about an even greater degree of evolutionary change in the harmful insects.  As someone pointed out recently: A genetically modified plant that produces it's own toxins and does so 24 hours a day and 7 days a week. While mechanically delivered poisons are used only a few times a season. So, genetic modification and pesticide use will put a constant pressure on the insects to adapt generation by generation, which probably means a more rapid evolutionary response. Such genetically modified plants are more specific in the insects they kill - unlike the indiscriminate spraying of standard chemical pesticides.


First Crops:

The first crops will probably be either potatoes, corn, apples or some similar large leafed plant that the first prototypes won't have much of a problem walking around and moving the leaves. Tobacco may be a good crop to experiment on since the main problem I've heard is aphids and aphids would be a great first target for the robots. Small and easily vacuumed. Also need to take into consideration the types of pests that are involved. The first robots will be slow due to energy considerations.

Some sites listing common foliage pests:

Blueberry

Potato

Soybean
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