Broad-leaved dock is a common and troublesome grassland weed with a wide geographic distribution. In conventional farming the weed is normally controlled by using a selective herbicide, but in organic farming manual removal is the best option to control this weed. The objective of our work was to develop a robot that can navigate a pasture, detect broad-leaved dock, and remove any weeds found. A prototype robot was constructed that navigates by following a predefined path using centimeter-precision global positioning system (GPS). Broad-leaved dock is detected using a camera and image processing. Once detected, weeds are destroyed by a cutting device. Tests of aspects of the system showed that path following accuracy is adequate but could be improved through tuning of the controller or adoption of a dynamic vehicle model, that the success rate of weed detection is highest when the grass is short and when the broad-leaved dock plants are in rosette form, and that 75% of weeds removed did not grow back. An on-farm field test of the complete system resulted in detection of 124 weeds of 134 encountered (93%), while a weed removal action was performed eight times without a weed being present. Effective weed control is considered to be achieved when the center of the weeder is positioned within 0.1 m of the taproot of the weed—this occurred in 73% of the cases. We conclude that the robot is an effective instrument to detect and control broad-leaved dock under the conditions encountered on a commercial farm. © 2010 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.
- vision-based detection