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Are broad-acre spray applications about to go extinct?

AGCO and tech partners team up to advance spot spraying

AGCO and a consortium of tech companies are involved in field trials of a spot-spray system they say will provide growers with a way to reduce inputs and save costs.

The sight of sprayers broadly applying a constant flow of herbicide across Prairie fields may soon go the way of the dodo — at least if AGCO and its technology partners have anything to say about it.

The company announced it has teamed up with Robert Bosch GmbH, BASF’s Xarvio Digital Farming Solutions and Raven Industries to create a sophisticated spot-spraying system that only targets weeds it detects rather than spraying a constant volume across an entire field, and it’s currently involved in a proof of concept effort. In other words, it’s in field trials.

The proof of concept effort is being done with the “objective of evaluating targeted spraying technology to make the application of crop protection products more effective and efficient by reducing crop input costs while driving farm and environmental sustainability,” AGCO explained in a press release.

Of course, we’ve already seen some brands introduce at least early versions of spot-spray technologies to the market. For example, this year John Deere announced the release of its factory-installed See and Spray Select option, which activates a spray nozzle only when sensors detect a weed underneath it on fallow ground. However, that system doesn’t differentiate between plant types, so it sprays any plant it detects. That means in-crop use isn’t possible with it just yet. The company said more advanced versions of the technology are sure to follow in the not-too-distant future.

The AGCO consortium is aiming high for their spot and spray technology as well, hoping to push the system so far as to allow for in-crop use. All the companies involved in the project hope to provide demonstrated proof to show producers such a concept is possible — and worth the money.

“The targeted spraying proof of concept field evaluations will focus on real-time sensing technology to make crop protection decisions,” said an AGCO press announcement. “By detecting weeds in growing crops as well as on fallow ground, day or night, this technology will execute precise targeted product placement down to the individual plant level. In addition to the environmental benefits, targeted spraying will help enhance farmer profitability by only spraying the herbicide where needed. This makes the use of more efficient herbicides affordable, allowing for much better weed control. Where optimal herbicides are already used, the smart sprayer provides a volume and cost reduction.”

The trials are currently underway in Europe using a Fendt Rogator sprayer. They are expected to be expanded to North American shores for the 2022 growing season.

“This effort is aimed at validating the targeted spraying solutions, delivering a reduction in product use to achieve the same results as broadcast spraying in both pre- and post-emergence with the flexibility of spraying day or night,” said Seth Crawford, senior vice-president and general manager, Precision Ag and Digital, at AGCO.

So why wouldn’t AGCO just do this on its own? What does each of these tech companies bring to the table? Well, here’s how each brand describes its input: AGCO has the application equipment expertise; Bosch brings capabilities in hardware, machine learning and artificial intelligence as well as digital services; and Xarvio Digital Farming Solutions provides an automated, real-time, in-field agronomic decision-making engine for weed management and crop optimization. Raven Applied Technology adds sprayer efficacy and operational efficiencies that further enable precision control of chemicals for targeted spraying applications.

“The expertise of each organization will undoubtedly provide industry changing solutions for some of agriculture’s greatest challenges,” said Dominic Walkes, Raven Applied Technology’s director of strategic initiatives. “This smart-spraying proof of concept is the first of many that will aid in advancing solutions for a more sustainable future.”

Improved calibration tool from Innoquest

Photo: Innoquest.

Illinois-based Innoquest, which had been offering the SC-1 SpotOn sprayer calibrator, has upgraded the design and has now released the SpotOn model SC-2. It offers the ability to calibrate nozzle discharge rates of up to 2.25 gallons per minute, a significant increase over the one gallon per minute the SC-1 model was capable of.

The SC-2 also has an improved accuracy rate of plus or minus two per cent. It can calculate tip wear in percentage and application rate in gallons per acre or litres per hectare, and it does that without the need for manual calculations or downloading an app.

“Our goal was to add features that benefit every user of our industry-leading hand-held sprayer calibrator,” said Bill Hughes, president of Innoquest. “The SC-2 accomplishes this without sacrificing our hallmark ultra-simple operation.”

About the author


Scott Garvey

Scott Garvey is a freelance writer and video producer. He is also the former machinery editor at Grainews.



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