New precision agriculture technologies help specialty crop growers preserve both natural and human resources.
In today’s volatile and unpredictable growing climate, fruit and nut growers are challenged with ways to improve the sustainability of their operations. And, as the world’s population continues to grow, so does the demand for specialty crops.
- According to a 2018 report from the International Nut and Dried Fruit Council (INC), world-wide tree nut production grew from just over 3,000,000 metric tons in 2008/09 to just over 4,200,000 metric tons in 2017/18, and those numbers are forecasted to continue to increase. Over 1,500,000 metric tons of that tree nut production happens in the United States.
- While the rise in dried fruit production isn’t quite as sharp, it’s also trending upward. In the same period, world-wide production grew from just over 2,000,000 metric tons to just over 3,000,000, with the U.S. contributing anywhere from 200,000 to 400,000 metric tons of that production.
- The demand for fresh fruit has consistently risen over the last 40 years as well. According to the USDA, the per-capita demand for fresh fruit in the U.S. has jumped by over 20% since the 1980s.
These agricultural trends underscore how essential it is for fruit and nut growers to consider sustainability in their organizations and choose the right technology, so they can continue to meet current supply needs without compromising their ability to meet demand in the future.
Sustainable agriculture impacts both natural and human resources
Sustainability in agriculture is achieved by balancing economic profitability against the health of the environment as well as social and economic equity. In other words, in addition to what’s best for their operation, growers must consider what’s best for the land, the community in which the farm is located, and the health and well-being of both those who grow the food and those who ultimately consume the food.
To achieve sustainability, growers need to factor in natural resources, such as soil and tree health, biodiversity, and water use as well as pollution and waste created. They also need to factor in human resources, including the safety of their workers, and how their operations contribute to the general health of the community they support.
Let’s take a look at nine amazing ways that density-based spray systems (intelligent spray systems) help growers create sustainability.
- Improved tree health. Conventional air blast and ultrasonic spraying systems saturate every tree in an orchard or grove equally, regardless of the density of each tree’s canopy. This can result in an overspray situation in the less dense areas of the canopy, if the spray rate is calibrated for the high density area. As the excess chemicals soak into the soil around the tree, it can leach into tree roots and damage trees, resulting in the need to kill and replant. Density-based sprayers apply the precise amount needed for every tree—no more, and no less. As a result, there is reduced leaf run-off that can ultimately shorten the lives of trees in the orchard or grove.
- Less groundwater contamination. As the run-off from oversprayed leaves soaks into the soil, it can also cause groundwater contamination. This can be particularly hazardous when a farm is situated on or near land that connects with waterways or other ecosystems. Density-based spraying systems result in up to 93% less spray loss on the ground, dramatically reducing both the potential for groundwater contamination and tree root damage.
- Energy savings and reduced equipment use. Because of the reduced spraying time with density-based sprayers, operators will spend less money on tractor fuel and generate less air pollution. Additionally, density-based sprayers can effectively spray at a lower pounds per square inch (PPSI) of sprayer pressure. This reduces energy use as well as wear-and-tear on nozzles and pumps, which results in improved equipment longevity.
- Less airborne drift. Pesticide drift that results from overspray with conventional and ultrasonic sprayers can land on unintended targets into neighboring farms as well as residential areas and waterways, which can result in legal action against the farm. Density-based spraying systems reduce airborne drift by up to 87%.
- Improved worker safety. Because density-based sprayers use fewer chemicals, workers spend less time handling and mixing chemicals. And, because of the large reduction in chemical drift, the surrounding air quality for workers is greatly improved, as overall spraying time is reduced.
- Reduced potential for user error. Because operators rely on the technology of the density-based sprayer’s control panel instead of relying on what they can observe while spraying, there’s a greatly reduced potential for user error, such as swerving the tractor and accidentally grazing a tree while looking over their shoulder at the sprayer. This results in fewer potential accidents while spraying and lowers the risk of harm to workers, equipment and trees.
- Reduced labor dollars. Reducing chemical use means less time spent spraying, mixing, loading, reloading, spraying and cleaning spray equipment, which results in fewer labor hours spent.
- Reduced water use. Density-based sprayers apply only the amount of liquid necessary to cover and protect the plant or tree. They utilize up to 73% less spray than other sprayer types. Fewer chemicals sprayed means less water used in chemical mixing, allowing operators to reduce their consumption of this precious natural resource.
- Increased profitability. Because density-based spraying systems use far fewer chemicals than conventional air blast or ultrasonic sprayers, they save operators both time and money. With up to 73% less chemical use, operators can see a return on their investments in as little as one year.
The bottom line
In order to sustain the profitability and future growth of their operations, and tend to both human resources and environmental concerns, specialty crop growers need to take advantage of every opportunity to reduce costs and waste, and bring more dollars to the bottom line. Precision agriculture technologies, such as the Smart-Apply Intelligent Spray Control System, give growers the edge they need to help their operations thrive now, and for generations to come.
Based in Indianapolis, Indiana, Smart Guided Systems manufactures the Smart-Apply® Intelligent Sprayer™, the only density-based, intelligent spray system available on the market today. The Smart-Apply Intelligent Sprayer is an add-on kit that will retrofit most any existing air blast sprayer. Check to see if your sprayer is compatible here. With the Smart-Apply system, the operator is in total control. If, at any time, they wish to override the system and switch back to conventional spraying, it’s as simple as the flip of a switch.
At Smart-Apply, we’re committed to helping tree and nut growers and nursery owners across the United States and around the world realize chemical cost savings, improved sustainability through healthier trees and plants, cleaner and safer groundwater and greater overall yields, with an easy-to-use, reliable system based on years of research and cutting-edge technology.
Advanced Crop Reporting
In 2020, Smart Guided Systems announced the enhanced capabilities of crop reporting, heat mapping, targeted spraying and John Deere Operations Center interface to the Smart-Apply Intelligent Spray Control System.
Learn more about the Smart-Apply Intelligent Sprayer:
- Visit smartapply.com to get more information and learn how you can get a 90-day, risk-free trial.
- Call: 317.222.4152 to talk to a Smart-Apply expert today.
- Find a Smart-Apply dealer near you.
If you’d like to partner with a company that’s revolutionizing agriculture spraying systems and get ahead of the curve, join the Smart-Apply team today.