Spraying to become more precise as new machines enter market

Lloydminster — It’s not a new technology but it’s becoming more common.

And as more companies develop their own sprayers equipped with pulse-width modulation, it’s going to mean more precise applications and improved productivity for farmers, said a leading spray application researcher.

Tom Wolf said as pulse-width modulated (PWM) systems become more common, farmers will see the costs of the equipment come down.

“Twenty years ago, there was only one player in the market and now we’re going to see seven,” said Wolf, who spoke at the Agri-Visions conference in Lloydminster earlier in February.

While pulse width modulation doesn’t reduce spray drift, Wolf said it makes managing drift easier because farmers don’t have to reduce their speed to reduce pressure.

Once they have the right nozzle size for the right speed, as well as the right boom height, they can select the correct pressure without having to worry too much about inconsistencies.

But what makes pulse width modulation special, Wolf said, is that it can provide a gateway to more advanced technology.

For example, he pointed to sprayers that can identify and target weeds without having to spray the whole field, or drones that can do the same thing.

While technology like that can save money on spray, it also allows farmers to better manage resistant weeds because they can control the amount of spray that’s applied to each weed, Wolf said.

“PWM allows you to have that capability of controlling each nozzle separately, and you can control the amount of product that is being emitted. That sets you up for being very, very precise, as long as you have a sensor that gives you the information on the weed.”

During his presentation, Wolf pointed to the WEEDit as one machine that is showing good results so far. One farmer in Alberta, for example, has already saved about $80,000 in his first year of using WEEDit, he said.

But Wolf believes more prairie farmers could benefit from such technology, noting that WEEDit is already prominent in Australia.

“There are more than 300 units of the WEEDit built in Australia,” Wolf said. “It makes a lot of sense for them because they do chem-fallow in the summer, so I don’t see why a similar success can’t be replicated here. We do pre-seed burnoff and some post-harvest.”

As for other sprayers with pulse width modulation, Wolf said he has been training people how to use John Deere’s ExactApply, and it’s anticipated Agrifac’s StrictSprayPlus will have pulse width modulation in 2019. As well, Capstan has recently begun retrofitting other sprayers with the technology.

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