The Latest in Fertilizer Spraying Technology

VIDEO: Latest in Fertilizer Spraying technology

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Agricultural fertilizer application has advanced significantly from the days of randomly casting powdered fertilizer over a field with a spread broadcaster. Now there are electronic sensors that determine where the fields begin and end, along with GPS sensors for determining what fertilizer mix is required at certain locations, plus a variety of spray nozzles to adapt to different application rates and chemicals.


Targeted Fertilizer and Pesticide Spraying Saves Over 40%

There was a recent study done in California where orchard owners switched to targeted fertilizer spray nozzles and pesticide spray nozzles so that only when an orchard tree was detected would the sprayer apply either the fertilizer or pesticides. The result of the experiment was a reduction of between 15 and 40% in the pesticide application rates and a reduction of up to 72% in non-productive spraying. Not only did the orchard owners save as much as 40% of their application costs, but they also reduced harmful pollutants into both the soil and the atmosphere.

There are two technologies that have revolutionized farming, and they come to fruition in fertilizer application. The two technologies are 1. computerized tractor systems and 2. the GPS (global positioning system). By combining the computerized tractor that can be coordinated with a GPS and spray technology, we wind up with variable rate technology (VRT). VRT involves applying just the amount of fertilizer or pesticide as is required by the crops in that area.


Sensors Guide Fertilizer Spraying 

The determining factor for how much fertilizer or pesticide to spray in a particular zone of your farm can be either programmed in directly into the spraying system, or tied directly to in ground sensors that indicate the needs of your crops. The benefits from this kind of spraying technology include applying the appropriate fertilizer at the right time in the needed amounts for maximizing yield and avoiding overspray both because it is harmful and because it is expensive.

The mechanics of variable rate technology involve pumps that can be sped up or slowed down, and nozzles that can be tuned for the spray patterns required at any point in the process. The linchpin for this kind of technology is having the GPS system, the sensors, and an advanced farm automation system for managing all of the inputs into the process.

Though variable rate technology does not require fertilizer sensors, it reaches its optimal efficiency when a farmer uses crop sensors. These crop sensors can be inground sensors or they can determine how much fertilizer to apply in real time by the amount of light the crop reflects onto the sensor. Each crop and each type of fertilizer application will have different specifications for what the sensors looking for. And you can be sure that the theory and the reality of how these systems work is not exactly hand-in-hand. The benefits are there though because many of the largest producers in the world are going to this system of crop specific spraying based on sensor input.


New Fast Change Over Fertilizer Spray Heads

Another form of fertilizer application technology that is also applicable to pesticide or fertilizer spraying is the automatically adjusting nozzle head. The automatically adjusting nozzle head can be changed or adjusted on the fly for spraying either different patterns, or during a switchover for spraying fertilizer with different fluid characteristics. This instant switchover eliminates the need for the farmer to expend hours in changing valves and changing spray nozzles, hoping that it all works correctly when switching from fertilizers to pesticides or back-and-forth.


Using Liquid Nitrogen for Higher Yield

Farm operators have used urea in the past for nitrogen application on wheat crops but are finding increased efficiency by using liquid nitrogen with precision spray application. New wheat crops with the liquid N precision application receive less damaging overspray. This benefits any crops that are sensitive to excess nitrogen. The precision spraying is  possible because farmers now have spray systems that can band or spray the rows and avoid the no crop zones. Banding has allowed farmers to minimize the damage to their soil caused by  harmful chemicals and reduce their application costs. Reducing application costs is one of the main benefits of adopting the latest in fertilizer spray technology.

Of all the attachments that can save a farmer money while improving yields, high-tech sprayers go at the top of the list.

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