New Intelligent Sprayer Lowers Pesticide Use on Farms

By Mary Stewart, OSU Extension Communications and Marketing Coordinator 

Smart phones are used by the majority of the U.S. population.  In the field of agriculture, smart sprayers aren’t far behind.

Farmers and the environment will benefit from the latest sprayer technology developed by a collaboration of research partners including Oregon State University’s North Willamette Research and Extension Center.

According to Robin Rosetta, OSU Extension pest management faculty and researcher, intelligent spray equipment has been developed, and is proving to reduce the volume of pesticides used on nursery and orchard crops by 54 to 77 percent.

“This is a game changer,” says Rosetta, who has led the project in Oregon for five years.  “The laser-guided sprayer can visualize the presence, size, shape, and foliage density of target trees and apply only the necessary amount of pesticide.”

The sprayer prototype has tested well on nursery stock and orchards, and has great potential for use on vineyards. There is promise in the idea of sprayer development for grass seed and other field crops as well as greenhouse crops. This futuristic system has used ultrasonic sensors on booms and drop down nozzles.

“This new generation of precision sprayers will prevent excessive pesticide use and reduce production costs, worker exposure to pesticide risks, and adverse environmental contamination,” says Rosetta. 

To take the project to the next phase, the OSU Extension Service is talking with local farm equipment manufacturer GK Machine about building and marketing the equipment. “I would like to think we will have this new sprayer equipment available within two years, including a way to retrofit the new equipment onto existing sprayers, says Rosetta.

“We are very excited to build this equipment to help growers with their pest and fungus problems,” says Jim Wolf of GK Machine. “The sprayer uses plant material as a target, and will not release excess pesticide into the atmosphere,” he adds. The sprayer may also be used to apply foliar plant nutrients.

In nine separate Oregon trials conducted over the past five years, OSU Extension researchers have evaluated the success of intelligent sprayers on powdery mildew and rust diseases and on insect pests including aphids, sawflies, and galling midges.

Robin and her colleagues have discovered that the sprayers have improved control of these pests. “We achieved great pest control while reducing production costs and non-target pesticide drift,” says Robin. “This is win-win for everyone.”

For more information on the intelligent spray technology, contact Robin Rosetta at robin.rosetta@oregonstate.edu.  

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