Tag Archives: Featured

Sensor-controlled sprayers for specialty crop production

NEW PUBLICATION!

Recently our own Brent Warneke wrote another great article for Sprayers 101 covering the Intelligent Sprayer System – check it out here: https://sprayers101.com/airblast-sensors/

Want a preview? Here’s a synopsis:

Air-blast sprayers are versatile, reliable, and can be modified to fit numerous types of crops, all of which are reasons for their continued popularity. Yet despite their popularity, air-blast sprayers have long had a reputation for inefficient application characteristics. Sensor controlled spray systems reduce labor costs and pesticide waste. Recently, they are receiving renewed interest as their reliability has improved and more options have become available. There are two main types of sensor sprayers:

+ On/off sensor sprayers
+ Crop adapting sprayers

 A classic low-profile axial airblast sprayer.
 A classic low-profile axial airblast sprayer.

Sensor types
Infrared sensors: The inability to resolve characteristics of plant structure makes IR sensors suited to less complex applications such as triggering
the sprayer on and off at a plant. Additionally, these systems can be used for herbicide sprayers where the sensors are aimed at the trunks of trees/vines and turn off the sprayer as they pass the trunk or to target it for the purpose of sucker sprays.

Ultrasonic sensors: using multiple sensors, it’s possible to collect canopy volume data with similar accuracy to taking manual measurements. These are typically used on canopy sprayers with around 3 sensors per side of the sprayer.

Laser sensors (LiDAR): Provides the most accurate measurements of plant structure (mm resolution). Only one sensor needed for accurate measurement.

Plant fluorescence sensors: These have a spatial resolution between ultrasonic sensors and LiDAR sensors. Most commonly used on “weed-seeing” herbicide sprayers but also on canopy sprayers. All sensor sprayers must have a speed sensor to synch the sprayer ground speed to the sensor system.

Spraying with sensor sprayers
Insect pest and disease control with sensor controlled sprayers has
been widely shown to be similar to that of standard sprayers. Control can be achieved on those crops with spray volume savings from 20-70% depending on the sensor system used and crop spray volume savings are higher in crops with more variability labor savings, less pesticide release into the environment, tractor wear, and driver fatigue are also reduced as the sprayer is in operation for less time.

Sensor sprayers can result in 20% to over 90% less spray drift. Autonomous sensor sprayers companies are currently developing and selling autonomous sprayer units that drive themselves and can be integrated with sensors.

Illustration of on/off sensor sprayers (A) and canopy adapting sensor sprayers (B). Sensors are illustrated with red ovals and sensor field of view illustrated with grey shaded washes.

Meet the Team: The Bounty of a Season

Success in Summer 2022

For the past few years we’ve limited gatherings on the farm due to COVID-19 restrictions. In the summer of 2022, however, we were finally able to welcome the public back for Nursery Program Field Days. We’d like to take this opportunity to boast about a few of our highlights from the last several months.

Sadie Keller presenting to growers
Sadie Keller discusses shade tree physiology

For the first time, the Nackley Nursery Production team was an official stop on the Oregon Association of Nurseries Farwest Innovative Production Grower Tour. Our portion of the tour at NWREC showcased sensor-controlled irrigation, heat-stress mitigation techniques, LiDAR smart-sprayer systems, and practices that can reduce boxwood blight spread, and methods of scouting and monitoring insects in nurseries and greenhouses. These projects offer a wide range of savings for growers.: up to 80% improvement in irrigation efficiency, up to 70% reduction in sprayed pesticides, and a significant reduction in boxwood blight infection.

image shows participants examining landscape plants
Stakeholders evaluating climate-readiness of various landscape ornamentals

The second big event was an open house for our Climate Ready Landscape Plant trial, the largest coordinated landscape plant irrigation trial in the Western US. Plant professionals from around the region came to rate plants and discuss how we, as a society, are going to maintain healthy landscapes while faced with increasing extreme weather.

Ongoing projects that will continue this year include, research by our graduate student Sadie Keller, who is investigating Oak and Maple drought tolerance. This summer, Sadie shared her preliminary findings with scientists at the American Society for Horticultural Science, in Chicago.

Sadie Keller and Lloyd Nackley at the ASHS Meeting in Chicago.

In addition, Dr. Melissa Scherr continues our research on the Pacific Flatheaded beetle, with the anticipation of a grower event hosted at NWREC discussing current research on Flathead Borer biology and control this coming April – 2023.

The Nursery Program Team, summer 2022.

