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Validation of laser-guided variable-rate sprayer for managing insects in ornamental nurseries

Heping Zhu, Robin Rosetta, Michael E. Reding, Randall H. Zondag, Christopher M. Ranger, Amy Fulcher, Richard C. Derksen, H. Erdal Ozkan, Charles R. Krause, Luis Canas
Transactions of the ASABE 2017 v.60 no.2 pp. 337-345
Aphis spiraecola, Caliroa cerasi, Dasineura, Gleditsia triacanthos, Malus, Prunus avium, air-assisted sprayers, application rate, business enterprises, canopy, cherries, commercial horticulture, economic feasibility, equipment performance, insect control, lasers, leaves, nursery crops, ornamental plants, pesticides, profitability, sawflies, spray volume, trees, Ohio, Oregon
Conducting on-farm evaluations of pest control and economic feasibility is a necessary procedure to assure successful adoption of new spray technologies by commercial horticulture enterprises. A newly developed laser-guided air-assisted variable-rate sprayer was tested for control of spirea aphids (Aphis spiraecola), pod gall midges (Dasineura gleditchiae), and pear sawflies (Caliroa cerasi) on crabapple (Malus species), ‘Sunburst’ honey locust (Gleditsia triacanthos inermis) and ‘Mazzard’ cherry (Prunus avium) trees, respectively in three commercial nurseries in Ohio and Oregon. Efficacy of pest control treatments applied by the laser-guided sprayer was compared with those from two conventional air-assisted tower sprayers and an axial-fan radial air-blast sprayer. During the tests, the spray volume discharged from the laser-guided sprayer was adjusted automatically based on the plant presence, canopy structure and foliage density. The application rates for the conventional sprayers were determined to comply with best pest management practices. Compared to conventional sprayers with comparable and effective insect control, the laser-guided sprayer reduced spray volume by 60% and 36% to control aphids in nursery #1 and nursery #2, respectively. Similarly, in nursery #3 the laser-guided sprayer used 77.6% and 29.7% less spray volume and chemicals to control pod gall midges and sawflies, respectively. Thus, the new variable-rate spray system reduced pesticide use, increased pesticide spray application efficiency, and improved profitability, thereby offering an economically and environmentally responsible approach to controlling pests.