Explanation of fixed lanes, strip cropping and intercropping

Agricultural robotics can be the enabler to execute more sustainable way of cultivation. Below are three key concepts explained that trending, including the way how robotics can contribute: 

  1. Fixed driving lane

  2. Stripcropping

  3. Intercropping

Good to know: Controlled traffic farming (CTF) is basically the same as fixed driving lane approach.

Fixed driving lane

The benefit?

Extremely reduced soil impaction on the cultivation area. Resulting in higher yields, due to better soil conditions.

How does it work?

When driving on the field, lanes are assigned to drive typically with the accuracy of about two centimeter

Key ingredients? 
  • Automated steering e.g. on RTK-GPS

  • Matching machine operational width 

  • Tractor tires and axes width alligned

 

See also wiki controlled traffic farming

Typically current field robotics are already equipped with precision steering and are light-weight. Actually, NOT following a fixed driving lane will be more difficult. 

How may robots contribute?
Which robots?

It should be aligned with the width of the tires and axis that are most suitable for the targeted farm. And therefore also depending on the existing machinery. Current robots  only have limited possibilities.

Fixed driving lane

Stripcropping

The benefit?

Conditions for diseases deteriorate and increasing the possibilities for a higher biodiversity (e.g. insects, birds,...)

How does it work?

Instead of large pieces of uniform fields, with stripcropping small strokes of different crops grow next to each other.

Key ingredients? 
  • Smaller machinery

  • Redesign on transport route on field, especially for harvesting of products

See also WUR research

Ideal use case of field robots! The stripcropping needs smaller machines, while the autonomous robots are lightweight and avoid that extra labor costs are needed. 

How do robots contribute?
Which robots?

A very practical consideration is to have a working area of 3 meter, therefore axes width of 3.15m. Agrointelli's Robotti and Pixelfarmings 'Robot One' do allow this. 

Stripcropping

Intercropping

The benefit?

Growth of (only) some plants can increase due to giving nutritions to each other e.g. grass and clover

How does it work?

In between one type of crop, another type(s) of crop are added. The plant will exchange nutritions that help each other.

Key ingredients? 
  • Plants that actively help each-other

  • Intercrop seed and harvest solution

  • Plant identification e.g. location-data

This is extremely complex for robotics and the number of crops that need individual care and actually increase yield by intercropping are very limited.

How do robots contribute?
Which robots?

Field robotics is not expected to increase much in the upcoming two years for intercropping. Only home-grown solution like Farmbot is expected to increase, from which it is interesting to learn from.  

Intercropping

An example tractor aimed at fixed driving lane approach is the H2Trac

An autonomous robot is not a condition for fixed driving lanes. And in order to adapt current road and different widths of tracks in the field, ideally it should be adaptable. That's covered by H2Trac. Of course the weight of the tractor is beyond the vision of 'ducksize', nevertheless it's a way to care of soil impaction in a way that most current tractors are not able to do. 

ducksize

Grow food production, 
by smaller machinery