COLUMBUS, Ohio — Spraying is one of the most stressful operations in agriculture, not only requiring concentration from the operator to avoid chemical drift or overlap, but also manual operation of boom sections that house the sprayer nozzles. A new advancement in precision agriculture technology may change that.
The technology, called precision boom control, combines RTK-GPS auto-steer and a control system on each nozzle or boom section to automatically control if, where, and when parts of a field need to be sprayed.
"It's like giving a brain to each sprayer nozzle," said Reza Ehsani, an Ohio State University Extension agricultural engineer who is among a group of researchers evaluating the technology. "
Precision boom control is designed to take the stress load off operators, something that is an issue with manually controlled sprayers.
"With boom precision control, each nozzle or section of boom can have its own shut-off valve and the computer knows where each nozzle or boom section is in the field. So the nozzles are smart enough to know where they should and should not be spraying," said Ehsani.
Such technology saves on chemical costs because it helps reduce spray overlap. It is also more environmentally friendly in that the equipment can be programmed to avoid spraying unintended areas, such as waterways, urban areas or neighboring crops. Since the system can automatically shutoff when it encounters a non-crop area, it will no longer be necessary to spray around these areas, saving time and chemicals.
An added bonus is that growers can install boom precision control without having to modify their sprayer for compatibility, and for little cost.
"A grower can add this equipment to his existing sprayer for between $7,000 to $10,000 (list price)," said Jeff Rohlena, Vice President and Manager of Operations for Kee Technologies USA, a company based in Sioux Falls, SD, where precision boom control is available. "When you've got a $200,000 sprayer, the cost to add the technology is minimal. Plus, growers are going to get their money back in productivity. So the technology pays for itself."