So, you think you know sprayers?

As I approach my 6th anniversary with OMAFRA, I'd like to share something I've learned: there always seems to be a new sprayer technology around the corner.

I'm not sure there's such a thing as a perfect airblast or field/row crop sprayer design. Physical differences between crop structures, plant spacing, pruning practices and the nature of the pests belie the existence of a single "grand unified sprayer" (apologies to Albert Einstein). Further, even the most advanced sprayers can still be undermined by poor weather conditions and inattentive sprayer operators.

Figure 1: Albert Einstein and the The Grand Unified Sprayer

Figure 1: The Grand Unified Sprayer

…but then again, refer back to my opening paragraph. With continuous innovation in sprayer design, perhaps we're getting closer. One must keep an open mind, or risk having it opened for them.

Consider the variability: Sprayers can create a range of droplet sizes via air-shear nozzles, controlled droplet applicators and hydraulic nozzles. Spray can be charged by passing through electrical fields, as is the case with electrostatic sprayers. Spray can shoot into a crop, carried by air from fans, turbines or squirrel cages, or it can simply be released close enough to the crop for its (limited) momentum to carry droplets to the target.

Some ground sprayers drive 20 kilometers an hour, with special nozzles to counteract the shear and baffles to reduce apparent wind speed. Others don't move at all, such as the fixed orchard sprayers under development in Europe and the U.S., or chemigation systems that apply products directly to the soil through irrigation lines.

Wet booms, dry booms, towers, and ducts; Backpacks, trailed, self-propelled, multi-row, skid mounted and aerial sprayers. There are even spray robots that shuttle up and down the steam pipes in glass houses in Southern Ontario and Europe. And that's just the gross mechanical principles - there are optional extras, like GPS-assist steering, crop-sensors, rate controllers, spray recyclers, aerial systems that use weather data to predict targeting in real time, and pulse-width modulation systems. Taken collectively, perhaps we are closer to automating the whole spray application process.

This is a very self-indulgent article, I admit, but it's for those that think they've seen it all. I've been watching with interest as articles and brochures about sprayers give way to videos. In fact, when someone brings a "new" sprayer to my attention, the first thing I do is search YouTube. I'll leave you with a few links to horticultural sprayers that, in my mind, span the good, the bad and the ugly in spray application. Who knows what we'll see next?

Inclusion of these links is in no way an endorsement, nor is omission intended to be a condemnation. I simply thought they were interesting.

And, per usual, as I continue to learn I try to share. For more information, go to: http://sprayers101.ca/


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