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Advanced Precision Spray Application Technology for Effective Control of Ornamental Diseases

Heping Zhu, Ph.D.: USDA-ARS

<div>Advancing conventional sprayer technology with precision variable-rate capability is an economically feasible method to solve current challenges associated with imprecise application and extensive waste of foliar-applied pesticides and other products. An experimental laser-guided precision sprayer was developed to adjust spray outputs based on crop canopy architectures in real time. The sprayer could apply different rates to different sections of individual plants. On-farm field tests in commercial nurseries in Ohio, Oregon and Tennessee demonstrated the insect and disease control efficacies of this experimental sprayer were comparable to those of conventional sprayers, while the new sprayer reduced average pesticide use by 46% to 70%, airborne spray drift by up to 87% and spray loss on the ground by 70% to 90%, with annual chemical savings by $140 to $281. Based on the success of this sprayer development, a versatile laser-guided spray control system was developed as a retrofit for air-blast sprayers used in ornamental nurseries and boom sprayers in greenhouses. This new variable-rate spray system will significantly advance conventional spray technologies and offer an environmentally responsible and sustainable approach to controlling insects and diseases and applying other foliar products in future nursery and greenhouse production.</div>