An Electronic Control System for Pesticide Application Proportional to the Canopy Width of Tree Crops
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A prototype of an electronic control system based on ultrasonic sensors and proportional solenoid valves for a proportional application to the canopy width of tree crops was mounted on an air-assisted sprayer. The sprayer flow rate adjustment was based on the relationship between the actual tree width measured by the ultrasonic sensors and the maximum tree width of the orchard. The prototype was tested in olive, pear and apple orchards to assess the system performance in different crop geometries. The spray deposit distribution was measured in comparison with conventional air-assisted applications. Metal tracers were used so that spray deposits for each treatment could be measured on the same samples, reducing sampling variability. Liquid savings of 70%, 28% and 39% in comparison to a conventional application were recorded in the olive, pear and apple orchard respectively, which resulted in lower spray deposits on the canopy but a higher ratio between the total spray deposit and the liquid sprayer output (i.e. better application efficiency). A reduction of the maximum tree width parameter in the control algorithm in the apple orchard reduced spray savings but increased spray deposition, with spray savings mainly in the middle level of the outside canopy, compared to conventional air-assisted applications.