New technology helps improve agricultural sustainability

By Carey Martin
TFB Radio Network Manager

Sustainability is a big buzzword in agriculture, and new sprayer technology unveiled by John Deere will make Texas farms even more environmentally friendly. It’s called “See and Spray”, and that’s an accurate description of what it does.

Using cameras and computer processors, the sprayer can tell the difference between the crop and the weeds, then tell the spray nozzle to only spray the weeds.

“It has 36 cameras at the top of the spire. Think of them as the eyes of the system,” said Kathleen Sprouse, senior product manager for Blue River Technology, a subsidiary of John Deere. “Then there are 11 processors along the boom that decide if there is a weed or the crop based on the images. If it sees a weed, the system actuates the exact feed nozzle to cover just that weed.

This whole process takes only 0.2 seconds while the sprayer travels up to 12 miles per hour.

See and Spray technology has been tested in Texas for over a year.

“We’ve been here for over a year in different parts of South Texas, working with the King Ranch and having phenomenal performance,” said Franklin Peitz, Tactical Marketing Manager for John Deere Sprayers.

One of the biggest benefits of See and Spray technology is the reduction in herbicide use when spot spraying compared to spraying the herbicide over the entire field.

“We’re seeing up to two-thirds savings on non-residual herbicides,” Sprouse said. “This technology offers farmers an incredible opportunity to reduce their herbicide expenses.”

Farmers are known to be skeptical of such claims, but John Deere trusted at least one Texas farmer.

Sam Sparks farms over 10,000 acres in the Rio Grande Valley and has been testing See and Spray technology for over a year.

“To be honest with you, I didn’t really think at first that these cameras and the technology were going to be able to communicate with the sprayer in an accurate way,” Sparks said. “But I was just blown away by the results we were seeing. Being able to run 9, 10, 12 miles per hour and the machine is able to pick up those weeds, pulverize them and move down the road.

Sparks noted that the benefits are immense, in addition to the obvious savings in chemical costs.

“You save on diesel, labor and equipment wear and tear. You don’t stop as often to refill the sprayer,” he said. “It all adds up to what I believe is a lot of money.”

Another advantage of the new sprayer is the ability to combine two chemical treatments into one. The tank is split into two separate tanks, and there is a second set of nozzles at the rear of the boom, which would allow spot treatment with the front set of nozzles and widespread spraying of the entire field with the rear assembly.

“If they want to spray a residual fungicide, insecticide or herbicide on the fly and then spray a non-residual, they could do it in one pass, which could only have been done in two passes before” , said Peitz.

At this time, See and Spray can only be used in cotton, corn and soybeans with rows of 30 inches or longer.

John Deere is planning a limited deployment of See and Spray sprayers in some states, including Texas.

“We will have our first order this fall in Texas, Mississippi, Tennessee, Illinois, Iowa and Nebraska,” Peitz said. “Next year it will be available across the United States.”

About Dianne Stinson

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