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Spray drift and off-target loss reduction with a precision air-assisted sprayer

Y. Chen, H. Zhu, H. Ozkan Erdal, R. C. Derksen, C. R. Krause
Transactions of the ASABE 2013 v.56 no.6 pp. 1273-1281
Malus domestica, air-assisted sprayers, apples, application rate, developmental stages, image analysis, lasers, orchards, pesticide application, pesticides, precision agriculture, spray deposition, spray drift, spray volume, trees
Spray drift and off-target losses are inherent problems of conventional air-assisted sprayers. Their low efficiencies cause environmental pollutions resulting in public anxieties. A new drift reduction technology incorporating laser scanning capabilities with a variable-rate air-assisted sprayer was developed to address these problems, and tested in an apple orchard. This new sprayer, the same sprayer with the variable-rate function disabled, and a conventional constant-rate air-blast sprayer were the three test treatments for comparison. Tests were conducted at beginning to leafing, half-foliage, and full-foliage growth stages. Spray deposits from spray drift and off-target losses were collected within tree rows at ground level, above and behind the sprayed trees, gaps between two trees, and from 3.2 m tall poles at 5, 15, and 35 m from the tree rows. Compared to the constant-rate sprayer, the laser-guided variable-rate sprayer reduced average spray losses on the ground by 68% to 90% and around tree canopies by 70% to 92%, airborne spray drift by 70% to 100%, and most importantly, the spray volume by 47% to 73%, while their spray deposition qualities inside canopies for these sprayers were comparable. These results demonstrated that the innovative laser scanning technology incorporated into the variable-rate sprayer reduced spray drifts and off target losses of pesticides, was environmentally sustainable, and economically beneficial to growers.