5 Ways Precision Application Is Creating Opportunities in the Field

Precision Application Field sprayer
Advancements in the area of precision technology on sprayers are changing the way products are applied.

Throughout the years, precision agriculture has facilitated improvements to farming equipment, from auto-steer on combines to variable rate seeding on planters. These changes enhance functionality and allow growers to farm smarter and more efficiently.

Sprayer technology has remained relatively unchanged for the last several years, leaving room for improvement. Recently, however, there have been several advancements in the area of precision technology on sprayers, looking to change the way that products are applied.

Top manufacturers recognized the challenges of traditional application and have begun introducing solutions, such as independent section control to auto-nozzle switching based on speed. John Deere, for example, released its new ExactApply nozzle control system to give growers more control over everything from droplet size to pressure, and adapt to varying speeds, curves, and sensitive areas such as waterways.

The different brands of sprayers function in different ways, but regardless of which sprayer a grower chooses to operate, precision application equipment addresses the same challenges across all platforms.

How It Works

In the case of John Deere’s ExactApply system, many features from traditional systems, such as section control and variable rate application, are maintained but have been further enhanced. For example, on traditional sprayers there were three sections, one for the center and one on each of the booms. With the new ExactApply system, growers have individual nozzle control and can have as many sections as there are nozzles. This increases accuracy and better controls input costs.

The systems also offers A/B nozzle switching, which allows for manual or automatic switching between nozzles to better adapt to field conditions, speed, and application rates. For example, a low-drift nozzle may be used on the field edges and headlands, and then the operator could choose to use a different nozzle for spraying the interior of the field.

While different products offer different features and degree of control for growers, they’re all based on one common principle: more control equals better spraying, which results in less product wasted, and therefore, greater savings. The value of precision application comes from five major capabilities.

1. Application Consistency at Every Speed

In order to be its most effective, spray application rate must be consistent. One of the biggest challenges to maintaining this consistency comes when changing ground speed. Traditionally, sprayers adapt to changing ground speed by modifying spray pressure, however this can result in poor crop coverage. With precision application products, growers can set sprayer nozzles to auto-adjust based on the sprayer’s current speed, which allows them to maintain a steady application rate.

For example, a sprayer’s auto-adjustment can be set so that nozzle X applies at speeds up to 5 mph. When the sprayer goes above 5 mph, nozzle X will shut off and nozzle Y will activate. When the sprayer reaches the highest speed, for example, 12 mph, both nozzles X and Y would activate, working together to maintain the target application rate, ensuring consistency in coverage.

2. Pressure and Droplet Size

As with application rate, droplet size must also remain consistent for best results. Some auto-adjust systems that don’t offer individual nozzle control can still adjust to the sprayer’s speed, but with a change in pressure instead. At lower speeds, the system lowers the pressure, applying less product. This is only somewhat more efficient, as it also results in a change in droplet size, which then leads to inadequate coverage.

Thanks to pulse-width modulation on newer systems, desired pressure remains the same in the boom. The system instead changes the frequency and duty cycle of pulsing to adjust the rate, resulting in consistent droplet size and therefore improved coverage.

3. Curve Compensation Coverage

Precision application systems are also designed to maintain specific coverage throughout a field, even when operating along curves. This concept of “curve compensation” (discussed in detail in this article) utilizes individual nozzle pulsing and the system’s auto-adjust capabilities. When the sprayer turns, the system adjusts, automatically applying less product to the inside rows and more to the outside rows. This ensures that inside rows won’t suffer from over-application and outside rows will still receive the prescribed rate. Coverage is ideal across the entire length of the boom.

4. Skip and Overlap Reduction

Individual section control is especially important when dealing with unique field characteristics such as border areas, waterways, or sensitive crops. Precision application systems provide this control by allowing individual sprayer sections to be shut off, which reduces skips and overlaps. For example, as a sprayer approaches a waterway, individual sections can be turned off, preventing product from being applied over the water. The sections then reactivate once the boom has reached an area to be sprayed, immediately pick up coverage again.