People: From Hiking to Horticulture

Scout Dahms-May

I am originally from the great city of Tacoma, Washington. I went to an outdoors based high school where my love for plants and environmentalism blossomed. My favorite class was our version of “PE”, where we hiked through Point Defiance Park identifying native species. This passion drove me to pursue a bachelor’s degree in Environmental Science at the University of Redlands. Moving to Redlands in Southern California was a stark contrast to my home in Puget Sound, but I grew to love most parts of it!

Scout collecting samples
Scout collects samples

I went on many abroad terms and saw amazing parts of the world such as Peru, Ethiopia, and Iceland. Each time I returned I wished I had been there longer and itched to immerse myself even more in a different country.  Once I graduated from Redlands, the natural next step was to join the Peace Corps. I spent two years in the Southeast corner of Senegal, West Africa. I lived in a 100-person village in the region of Kedougou where I learned to speak Jaxanke. As an Agroforestry Extension Agent, I helped with various agriculture and agroforestry projects.  We created small-scale nurseries, collected seeds, showcased new and improved agroforestry techniques, and outplanted trees and shrubs around the village. I loved my time in Senegal and miss being there constantly.

After returning to the United States, I moved to Eugene, OR to work at Dorena Genetic Resource Center. I assisted the lead horticulturist in end-to-end native plant restoration, collecting/processing seed, and producing native plants to restore areas affected by fires, floods, and construction. I became the lead irrigator, which was a new problem-solving and damp adventure, and led seed collection trips across Oregon. I also helped develop a seed collection mapping application to track plant populations and store seed collection data.

This leads me to OSU! I just started at OSU this fall to pursue my Masters in Horticulture and work in the Nackley Lab. I am partnered with Sadie Keller on a project looking at stem hydraulics and how it relates to drought in shade trees. I am new to this type of research but am so eager to learn more! I am excited to get our stem hydraulics lab up and running and start the journey of data collection.

2022 Field Day Tour and Open House

August 23, 2022

Nackley Lab nursery production open house takes place August 23. 2023 from 11am – 2pm

Our event will be a part of the great Nursery related activities happening around the Willamette Valley as part of the Oregon Association of Nurseries Farwest Show, which will also feature Dr. Nackley, and Brian Hill, M.S. and many others from Oregon State and beyond.

The Nackley lab open house will feature research on our four themes: Irrigation science, pest management, plant health, and plant trials.

Free to all, no registration required.

Parking: follow signs to south side of the Cravo North Willamette Research and Extension Center and then follow signs walk 5 mins (west) to Nackley Lab Welcome Center.


Masks are welcome, not required, per University policy

The tour route will travel through fields with uneven terrain. Farm cart transport (e.g. gators) can be available for those who request assistance.

Schedule of Events


Field Tour
11 :00 -11:15 Station 1. Welcome, overview of the program and biostimulant research on Shade-Trees
11:15 – 11:30 Station 2. Plant-based irrigation scheduling: pressure bomb and infra-red thermography
11:30 – 11:45 Station 3. ET-based irrigation scheduling and Flatheaded borer research
11:45 – 12:00 Station 4. Cover cropping and Heat-stress prevention
12:00 – 12:15 Station 5. Boxwood blight control
12:15 – 12:30 Station 6. LiDAR “smart” air-blast sprayer and drone demonstration

12:30 – 1:00 Station 1. Open chat with research team, refreshments and grilled sides.

Open House
1:00 – 2:00 Self guided tour. Researchers will be at each of the six stations to answer questions. Sprayer demos will take place at station 6 every 15 mins.

Pest Management: Intelligent Sprayer system automatically adjusts to seasonal growth saving thousands of dollars per year

Lloyd Nackley

Highlights

  • Airblast sprayers should be calibrated throughout the growing season to maximize application efficiency.
  • The LiDAR guided Intelligent Sprayer system automatically adjusts to crop canopy sizes.
  • Compared to standard Airblast sprayers, the Intelligent Sprayer system can reduce pesticide volumes by more than 50% while achieving adequate coverage, reducing drift by > 33%.

Our research revealed  that the majority of directed canopy spraying of specialty crops (defined here as fruits, nuts, and horticultural crops) relies on the radial air blast sprayers. There are many reasons for the continued popularity of air blast sprayers such as customizable sizes, easily available parts for repairs, and robust construction using materials such as stainless steel that provide years of low maintenance use. Although the air blast sprayer continues to be an important and effective tool for the specialty crop industry, its widespread use has not been without issues.

