“Conventional spray application technology requires excessive amounts of pesticide to achieve effective pest control in floral, nursery, orchard, and other specialty crops,” says ARS agricultural engineer Heping Zhu. “This challenge is now overcome by our automated, variable-rate, air-assisted, precision sprayer. The new system is able to characterize the presence, size, shape, and foliage density of target trees and apply the optimum amount of pesticide in real time.”
The system has many parts that have to work together with precision. “It integrates a high-speed laser-scanning sensor in conjunction with a Doppler radar travel-speed sensor, an automatic nozzle-flow-rate controller, an embedded computer, a touch screen, a manual switch box, and four five-port nozzle manifolds on each side of the sprayer,” says Zhu. The laser-guided sprayer can treat several rows of nursery trees at a time.
“Pest control with the new sprayer was comparable to that of conventional sprayers, but the new sprayer reduced average pesticide use between 46 and 68 percent, with an average pesticide cost savings of $230 per acre for ornamental nurseries. The cost savings can be much higher for orchards and other fruit crop productions,” he says.