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Production help is on the way

Gil Gullickson 02/04/2013 @ 1:49pm Crops Technology Editor for Successful Farming magazine/Agriculture.com

Prices of inputs — like fuel, seed, fertilizer, chemicals, and labor — will continue to rise. Meanwhile, commodity prices will decrease or stabilize through 2025, says Matt Rushing, product management director, global electronics and global engines at AGCO.

So what can you do? Boost profitability by increasing crop yields. “We have to look at things like spray technology to have dramatic gains,” says Rushing.

One promising technology is the eRoGator sprayer, a hydroelectric sprayer that's pegged to reduce sprayer fuel consumption by 25% to 30%. Savings can add up quickly the more hours you spray.

Following are three other machinery-related and precision agriculture technologies that will complement crop technologies like traits and seed breeding.

1. Spray nozzle upgrades

Modern sprayers are packed full of technology, ranging from automatic shutoff to automatic boom adjustment. Yet, it's the lowly spray nozzle that could determine pesticide application success.

“Although nozzles are not expensive, they are key,” says Bob Wolf, co-owner of Wolf Research and Consulting, Mahomet, Illinois. “More than one nozzle may be necessary to do the job in the future.”

That's because spraying effective multiple herbicide modes of action due to herbicide-resistant weeds will require different sized droplets, he says.

Wolf says pesticide applicators face three challenges these days:

• Increased efficacy.
• Minimized drift.
• Maximum productivity.

Achieving all three is difficult. Drift-control nozzles surfaced over 20 years ago, says Wolf. When initially launched, applicators used these nozzles at lower-pressure rates of 30 psi to 40 psi. The thinking was that low pressure would mean low drift, says Wolf.

“When used at low pressure, these nozzles gave great drift control,” says Wolf. “But the droplets were so big, they didn't cover the weeds. The nozzle design had to be used at high pressure to be effective.”
That's why you'll continue to see technologies like low-pressure air-induction (venturi) nozzles enter the market.

“The new low-pressure venturi nozzles create smaller droplets for better coverage potential while still reducing drift,” says Wolf. “However, the drift reduction may not be as good as the older high-pressure venturi designs.”

Farmers and applicators also need to think about matching specific nozzles to specific chemicals. For example, Liberty herbicide requires a medium-size droplet (about 250 to 350 microns). To achieve this, Wolf recommends a turbulation chamber flat-fan nozzle.

“If the label states a certain droplet size, you have to follow it,” says Wolf.

2. Smart iron

These days, tractors guide implements like planters or sprayers. Not so in the future. You'll see a tractor and implement functioning as one via what Rushing refers to as “smart iron.”

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