When radial air blast sprayers were first popularized in the 1950s, standard production practices favored hand labor, tree varieties popular at the time were around 6 m tall at maturity, and vines had large dense canopies. Modern plant breeding and horticultural practices, such as pruning and training systems, have revolutionized specialty crop production leading to higher density production systems designed for mechanization. Modern horticulture favors smaller trees (1–4 m tall) that are more productive per unit area than their historical counterparts, and pruning and trellis systems that create more open canopies. Despite the physical transformation of specialty crop production systems, the design of radial air blast sprayers has stayed largely the same. Consequently, unmodified radial air blast sprayers emit air and pesticide volumes that are often much greater than needed in modern high-density, open canopy systems.

Air blast sprayers from their early years to current day. (A) ‘Speed Sprayer’ on the Brown Fruit Farm near Worthington, OH, USA, 1947 (image courtesy of worthingtonmemory.org). (B) Air blast sprayer being used in research trials at the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center, Wooster, OH, USA, 1966. (C) Air blast sprayer at Rears Manufacturing in Coburg, OR, USA, 2018 From our publication.

Optimizing spray applications is necessary to address increasing pesticide expenses, limited labor availability, stricter regulations, and increased public awareness of pesticide use. For four years the Nackley Lab and Dr. Jay Pscheidt at OSU  have been collaborating with USDA-ARS, and the Fulcher group at the University of Tennessee to investigate application of a sensor-guided sprayer in horticultural systems. Sensor-based systems can apply a variable-rate spray that adapts to the changing canopy volume and density thereby reducing waste and off-target deposition compared with standard constant-rate sprayers.

Water sensitive spray cards are used to measure the coverage from applications by standard and sensor-based Airblast sprayers.

We tested the effect of variable- and constant-rate spray applications and phenological stage on spray volume, coverage, and deposit density in two perennial specialty crop systems: an apple orchard and a grape vineyard. Our research showed that the greatest differences in the volume of pesticide application between constant- and variable-rate sprayer modes occurred early in the season when the canopy was sparse. The standard spray mode discharged a constant volume regardless of the canopy characteristics causing pesticide spray to drift through the open canopies beyond the desired target. Reducing nontarget deposition is critical because aerial drift, ground spray, and runoff can contaminate surface and groundwater and have toxic effects on nontarget species. Unlike the standard spray mode, the Intelligent sprayer mode made real-time adjustments, decreasing the application volume when vegetation was absent, which resulted in a more targeted spray and decreased drift and off-target ground spray. Increasing spray efficiency is critically important because spray losses to the ground and aerial drift by constant-rate, air-assist sprayers can be 40% to 60% of total applied spray in orchards and 10% to 50% the total applied spray volume in vineyards.

Intelligent sprayer system in a red maple nursery.  https://agsci.oregonstate.edu/nursery/precision-spray-applications

If disease and arthropod control are not diminished, reducing the pesticide volume applied on a farm has multifaceted benefits. The most direct benefit, and usually the one that motivates the adoption of variable-rate systems, comes from a reduction in pesticide costs due to lower application volumes. Other research found variable-rate technology can reduce pesticide costs by as much as 67%. Reducing the amount of active ingredient per application also causes a concomitant decrease in environmental impact and worker exposure. Moreover, when the quantity of pesticide required to treat an area is decreased, additional efficiencies are realized from the reduced need to refill, such as lower fuel and labor costs, and improved ability to complete applications in windows of good weather. Additionally, requiring less water as in the case of lower spray volumes is beneficial for orchards and vineyards that have limited access to water.

More info:

Warneke, B.W., J. Pscheidt, and L.L. Nackley. 2021. How to do regular maintenance on air blast sprayers to ensure proper care for specialty crops. https://catalog.extension.oregonstate.edu/em9316

Warneke, B.W., J Pscheidt, R. Rosetta, and L.L. Nackley. 2019. Sensor Sprayers for Specialty Crop Production https://catalog.extension.oregonstate.edu/pnw727

Nackley L.L., B.W. Warneke, L. Fessler, J. Pscheidt, D. Lockwood, W.C. Wright, X Sun, and A. Fulcher. 2021. Variable-rate spray technology optimizes pesticide application by adjusting for seasonal shifts in deciduous perennial crops. HortTechnology 31 https://doi.org/10.21273/HORTTECH04794-21

Warneke,B.W., H. Zhu, J. Pscheidt, and L.L. Nackley. 2020 Canopy spray application technology in specialty crops: a slowly evolving landscape. Pest Manag Sci 77: 2157–2164