Agricultural Drones Fly Over Brazil to Help Soybean Farmers Prevent Diseases and Increase Production


Brazil began experimenting with soybeans in the 1950s for soil improvement, but yields have remained low. However, in nearly 70 years of development, Brazil has improved seeds and planting methods to adapt the crop to the local climate and soil.


Today, Brazil has become a soybean producer and exporter on par with the United States. The soybean planting and processing industry have also become an essential pillar of Brazil's economic development.





Soybean rust spreads across the country


Emerson Nardino is a soybean plantation owner in Santa Catarina, Brazil. The prevention and control of soybean rust have become crucial for improving plantation quality and yield.


Soybean rust mainly occurs in tropical and subtropical regions of the Eastern Hemisphere but has gradually expanded in South America in recent years. Two closely related fungi cause rust on soybean: P. pachyrhizi, sometimes referred to as the Asian soybean rust, and P. meibomiae, commonly known as New World soybean rust. P. meibomiae is the most prevalent local pathogen in Brazil.





Soybean rust mainly infects leaves, petioles, and stems. In severe cases, it affects the entire plant, causing the leaves to turn yellow, fall off, and form shriveled pods. The soybean can get infected throughout the growth period. In the early stage of the disease, small grayish-brown spots appear on the leaves; then, the lesions expand to yellow, red, purplish, and blackish-brown. Under favorable soybean rust spreading conditions, it can destroy up to 90% of the harvest.


P. meibomiae soybean rust was first identified in the Brazilian state of Paraná in 2001 and has now spread throughout most of Brazil. According to the Brazilian Association of Soybean Growers (APROSOJA), the first two years of detecting soybean rust caused production losses of 4.011 million tons in Brazil, worth US$880 million.



Drone control, produce 1.2 tonnes more per hectare


Today, scientists and farmers have developed several effective methods and strategies in the fight against soybean rust, including selecting disease-resistant varieties, creating good drainage conditions, and implementing a 90-day fallow period starting June 15 each year. However, the most effective method is strengthening field management by promptly spraying medicines.


In order to explore more advanced soybean control solutions, Emerson Nardino started using DJI agricultural drones for spraying operations in 2021. Emerson Nardino said that in mountainous areas, the DJI T16 agricultural drone could spray 40 hectares (about 99 acres) per day and 5 to 6 hectares (about 12 to 15 acres) per hour.


"This is important because timely and rapid spraying is the key to soybean rust control. The flexibility of agricultural drones can meet this need," Emerson Nardino said.


Before using DJI agricultural drone, Emerson Nardino used a tractor to spray medicines. Using tractors to spray medicine caused them 5% to 7% of losses due to seedling rolling, while using drones did not cause this problem.


In terms of the operation effect, Emerson Nardino said that the spraying effect of the DJI Agras T16 is more uniform than the traditional spraying method. The yield increased by around 1.2 tonnes per hectare after using the drones. 


In addition, every time it rains, the tractor's wheels could sink into the mud and slip easily, and there is a safety hazard in operation in the mountainous area. Drone operation not only avoids such dangers but also reduces the operator's contact with pesticides, which significantly improves the safety of operations. 


Using helicopters to spray medicine will likely cause significant pollution to the surrounding environment because it cannot avoid areas without crops during the operation. Also, the flight can be too high from the ground. Emerson Nardino said that using DJI agricultural drones reduces costs, increases efficiency, and protects the environment.


Emerson Nardino expressed confidence while discussing the development prospects of agricultural drones in Brazil: "For small and medium-sized farms, agricultural drones can replace traditional operation methods and improve operation efficiency. For large farms, agricultural drones can cover places that helicopters and tractors cannot. Drones are efficient and sustainable agricultural production machinery."



Info of the Environment

Date of Spray




Santa Catarina, Brazil

Type of Terrain




Total sprayed Area

20 ha



Wind speed(m/s)


Wind direction




Operation Parameters

Type of Drone

Agras T16

Firmware Version


Operation mode


Operation Speed


Operation height (from the top of the crop)

5 m

Line spacing/width

5 m

Liquid amount sprayed per hectare

12 L/ ha

Nozzle type



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