This article was originally posted at 10 a.m. CST on Tuesday, Jan. 18. It was updated with additional information at 4:02 p.m. CST on Wednesday, Jan. 19.
TREMONT, Ill. (DTN) -- Precision Planting announced Tuesday it's getting into the sprayer business. The company known for developing smart products and technology to make planters better plans to do the same thing for sprayers.
The Illinois-based company, owned by AGCO, revealed projects focused on improving the operation and data collection of sprayers during its annual Winter Conference at the company's Tremont headquarters. The conference will also be held in 19 other locations from Jan. 19-21, featuring taped presentations from the first kick-off event in Tremont. Go to www.ppwinterconference.com to find out more.
Precision Planting is developing products for all brands of sprayers that farmers and businesses already own -- both self-propelled and pull-type. It's working to improve the priming process, which will save chemicals and help the environment. Precision Planting's new nozzle control system is geared toward consistent spray coverage. Its vision-based technologies are aimed at improved sprayer guidance and precision spray applications, including target spraying. John Deere recently introduced See & Spray technology. Learn more at www.dtnpf.com/agriculture/web/ag/news/article/2021/04/01/see-kill.
Justin McMenamy, Precision Planting director of product, said the company is devoted to helping growers produce more bushels efficiently, sustainably and profitably. That's why it expanded beyond seeding products and technology in 2016 by offering liquid fertilizer offerings.
But what excited Precision Planting to move into sprayer technology?
"First, it's the economic impact of the sprayer," McMenamy said. "Depending on your operation, there could be up to 25% of the input costs that are applied through the sprayer.
"The other side is the agronomic impact on the farm with the sprayer," he continued. "If the planter sets the yield potential, it is the sprayer that protects that yield potential from disease, pests or anything else that would attack it. The agronomic impact of a good functioning sprayer is actually quite large."
Here are the new Precision Planting sprayer products.
-- ReClaim Boom Priming and Recirculation
Precision Planting aims to eliminate what McMenamy calls "a necessary evil" of spraying: The need for operators to spray chemicals on the ground, often up to 50 gallons, to prime the width of the booms fully. It not only wastes valuable product but can cause a hot spot of chemical and potentially harm the environment.
ReClaim can circulate chemicals mixed in the tank through the booms and back to the tank. ReClaim uses a single rocker switch in the cab to engage circulation, and once recirculation is complete, operators are ready to spray with the correctly mixed chemical across the entire boom. It can be used with electric or standard nozzles.
McMenamy said ReClaim will help solve two issues that frustrate farmers.
"No. 1 is (growers) paid for a product to put on the crop, not to make a puddle. We're not talking about thousands of dollars every time we prime, but over the season it adds up," he continued. "The other aspect is we don't want the farm dog or grandkids getting into it, so we got to be careful where we put that puddle."
An announcement about the commercial release of Reclaim could occur in the second half of the year, the company said.
-- Symphony Nozzle Control System
If a sprayer changes speed, that often changes pressure in sprayer nozzles. The pressure change can alter droplet size, increase the risk of chemical drift or reduce leaf coverage that results in a reduction in chemical efficacy. The Symphony nozzle control system allows the sprayer to maintain constant pressure even when changing rates or speed. It also features swath control and turn compensation.
"It allows you to have complete control over the physical aspect of spraying," said Luke Stuber, Symphony product manager.
That's not always the case when spraying as the operator turns a machine, he continued. Too much chemical can be applied from the inside nozzles of the boom as it slows down or not enough chemical is applied from the outside nozzles of the boom as it swings around faster. That can result in plants being injured or weed escapes.
"So, now, with our Symphony system, you can reduce the flow on the inside nozzles and increase the flow on the outside and get that nice, even spray through that turn," Stuber said.
Symphony is controlled by the Precision Planting Gen 3 20|20 system. It will be field tested this spring. No release date was available.
VISION BASED TECHNOLOGIES
Multiple applications of cameras on sprayers are being developed by the Precision Planting research and development team. The vision technologies will pair the Gen 3 20|20 system and be further field tested in the spring of 2022. Here's what in the pipeline.
-- Vision-based Guidance: Vision guidance steers the sprayer in the crop rows, allowing the operator to focus on sprayer operations and not on steering. It's geared to prevent crops from being run over and reduce operator fatigue. It's meant to improve on auto steer technology that may already be available to an operator but is not always 100% effective to prevent crops from being run over.
-- Vision Scouting: The technology will provide farmers with a snapshot of stand counts and how evenly crops have emerged as they make a post-emergence spray pass. It can provide an indication if farmers should pay attention to certain parts of fields.
-- Vision-based weed ID: The technology uses machine learning and artificial intelligence to see and categorize each plant in the field as a crop, a broadleaf weed or a grass weed. With this information, a map of weed pressure can be created that allows farmers to understand the type of weeds and the variability in pressure across the field.
-- Targeted spraying technology: Precision Planting's Symphony nozzle control system is being designed to pair with the vision module for targeting spraying.
"With vision technology on equipment, it's going to make things a lot easier when it comes to protecting our crop and making sure that we're aware of all the challenges that are coming at us during the season," said Jason Stoller, Vision product manager. "We'll be able to evaluate things like nutrients, diseases and weeds in our fields. Ultimately, all of this is going to significantly improve our ability to protect the crop and protect yield potential."
Carl Dodge said he believes Precision Planting's retrofit sprayer technology can make farms more sustainable and save money. Dodge farms with family and works for a neighboring farmer near Independence, Iowa, and uses the company's equipment and technology when planting.
Dodge shares information about farming on social media. He often gets asked by the public online about farm chemicals, with some worried that applications can harm the environment. He's excited about how vision-based technology and targeted spraying could put some worries about spraying to rest and save farmers money by using less chemicals.
"It's exciting, the idea of spot spraying," Dodge said. "People ask why we are just blowing out all these chemicals. We have explained many, many times that what you see coming out of the sprayer is mostly water and just a little bit of active ingredient.
"If we could actually go out there and just spritz each weed individually and knock it down, that would be unbelievable," he continued. "That would be a really cool story to tell about what we are doing to save the environment and be more sustainable. Part of being sustainable is turning a profit."
Dodge also sees vision-based steering as a real plus. "I have run over a fair amount of corn with the sidedress applicator. When I screw up and take out 16 rows at a time, I hear about it from the combine (operator)," he said. "Even though you only run over two rows at a time with the sprayer, I can see that (help with) steering being really cool."
Illinois farmer Josh Sass said Precision Planting's future sprayer offerings will be "game-changers" for the farm. He said spraying takes a lot of energy, and vision-based steering will ease that workload.
"I see how tired (the sprayer operator is) at the end of the day. Not having to steer through the cornfields will be great and more efficient," Sass said. "Spot spaying is going to be huge. You will be able to get across more acres, and more sustainably as well."
PRICE AND ROI
Cost estimates and return-on-investment (ROI) projections for the sprayer technology and equipment are not available at this time, according to McMenamy. However, he did give a hint about ROI.
"One of the internal measurements that we use as a team (when pricing products) is that we would like for technology to pay for itself on your farm within the first year of ownership," he continued.
Watch a video concerning Precision Planting's retrofit sprayer technology at https://www.dtnpf.com/….
Matthew Wilde can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
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