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CFD simulation of pesticide spray from air-assisted sprayers in an apple orchard: Tree deposition and off-target losses

Se-Woon Hong, Lingying Zhao, Heping Zhu
Atmospheric environment 2018 v.175 pp. 109-119
air-assisted sprayers, apples, atmospheric chemistry, canopy, developmental stages, droplets, fluid mechanics, leaves, model validation, orchards, pesticides, simulation models, spray coverage, spray deposition, spraying, trees, wastes, wind speed
The ultimate goal of a pesticide spraying system is to provide adequate coverage on intended canopies with a minimum amount of spray materials and off-target waste. Better spray coverage requires an understanding of the fate and transport of spray droplets carried by turbulent airflows in orchards. In this study, an integrated computational fluid dynamics (CFD) model was developed to predict displacement of pesticide spray droplets discharged from an air-assisted sprayer, depositions onto tree canopies, and off-target deposition and airborne drift in an apple orchard. Pesticide droplets discharged from a moving sprayer were tracked using the Lagrangian particle transport model, and the deposition model was applied to droplets entering porous canopy zones. Measurements of the droplet deposition and drift in the same orchard were used to validate the model simulations. Good agreement was found between the measured and simulated spray concentrations inside tree canopies and off-target losses (ground deposition and airborne drifts) with the overall relative errors of 22.1% and 40.6%, respectively, under three growth stages. The CFD model was able to estimate the mass balance of pesticide droplets in the orchard, which was practically difficult to investigate by measurements in field conditions. As the foliage of trees became denser, spray deposition inside canopies increased from 8.5% to 65.8% and airborne drift and ground deposition decreased from 25.8% to 7.0% and 47.8% to 21.2%, respectively. Higher wind speed also increased the spray airborne drift downwind of the orchard. This study demonstrates that CFD model can be used to evaluate spray application performance and design and operate sprayers with increased spray efficiencies and reduced drift potentials.