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ARS Home » Midwest Area » Wooster, Ohio » Application Technology Research » Research » Publications at this Location » Publication #379101

Research Project: Coordinated Precision Application Technologies for Sustainable Pest Management and Crop Protection

Location: Application Technology Research

Title: Management of pest insects and plant diseases in fruit and nursery production with laser-guided variable-rate sprayers

item Chen, Liming
item Zhu, Heping
item Horst, Leona
item WALLHEAD, MATTHEW - University Of Maine
item Reding, Michael - Mike
item FULCHER, AMY - University Of Tennessee

Submitted to: HortScience
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 11/6/2020
Publication Date: 12/8/2020
Citation: Chen, L., Zhu, H., Horst, L., Wallhead, M., Reding, M.E., Fulcher, A. 2020. Management of pest insects and plant diseases in fruit and nursery production with laser-guided variable-rate sprayers. HortScience. 56(1):94–100.

Interpretive Summary: A laser-guided variable-rate intelligent spray control system was developed to increase the efficiency of pesticide applications and reduce off-target losses for specialty crop production. However, the information of its efficiency and efficacy in commercial farms is needed to introduce this new innovative technology into integrated pest management (IPM) programs in the future. In this research, three different types of standard sprayers commonly used in specialty crops were retrofitted with the intelligent spray control system. They were tested for three consecutive years in two commercial nurseries and a fruit farm in Ohio. Conventional constant-rate spray applications were also used as the standard spray practice for comparisons. Test crops were apple, peach, blueberry, black raspberry, crabapple, maple, birch, and dogwood. Pest insects and plant diseases included codling moth, oriental fruit moth, spotted wing drosophila, scab, powdery mildew, brown rot, mummy berry, phomopsis, and anthracnose in the fruit farm, and scab, leafhopper, aphid, and powdery mildew in the two nurseries. The field tests illustrated that the retrofitted sprayers were equal or more effective for control of the insects and diseases while reducing 30%-65% pesticide and foliar fertilizer uses. This new spray technology avoids a significant portion of pesticides reaching non-target areas, thus, provides a highly efficient, low cost, and environmentally- and worker-friendly pesticide and foliar fertilizer applications for fruit and ornamental nursery industries.

Technical Abstract: Laser-guided variable-rate intelligent spray technology is anticipated to reduce pesticide use in production of crops and safeguard the environment. However, the ability of this technology to effectively control insect pests and diseases of crops must be validated before it becomes part of integrated pest management programs. Abilities of three different intelligent sprayers were tested to control pest insects and plant diseases at one fruit farm and two ornamental nurseries in Ohio during three consecutive growing seasons in 2017 to 2019. The same sprayers with disabled intelligent functions were used as conventional constant-rate applications for comparisons. Test crops were apple (Malus pumila), peach (Prunus persica), blueberry (Vaccinium sect. Cyanococcus), black raspberry (Rubus occidentalis), crabapple (Malus sp.), maple (Acer sp.), birch (Betula sp.), and dogwood (Cornus florida). There were total six insects and six diseases involved in the investigations in the fruit farm and two nurseries. The field tests showed the intelligent spray applications reduced pesticide use by approximately 30% to 65% on average during the three-year experiments. Intelligent spray technology was similarly or more effective controlling insects and disease on a variety of crops as conventional spray technology, while reducing pesticide use. These results demonstrated that the intelligent spray technology was environmentally friendly and more effective for control of insect and disease pests in fruit farms and ornamental tree nurseries.