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ARS Home » Midwest Area » Wooster, Ohio » Application Technology Research » Research » Research Project #440865

Research Project: Implementation of Variable-Rate Airflow to Intelligent Sprayers Used in Apple Orchards

Location: Application Technology Research

Project Number: 5082-21620-001-020-S
Project Type: Non-Assistance Cooperative Agreement

Start Date: Sep 1, 2021
End Date: Aug 31, 2025

Investigate an optimal model of airflow control on maximizing the deposition to the tree canopy, thus further reduce the spray drift losses to the ground and air. The outcomes of the project are expected to provide better pesticide coverage with variable tree canopy densities and reduce environmental impact.

The main task for this project is to develop and evaluate a variable-rate airflow control system for the intelligent sprayer. Firstly, an iris damper will be adapted to the sprayer inlet fan system with capability of adjusting the air inlet opening. Then, a control system will be developed for the inlet airflow control (iris damper opening control) based on the canopy density data from the three-dimensional (3D) LiDAR sensor on the sprayer. At last, the developed variable-rate airflow control system will be tested in the orchards with different canopy densities to generate a model for optimal inlet airflow selection based on the canopy density. Field tests will be conducted in three orchards with different canopy densities, and the tests will also be conducted at early, middle, and late growing season to reflect the difference of sprayer control throughout the season. Two methods will be used to evaluate the deposition of chemical (or water for testing purpose) on the tree canopy, one is using water sensitive paper, the other one is using fluorescent dye. At the end of the project, a model-based recommendation will be made for the intelligent sprayer for the airflow control based on the tree canopy density. With this model, the airflow is expected to be precisely controlled for a particular orchard at certain growing stage in a season. Furthermore, the developed system will be demonstrated through cooperators extension events, and the results of the project will be published in extension articles and presented in regional grower meetings.