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Interactive Virtual Citrus Groves

A New Way to Show Others What’s Happening in the Field

Virtual reality (VR) is important in the computer gaming industry, medicine, manufacturing and many other industries. In citrus, virtual reality is used in some types of harvesting research. One more common example is the VR photography in real estate for showing homes to potential buyers. A group of VR photos (combined into a “virtual tour”) give buyers an interactive way to look around a property to see if it suits their tastes. Some of the landscapes you’ve seen from Mars were created this way by NASA.


Fruit Drop


Fig. 1. Screen grab of a virtual tour of a citrus grove in Central Florida. Note the difference in canopy density between the diseased tree on the left and the healthier tree on the right. The menu icon row at the bottom provides a way to navigate around the virtual photo.


As it turns out, the same VR photography techniques used for showing scenes from Mars are also useful in citrus grove environments. The cool thing about it in citrus is that VR makes a grove interactive, giving viewers a way to “explore” a grove in a way that might not be possible without otherwise going there. For example, clicking on the link below will open your web browser and take you to a citrus grove in Central Florida. (If the link doesn’t work by clicking, just copy and paste it in your web browser address bar.)




You’ll see the image that appears in the window is moving, but it’s not a video. Instead, it’s an interactive VR photo of a citrus grove. In the photography world, this type of image is a “spherical panorama” because you can view directly up and down as well as move left and right around a complete circle. The first thing to know is that you can change the size of the window so that it works better on your computer screen. You can move up, down, left or right in the grove by dragging your mouse up or down or back and forth across the window. Press the [+] key in the menu icon row at the bottom of the window if you want to zoom in and take a closer look under the trees. (The menu icons at the bottom give you an option for pausing the rotation.) Or, press the [–] key in the menu icons to zoom out for a better look at the tree rows. It’s easy to see how you can explore around our virtual grove using simple computer commands. Try the other menu icons to see what other features are available.

Consider the fruit drop occurring this year in many areas. Seemingly most prevalent in early varieties, there are questions about what might be the cause. It’s probably a combination of factors, but in our virtual grove, I attribute it to several possible stressors:

  • Disease (e.g., HLB)
  • Overbearing
  • Wind
  • Lack of water

Some trees in our virtual grove are overbearing–that’s probably one reason for some of the drop. Of course, HLB and other diseases are present, so those also have an effect. Another reason might be wind. Recently, we’ve had strong winds in our area (Sandy, the Halloween Frankenstorm). These winds have been strong enough to dislodge weaker fruits from the trees as the limbs were shaken about in the breeze.

You can see other notable features in our virtual grove as you explore the area using your computer commands. Drag your mouse leftward on the image and center your view toward the sun (Fig. 1). You can clearly see the difference between a healthy and diseased tree. Moving to the right and looking down the long row, you can see a group of healthy trees on the left, and less healthy trees on the right. If you look under trees on the sun side, you can zoom in and drag around to take a closer look at the leaf and fruit drop. Now, imagine that you need to explain what’s happening in this grove to someone that rarely or never goes into a grove (e.g., a regulatory official in Washington) and you can see how a virtual tour like this can help illustrate your points in an interesting and compelling way.

More advanced virtual tours of citrus groves can be created by combining several VR photos and connecting them using clickable links. And not only might this technique be useful to growers for documenting certain grove conditions, but it’d be great for marketing citrus products. Imagine a virtual tour of an orange grove on a gift fruit website and you get the idea. VR doesn’t have to be limited to scenes of citrus groves. It might have applications in citrus training, education, agri-tourism and heavy equipment sales, for example. Our in

dustry is changing rapidly and I could even envision a project using virtual tours to historically document our groves today for future generations to see and experience.

I’m not suggesting we all go out and start photographing interactive images of our groves. But in those cases where you want to have a compelling visual way to share what’s going in your grove or have a unique product or service to sell, VR photography might be the way to go!

Author disclaimer  The information in this article is provided “as is”. The author and publisher of this article disclaim any loss or liability, either directly or indirectly as a consequence of applying the information presented herein, or in regard to the use and application of said information for any purpose whatsoever. No guarantee is given, either expressed or implied, in regard to the merchantability, accuracy, or acceptability of the information. For more information about spherical panoramas and how they’re done, visit the author’s photography portfolio at

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