The costs of those wasted chemicals can be high. Farmers spend approximately $4.1 billion on pesticides annually, according to published reports. And large self-propelled sprayers can cost more than $250,000, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
The savings for fruit and nursery crop growers could be significant, considering that many may spray weekly at certain points in the growing season.
"Some large orchards or nurseries spend near half a million dollars in pesticides to protect their crops," he says. "The intelligent sprayer has the potential to cut pesticide consumption by 50%, resulting in a savings of hundreds of thousands of dollars.
"This new technology can also reduce the risk of environmental pollution by pesticides in addition to providing safer and healthier working conditions for workers."
National surveys of field application results have shown that only about one out of three sprayers are applying pesticides at the recommended rates, while two-thirds are missing the mark by either over- or underspraying, Ozkan says.
Overall advantages of the intelligent sprayer as compared to conventional sprayers include:
* Less chance of overspraying pesticides.
* Appropriate amount of spray use depending on varying growth stages.
* More consistent spray deposition uniformity inside canopies at different growth stages.
* Better spray trajectory control.
* A 40-87% reduction in spray loss beyond tree canopies.
* Up to 87% less airborne drift.
* A 47-73% reduction of spray consumption.
* A 68-93% reduction in spray loss on the ground.
The intelligent sprayer work began as part of a Ph.D. dissertation by former Ohio State graduate student Yu Chen, in CFAES's Department of Food, Agricultural and Biological Engineering, under the co-advisership of Ozkan and Heping Zhu at the USDA-ARS Application Technology Research unit at OARDC's Wooster campus.
Further refinement and testing of the intelligent sprayer continued under the leadership of Zhu with a $1.8 million grant from USDA. The technology is now ready to be commercialized by sprayer companies.