Researcher develops a smarter sprayer to reduce drift

01/17/2014 11:11:00 AM
Vicky Boyd

A Cornell University researcher has developed a smarter sprayer that uses ultrasound sensors to better match pesticide application to trees and vines.

The result is less drift and a reduction in the amount of material applied per acre by more than 20 percent.

The system was designed by Andrew Landers, a senior Extension associate at Cornell's New York State Agricultural Experiment Station in Geneva, N.Y., according to a news release.

The system uses a mobile ultrasound system to "see" the tree canopy and electronics to calculate the exact pesticide volume as well as correct nozzle array and air flow rate to use.

Landers and postdoctoral researcher Jordi Llorens tested their prototype in vineyards and orchards at different stages of development with yellow dye.

“Not only did the spray land where it was supposed to, the reduction in the amount of spray used represents a savings of 22 percent on applications compared to the conventional system,” he said in the release.

The system also relies on a patented louver system that uses a sliding metal panel to adjust airflow on the go.

The improved airflow from the louvers alone can reduce pesticide drift by 90 percent, according to the release.

The design can be used to retrofit traditional airblast sprayers, which account for most of the sprayers used in orchards and vineyards worldwide. Because the cost of electronics have come down, Landers said retrofitting existing rigs is relatively inexpensive.

The variable-rate sprayer is the latest innovation from Landers, who seeks to reduce drift and improve pesticide application methods.

Many growers have adopted his do-it-yourself $400 Patternator system for testing their sprayer's effectiveness.

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