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New spray nozzle design to help tackle drift

Curt Arens Spray nozzles
NEW SPRAY TECH: A new spray nozzle design could help adjust spray droplet size according to changing weather conditions, including wind speed, while on the go in the field.
The technology would allow the operator to change droplet sizes on the go in the field.

Chemical spraying is a crucial tool for Nebraska producers, but the fact that the state is considered fourth in the U.S. for potential for wind power generation tells you that the wind likes to blow here. Those two factors collide and can cause another big problem for crop producers — spray drift away from the target.  

That’s where Joe Luck, Nebraska Extension precision agriculture engineer, comes in. Understanding the importance of droplet size to the probability of spray drift, Luck has been working on a new spray nozzle design that will allow an operator to change the droplet sizes on the fly in the field. The smaller the size of the spray droplet, the more likelihood there will be drift off target.  

“The advanced nozzle technology that we’re working on could solve several issues by extending both target rate and droplet size ranges, compared to current commercial nozzle and flow control systems,” Luck says. “Imagine having a system that automatically changes nozzle performance to compensate for changing weather, including wind speeds, while maintaining label application rates and droplet size.”  

Luck says that special attention is necessary when fields are sprayed close to sensitive areas, like neighboring crops that may not be resistant to a particular herbicide, organic crops and other ecologically sensitive areas.

“Drift around field edges could lead to herbicide resistance in weeds outside the typical field boundary, where those weeds aren’t treated with recommended doses of product,” Luck adds. “This technology could help mitigate those issues in real time as the fields are sprayed by increasing droplet sizes during spraying operations.”  

This kind of technology would save farmers from having to make manual adjustments on the machines. More accurate application of chemicals reduces spray drift, limits the amount of chemicals introduced to the environment to the exact amount necessary to do the job, and lowers the chances for chemical-resistant plants and insects.  

Learn more by contacting Luck at jluck2@unl.edu.  

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