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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

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National Program 301: Plant Genetic Resources, Genomics and Genetic Improvement
CRIS# 3607-21620-006-03S
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Automatic Spraying for Nurseries

Automatic Spraying for Nurseries

CRIS#  3607-21620-006-03S 

Agreement# 58-3607-0-0142

ADODR:  Krause, C., Application Technology Research, Wooster, Ohio                                       

Principal Investigator:  Stenz, A. - Carneige Mellon University

NP 203 (40%)

NP 304 (60%)

Objective:  The objective of the proposed work is to automate the process of nursery spraying to reduce exposure of sprayer operators to chemicals by removing the operator from the machine; reduce the labor required to operate the sprayers, since one worker could supervise more than one machine; improve efficacy during application, since both the sprayer's driving speed and rate of application could be precisely controlled; and enable up to a twelve-hour jump on the "no entry" period, spraying can be done at night.

Approach:  Automate tractors or other machines to apply chemicals to nursery crops. Existing tractors are modified by adding computers and sensors, such as cameras and global positioning devices, to guide the machine as it navigates up and down each row in the nursery and to detect and stop for people, animals, machines and other obstacles in its path. The nursery is manually driven with a position sensor to learn the rows and passageways. This "map" is stored electronically and used to spray later. During spraying, the machine drives fully autonomously at least 90% of the time. The rest of the time, it may require some assistance from a supervisor over a wireless radio-link. Since all aspects of the operation can be precisely controlled, the machine can be programmed to implement the best strategy for spraying, as determined by ARS through efficacy studies. 

Significant Accomplishment:  Visits were made to nurseries to assess application problems. Plans were formulated to remediate worker exposure and coverage issues. Retrofiting was planned by cooperator on modification of existing spray equipment for nursery use.


Studies were planned at a stakeholder's production greenhouse to determine canopy penetration efficiency of a robotic sprayer. Experiments have not been completed.


Research on problems dealing with minor crop production by definition,  assists the small business of the family farm and promotes minor crop development by small formulating chemical and entrepanurial, start-up firms. The American public wouldn't have the safest food supply in the world nor the highest quality of environmental or ornamental plants without cooperative research projects between state and federal government, small agribusiness and minor chemical companies. 


Application Technology Research Unit is the only USDA, ARS multi disciplinary team in the United States that studies ground application technology in nurseries, greenhouses and orchards. ARS Plant Pathologist visited Carnegie Mellon to meet with cooperator for project coordination. No cooperative work was developed.           

Last Modified: 10/15/2004
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