precision sprayer

Precision agriculture is perhaps best known in the field of row crops, but as Mark Gleason of Iowa State University Extension explains, such technology is also needed in the field of specialty crops. “They have more disease and insect problems, and the value of those crops per acre is higher. So they require more spraying than, say, corn and soybeans. And part of the problem with AG precision specialty crops has been the slow adoption of such technology by growers. Meet Melanie Ivy from Ohio State University Extension. “Traditionally they’ve worked with these airblast sprayers where you get these huge plumes of pesticide that you can visibly see.” However, a new product introduced to the market last year seems to precisely address the issues associated with specialty crops and the application of chemicals. USDA research engineer Heping Zhu is the developer of what is called an intelligent pesticide spraying system. “We use a high-speed laser skanning sensor to measure plant leaf size, shape and density, then use a computer to make decisions on how much spray output is needed, then control each individual nozzle on the sprayer to apply chemicals where they need to go. That way only the plant target is sprayed.” The sprayer is a collaboration of the Agricultural Research Service and several land-grant universities across national.

And Mark Gleason thinks precision farming technology, like the smart sprayer, will evolve in the coming years, perhaps into an autonomous version. Pesticide spraying will be fully automated and maybe in 10 years growers will have a lot less contact or a lot less exposure to pesticides, which will also improve their health.


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