Submitted to: Transactions of the ASABE
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 10/3/2011
Publication Date: 3/8/2012
Citation: Jeon, H., Zhu, H. 2012. Development of variable-rate sprayer for nursery liner applications. Transactions of the ASABE. 55(1):303-312.
Interpretive Summary: Growing tree liners is specialized business for some ornamental nurseries. These young trees are grown in densely planted rows for two to three years and then sold to other nurseries who then transplant and grow them to market size. Because of their rapid growth in a confined space, pesticide applications are needed to protect them from insect pests and diseases. However, variations in tree size and varieties invariably confound spray applications and over-applications of pesticide are always possible. Therefore, variable-rate sprayers that can adjust spray outputs automatically to match tree sizes would reduce pesticide cost, limit off-target loss and economically benefit growers. An intelligent sprayer using ultrasonic sensors and pulse-width modulated spray nozzles was developed to deliver real-time variable-rate sprays to liners based on their canopy size. The sprayer accuracy to trigger sprays toward detected targets was examined. The sprayer consistency to assess tree canopy size and the effect of sprayer travel speed on spray deposit and coverage were also evaluated on various tree sizes. The newly developed sprayer demonstrated a promising prospect to achieve uniform spray deposition and coverage for nursery liner applications despite variations in liner canopy size and sprayer travel speed.
Technical Abstract: Sensor-guided application technologies are needed to achieve constant spray deposition for the rapid growth of nursery liner trees during a growing season. An experimental real-time variable-rate sprayer that implemented 20 Hz ultrasonic sensors and pulse width modulation (PWM) solenoid valve-controlled spray nozzles was developed to adjust spray outputs automatically based on the liner canopy size. The developed sprayer consisted of two vertical booms, an ultrasonic sensor detecting system coupled with a spray flow rate controlled unit, a microcontroller and a spray delivery system. Two booms were integrated with five opposing pairs of equally spaced spray nozzles. The sensors were mounted 0.36 m ahead of spray nozzles to ensure sufficient time for processing signals. The accuracy of the sprayer in triggering spray against detected targets moving at 3.2 km/h was evaluated by use of a high-speed camera. A laboratory field consisting of six different sized tree species was used to test the sprayer performance consistency. Test results revealed that spray nozzles were triggered from 4.5 to 12.5 cm ahead of detected targets. Seventy-five percent of test runs for detecting canopy volume of the six tree species produced significant (P < 0.05) Pearson correlation coefficients from 0.43 to 0.88 when the sprayer travel speed was from 3.2 to 6.4 km/h. While the sprayer applied variable output rates from 0 to 20.4 L/min at travel speeds from 3.2 to 8.0 km/h, the mean spray coverage inside canopies of six tree species was from 12.0 to 14.7 % and mean spray deposit was from 0.72 to 0.90 µL/cm2. Effects of travel speed on both mean spray deposit and coverage were insignificant (P > 0.05). Therefore, the newly developed sprayer offered a possibility to achieve uniform spray deposition and coverage for nursery liner applications despite variations in liner canopy size and sprayer travel speed.