The specialty crop industry is in need of innovative spray application technologies to assure the quality of crops, ensure food safety and security, and promote economic competitiveness. This research envisions that intelligent spray technologies integrated with coordinated strategies can enhance pesticide application efficiency for effective and affordable control of insects and diseases.
The objective of this research is to develop a universal intelligent spray decision control system that can be easily retrofitted onto conventional sprayers for pesticide spray applications in field and greenhouse specialty crop productions. The retrofit will enable sprayers to match system operating parameters more effortlessly to crop characteristics, insect/disease pressures and microclimatic conditions in real time, and allow growers to use their existing sprayers rather than rely exclusively on the purchase of new sprayers to provide optimal crop protection.
- The universal intelligent spray control system will integrate
- a laser-sensor guided controller to match spray outputs to the unique architecture of each crop species,
- an expert subsystem including insect and disease as well as spray drift potential prediction models to manage application schedules, and
- a premixing in-line injection module to avoid leftover tank mixtures.
With the control system, crop structures, pest pressures and local climatic conditions will govern the amount, type and frequency of spray applications, thus minimizing unnecessary pesticide waste.
To validate the intelligent spray control system functions and introduce this new technology into integrated pest management (IPM) programs, we will compare growers' standard air-assisted sprayers with and without the intelligent control function. Analyses will include
- spray delivery accuracy inside canopies,
- spray drift and off-target losses, and
- the incidence and severity of pests.
Pre-harvest and post-harvest assessments will be in commercial field and greenhouse crops under a variety of climatic conditions.
At completion, the proposed project will enhance the prospects of existing sprayers to be more efficient, effective, reliable, and operator-friendly. These spraying systems will deliver pest control agents in an intelligent, economical, accurate, timely, and environmentally sustainable manner, with enhanced safety for spray operators and farm workers.