Chemical Dependence in High-Value Crops Is a Global Crisis

Spraying high-value crops such as grapes, tree fruits and nuts, and hops for pest and disease control is necessary to achieve the yields required to feed the world. However, unintentional over spraying leads to a plethora of problems:

  • Wasted chemicals and unnecessary costs
  • Airborne drift and run-off of excess chemicals
  • Limited availability of water
  • Potential soil, water and airborne contamination
  • Health risks for operators
  • Vulnerability to chemical price volatility
  • Satisfying regulatory, wholesaler/retailers, and consumers’ demand for fewer chemicals and more accountability
  • No easy, accurate way to track and document chemical usage
  • Health of farmlands and the environment at large

Many have recognized the need for more effective ways of delivering crop protection. More than a decade ago, a researcher with the USDA-ARS, Dr. Heping Zhu, began working on a new method for precision spraying. Collaborating with leading agricultural universities and growers, Dr. Zhu’s efforts became the foundation of the Smart Apply Intelligent Spray Control System. In addition to reducing chemical over spraying, he also sought to create a solution that would integrate with nearly any air blast sprayer, which he achieved. For this, Dr. Zhu was awarded ASABE’s prestigious McCormick Case Gold Medal in July 2023. Learn more here.

Fast forward to today and the solution to this global issue

Now in its fifth year of commercialization, the Smart Apply Intelligent Spray Control System for high-value crops, which combines precision spraying with data collection, is the solution to many spraying-related issues facing growers around the world. Powered by LiDAR, the Smart Apply System replaces the continuous spraying of traditional equipment with spraying individual trees and vines based on size and foliage density. Spraying is automated, taking the pressure off operators. Additionally, the Smart Apply System only sprays when a plant is sensed – there is no continuous spraying between rows or in blank spaces. Check out videos of the Smart Apply System in action here.

The impact of the Smart Apply System is immediate and immense:

Reducing chemical use also reduces input costs for growers, supporting efficiency and profitability. Nearly eliminating run off and drift is a major win. This supports the health of farm lands and the environment and supports all manner of formal and informal sustainability efforts. Learn more here.

The Smart Apply System also creates the digital documentation of chemical use growers so desperately need. During each spray event, the Smart Apply System captures information that includes the date and time of spraying, amount of chemicals applied and saved, tree counts, and orchard/vineyard health. The grower can add the type of chemicals applied. This data is saved to the Cloud, and can be used to support farm operations, regulatory reporting and sustainability requirements. Think about how valuable it is having proof (real data) of reductions in chemical dependence.

Growers can also choose to integrate their Smart Apply System with the Deere Operations Center for more operational insights and benefits.

The last thing about the Smart Apply System is a kit that can be added to virtually any new or used air blast, over-the-row or GUSS autonomous sprayer. Thank you, Dr. Zhu! This is a huge benefit to growers, one that makes solving this global crisis that much easier.

The Smart Apply Intelligent Spray Control System is available through a network of authorized dealers across North America, Australia, New Zealand, and South Africa. Find a Dealer here.

Share your love