5. Drift Management

Some crops require much finer application, or smaller droplet size; however, it can result in chemical drift to adjacent fields or crops not intended to be sprayed. This problem can be reduced with A/B nozzle switching, mentioned earlier.

When outlining a field, a grower can switch to a lower-drift nozzle, reducing the amount of material that drifts, and preventing potentially harmful effects to surrounding vegetation. When working towards the interior of the field, the grower can then switch back to a more conventional nozzle.

Additional Considerations

While precision application equipment is designed to put more control in the hands of growers, it is still recommended that growers maintain a close partnership with trusted advisors, such as agronomists or dealership personnel.

Agronomists, for example, can provide information about the many products available, as well as educate growers on the various regulations that govern use, such as maximum application rate and nozzle specification. An agronomist or other knowledgeable precision product specialist can help growers follow guidelines and apply the right product at the right time.

Another good resource for growers is John Deere’s GoSpray app. This app provides instructions for proper equipment setup and maintenance, giving equipment operators and technicians the opportunity to best optimize their machines. Key personnel at most dealerships are familiar with these apps and can assist growers in putting them into practice on the farm.

By offering growers greater control over product application, new precision technologies make the process more accurate, effective, and economical.


Nate Dorsey is an Agronomist for RDO Equipment Co. based in Moorhead, MN. Connect with him on Twitter @RDONateDorseyTo learn more about precision application and John Deere’s Exact Apply nozzle control system, contact your local RDO Equipment Co. store.

