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tractor in orchard spraying apple trees

Using IPM tactics to improve apple production.

Welcome to SmarterAppleSpraying!

This 3-year (2020-2022) project, involving Iowa State University, The Ohio State University, and USDA-ARS, is funded by USDA’s Crop Protection and Pest Management (CPPM) Program.

Our goal is to evaluate a new type of sprayer technology, developed by USDA-ARS engineers, for IPM on apples in the Midwest. The Intelligent Sprayer is a modified airblast sprayer that uses the same LIDAR technology as driverless cars to sense the size and depth of apple tree canopies. With this laser-guided technology, the Intelligent Sprayer can minimize spray drift and use much less pesticide.

The Intelligent Sprayer is the creation of a team of USDA-ARS engineers at Wooster, Ohio, led by Dr. Heping Zhu. It has been tested on nursery trees, peaches, grapes, and other large-canopy crops, and is now available commercially for retrofitting standard airblast sprayers. Our study is the first to evaluate the Intelligent Sprayer for control of the full range of pests and diseases on apples during the whole growing season.

Here’s what we’re trying to find out:

  • How much fungicide and insecticide does the Intelligent Sprayer save per season?
  • How effectively does it control the major diseases and insect pests when using IPM tactics?
  • How thorough is the spray coverage?
  • Does the Intelligent Sprayer make sense economically for Midwest growers?
  • What do apple growers think about the usefulness of this new technology?

The project team incudes research and extension workers with experience in plant pathology, entomology, economics, and agricultural engineering.

  • Three years of field research to answer the questions above
  • Outreach – On-farm demonstration trials, field days, a blog, videos, podcasts, and a Grower Manual with guidelines on how to get the most out of an Intelligent Sprayer.

If you grow apples commercially, we’d like to engage you in a 3-year discussion about how this new technology could impact your orchard.

Thanks for your interest,

Mark Gleason

Iowa State University plant pathologist and Project Director

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