Application and Production Technology Research Unit
Aerial application research focuses on improving the accuracy of application, reducing drift, and reducing rates of material applied while maintaining its effectiveness. Aircraft speed, height above the crop canopy, spray boom modifications, and a range of atomizers have been investigated to evaluate their effect on deposition and spray drift. Research on ULV application of Malathion for boll weevil eradication has resulted in rate reductions from 16 to 10 oz/acre, thus greatly decreasing the cost of eradication. Improvements in application accuracy have been achieved through evaluations of automatic flow controllers that maintain the correct application rate while ground speeds vary. Remote sensing systems on agricultural aircraft are being used to target spray for weed and insect control. Methods for variable-rate aerial application using these remote sensing inputs are being investigated.
The need to adequately feed and clothe a growing population places increasing demands on the world's limited soil and water resources. Advances in irrigation technology and efficiency can help improve crop productivity and protect valuable soil and water resources for the humid midsouth agriculture. Determining the water requirements (or evapotranspiration) of crops allow irrigators to apply the appropriate amounts of water.Scheduling tools such as soil water sensors, non-contact canopy temperature sensors, water balance models, and evaporation measuring devices are being used to allow irrigations to be initiated at the proper time. Reducing over- and under-irrigation can provide more uniform yields and efficient water use, while reducing runoff of soil, chemicals, and water.
Research in site-specific application is being conducted in the Mississippi Delta. Highly variable soils make precision application of pesticide, cotton growth regulators, and other inputs especially challenging. Soil electrical conductivity (EC) devices are being used to characterize the soil to aid in applying field prescriptions. Criteria for precision irrigation are being developed using aircraft-based imaging along with soil water sensors, models, and other scheduling aids. Variable rainfall in this region requires careful attention and is an integral input for irrigation decision support.