Leave a Reply

Tools & Smart Equipment Stories
Farmers on Tablet Photo Credit All About Food
Professionals6 Keys of Successful Precision Agriculture Tools
May 17, 2017
As precision agriculture professionals we are frequently approached by companies that wish to partner with our organization in order to Read More
Case IH Autonomous concept vehicle
ProfessionalsOpinion: What the Heck is A.I. Going to Do for Agriculture?
April 24, 2017
Let’s pause from the daily toils of ag for a minute and start thinking about the future. In a very Read More
ProfessionalsAgFunder: Clean Seed’s Wireless Smart Seeder is Set to Disrupt Agriculture
April 21, 2017
(Via AgFunderNews.com) Heard of Clean Seed Capital Group? No? You will very soon because this Canadian company has been quietly Read More
AgriSync
Grower Services & SolutionsRDO Equipment Co. Improves Customer Service with AgriSync App
April 7, 2017
RDO Equipment Co. has partnered with AgriSync to continue the organization’s tradition of providing the best service and support to Read More
Trending Articles
Farming iPad
Data ManagementOpinion: ROI or Die in Precision Agriculture
May 12, 2017
The thought of $3.50 corn for the foreseeable future seems pretty disheartening. However, if you look at the precision ag Read More
BASF Maglis grower retailer tablet
Data ManagementQ&A: What BASF’s Latest Foray into Precision Ag Means For Growers
May 11, 2017
In late April, BASF agreed to acquire U.S. precision ag player ZedX, a leader in the development of agronomic weather, Read More
Mung beans Australia
Ag Tech GlobalPrecision Ag in a Tough Season in Australia
May 8, 2017
This year’s summer crop season has been a tough one for most growers in Australia. Prolonged periods of high temperatures Read More
GPS, Guidance
Business ManagementPromoting Precision Agricultural Innovation in a Risk Averse Marketplace
April 24, 2017
As precision agriculture consultants we constantly are being asked our opinions on where to invest, and how to strategically invest Read More
Data ManagementInnovation Series Highlights: The Weather Company’s Rob Berglund on Cognitive Computing
April 19, 2017
Rob Berglund, global director of sales, energy and agriculture at The Weather Company, discusses IBM’s Watson and applications for advanced analytics that will fundamentally change Read More
Corn close up
Data ManagementFarmers Business Network Releases State of the Industry Style Report
April 17, 2017
Farmer’s Business Network (FBN) released today its “The Voice of the Farmer”, a special research report on the state of Read More
Latest News
BASF Maglis Grower Tablet
Data ManagementData as Currency in Ag: We Aren’t There Yet
May 25, 2017
A hot topic in the precision ag revolution is the idea ag data will become a form of currency. Many Read More
Ag Tech GlobalSci-Fi in Ag: The Waging War of Plant-Internet Bots
May 25, 2017
Article Notes: This monthly column takes some crazy sounding ideas and applies them to the field of Ag Tech. The Read More
Food IT Fork-to-Farm
Hort TechThe Mixing Bowl Event Connects Technology, Food, and Ag…
May 24, 2017
For the fourth consecutive year, The Mixing Bowl presents FOOD IT, under the theme “Fork to Farm.” Action-oriented entrepreneurs, industry Read More
Nematodes in cotton
Ag Tech GlobalUsing Precision Agriculture to Manage Nematodes in Braz…
May 22, 2017
As promised in my first article, this month I am writing about some technical aspects related to the use of Read More
Farmers on Tablet Photo Credit All About Food
Professionals6 Keys of Successful Precision Agriculture Tools
May 17, 2017
As precision agriculture professionals we are frequently approached by companies that wish to partner with our organization in order to Read More
Hagie sprayer
GuidanceWhat’s New and What’s Next from Hagie Manufacturing
May 16, 2017
Many were surprised by John Deere’s announcement last spring that it had acquired majority ownership of Hagie Manufacturing Co., a Read More
Hortau Irrigation Management Software
Ag Tech GlobalHortau Commemorates 15 Years in Ag Tech
May 15, 2017
Today, Hortau celebrates its 15-year anniversary as one of the pioneers in the AgTech space, according to a press release Read More
Kip Tom
Ag Tech GlobalAg Tech: On the Cusp of Something Big?
May 15, 2017
The investment and ag-tech sectors’ continuing courtship of agriculture, smoldering for three or four years now, was well in evidence at Read More
Farming iPad
Data ManagementOpinion: ROI or Die in Precision Agriculture
May 12, 2017
The thought of $3.50 corn for the foreseeable future seems pretty disheartening. However, if you look at the precision ag Read More
Ag Tech Global2017 International Tomato Congress Features Ag Tech Ses…
May 11, 2017
The International Tomato Congress has taken place in Mexico since 2006. In 2017 it will celebrate its twelfth year as Read More
Ag Tech GlobalVenture Capital News: Aerial Imagery Outfit Garners $5 …
May 11, 2017
Ceres Imaging, an aerial spectral imagery and analytics company serving the agricultural sector, today announced it has raised a $5 Read More
BASF Maglis grower retailer tablet
Data ManagementQ&A: What BASF’s Latest Foray into Precision Ag Mea…
May 11, 2017
In late April, BASF agreed to acquire U.S. precision ag player ZedX, a leader in the development of agronomic weather, Read More
DronesSentera Phoenix Drone Nears Coveted 1,000 Acre Coverage…
May 11, 2017
Sentera introduces its Phoenix fixed-wing drone product line, with variants to support the precision agriculture, mapping, and public safety industries, Read More
Data ManagementClimate Adds Irrigation Data Analytics via HydroBio Acq…
May 9, 2017
Today, The Climate Corporation, a subsidiary of Monsanto Co., announced the acquisition of HydroBio, an agriculture software company based in Read More
GuidanceTersus adds RTK-Based AutoSteer System to GNSS Offering…
May 8, 2017
Tersus GNSS Inc., a Chinese GNSS RTK manufacturing company, released its brand new AutoSteer solution recently. The AG960 AutoSteer System Read More
DronesAgEagle takes on the Big Boys with RX48 Fixed Wing Dron…
May 8, 2017
AgEagle Aerial Systems of Neodesha, KS, today announced a fixed wing drone for the use in precision agriculture that far Read More
Mung beans Australia
Ag Tech GlobalPrecision Ag in a Tough Season in Australia
May 8, 2017
This year’s summer crop season has been a tough one for most growers in Australia. Prolonged periods of high temperatures Read More
SDWG Bret Weisenburger
Decision Support SoftwareMZB Launching New Grid Tool, Updated Mapping Center
May 3, 2017
MZB Technologies has added an additional tool to its precision system. Known for its patented zone-based precision technology, MZB will Read More