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NC research shows See & Spray effective at targeting weedsNC research shows See & Spray effective at targeting weeds

Wes Everman, NCSU Extension weed specialist, has high hopes testing John Deere’s See & Spray as another precision agriculture tool to control weeds.

John Hart

September 5, 2023

4 Min Read
agronomy test machine
Diego Contreras operates a scaled down agronomy test machine or ATM version of the John Deere See & Spray rig, loaded with blue-dyed water, in a demonstration Aug. 23 at the CHROME Regional Ag Expo at the Peanut Belt Research Station in Lewiston-Woodville, N.C.John Hart

Wes Everman has high hopes for John Deere’s See & Spray as another tool of precision agriculture to control weeds. The North Carolina State University Extension weed specialist believes this new technology has a fit for many farmers. 

Everman and his team have been researching John Deere See & Spray since 2022. At the CHROME Regional Ag Expo Aug. 23 at the Peanut Belt Research Station in Lewiston-Woodville, the technology was demonstrated and Everman answered questions from field day attendees. 

The rig Everman and his colleagues are testing at N.C. State is not a commercial rig but a scaled down agronomy test machine or ATM. “Everything that is on the big sprayer is on this little guy. It’s all the same electronics, cameras, sensors, nozzles, everything,” Everman said at the field day demonstration of See & Spray. 

“We’re evaluating this technology to see how it’s going to fit for us here in North Carolina. There are only five of these around the county at universities, so I feel very privileged to get to have one and have the opportunity to do this research for you guys,” Everman said.  

Computer vision and machine learning 

See & Spray targeted spray technology was designed by Blue River Technology, a wholly owned subsidiary of John Deere. Cameras and processors mounted on John Deere’s carbon-fiber truss-style boom utilize the combined power of computer vision and machine learning to detect weeds from crop plants, according to a John Deere news release. 

See & Spray uses camera technology to detect green weeds as it moves through the field and can distinguish the weeds from cotton, corn, and soybean. Its cameras can also rapidly detect green plants within fallow ground and trigger an application to those plants. 

Everman and his team are looking at several parameters in evaluating the technology. They are looking at all the pieces that go into using See & Spray, and how all these factors might affect efficacy. Everman said they are still analyzing the data, but so far, they like what they see. 

“What I will say is it does a good job targeting weeds. We will top out at 8 mph with this rig. I know they are working to get it up to 15 mph or higher with the commercial rigs down the road,” Everman said.  

See & Spray has a number of different controls that can be used to refine spray applications. Everman said the cameras used in See & Spray will consistently see weeds, even the smallest specimens. 

“We’ve even seen little quarter sized cotyledon weeds. It will identify them. Whether that sprayer sensitivity is set to spray or not spray, is a control that can be manipulated. The detection is quite good,” Everman said. “So far it seems like it’s going to fit what we are looking for as far as finding the weeds separate from the crop.” 

Blue River’s evaluations  

Everman said Blue River has done a great deal of internal work evaluating nozzles for See & Spray to see what nozzles will work best and maintain efficacy and spray integrity. He said this is important because as you are turning See & Spray on and off to target weeds, you don’t have a continuous spray, so you want the droplets to maintain their integrity. 

“They have identified appropriate nozzles for this system and adjusted the ways the nozzles are oriented. They are not necessarily straight up and down. They are angled for targeting, so based on how those nozzles are oriented, and how the trigger system works, they’ve identified optimal nozzles for different types of herbicides, whether it’s contact or systemic,” Everman explained. 

In their ongoing research, Everman and his team are evaluating how See & Spray will fit in different cropping systems and different levels of weed infestation. He said the value in the system is that it can turn on and off when it detects weed to be sprayed. 

He said a benefit of See & Spray is that it has a dual tank and dual boom system so farmers can use one boom with see and spray and the other boom for broadcast applications. He said this provides more flexibility in weed management. 

“I think it has a good fit for us in cleaning up weeds, picking up patches, and fitting into a good system. Hopefully, we can find a way to integrate the two different boom systems or different herbicides to make it valuable on a number of acres,” Everman said.  

The CHROME Regional Ag Expo is a collaborative effort of North Carolina Cooperative Extension agents in the four counties of the Chowan, Roanoke, and Meherrin River areas: Bertie, Halifax, Hertford, and Northampton Counties. 

About the Author(s)

John Hart

Associate Editor, Southeast Farm Press

John Hart is associate editor of Southeast Farm Press, responsible for coverage in the Carolinas and Virginia. He is based in Raleigh, N.C.

Prior to joining Southeast Farm Press, John was director of news services for the American Farm Bureau Federation in Washington, D.C. He also has experience as an energy journalist. For nine years, John was the owner, editor and publisher of The Rice World, a monthly publication serving the U.S. rice industry.  John also worked in public relations for the USA Rice Council in Houston, Texas and the Cotton Board in Memphis, Tenn. He also has experience as a farm and general assignments reporter for the Monroe, La. News-Star.

John is a native of Lake Charles, La. and is a  graduate of the LSU School of Journalism in Baton Rouge.  At LSU, he served on the staff of The Daily Reveille.

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