By Kristen Hampshire
Many factors can negatively impact application rates, spray pattern, spray performance, and the overall accuracy of products applied to crops. Some are obvious, like wind, rain and human error. And, there are many not-so-obvious elements that can inhibit a proper spray application, such as boom height control and steering.
“If any one part of a spray operation is not working properly, or missing, the overall performance of an application can suffer,” says Gary Esselink, precision marketing specialist for Raven Applied Technology, Sioux Falls, S.D., which offers an integrated package to deliver the best possible spray results.
Raven’s platform of services that work seamlessly to integrate boom height, rate control, and speed to consistently deliver accurate results. This includes Raven’s patented Hawkeye Nozzle Control System, which has smart nozzles that intuitively deliver spray at the correct rate in a consistent pattern, no matter the variables at play in the field.
“The goal is to make sure we address all of the factors that can interfere with a proper, efficient spray application,” Esselink says.
Not only is the system integrated, it is universal, offering ISOBUS capabilities—an international communication protocol that sets the standard for agriculture and electronics. Basically, ISOBUS means existing technologies can connect and “talk” to the system, Esselink explains. “This means our components have the opportunity to work together on an ISO platform, so they can work with pretty much any machine out there today,” he says. “However, the best customer experience comes from using all-Raven systems that are designed to work seamlessly together.”
Back to the importance of accurate spray in a constantly changing environment, Esselink addresses how the integrated system addresses six factors impacting spray success.
Correct Rate. Exact speed reading, boom sense and accurate flow reading are critical for achieving the correct application rate. “Precision is even more important with new crop-specific herbicides,” Esselink says, relating that inaccurate spraying could harm crops. Not to mention, many applicators assume the spray rate is correct when it is not. “The key is to gather these ‘inputs,’ calculate them and then output the correct rate from the machine,” he says, describing the Raven RCM or Product Controller II’s capabilities.
Consistent Spray Pattern. A consistent spray pattern involves adjusting sprayer tip sizes to accommodate various herbicides and application rates. Otherwise, droplet size can be too fine or too coarse. “A happy medium is necessary,” Esselink says, noting the Hawkeye Nozzle Control system can maintain consistent pressure at each spray nozzle. “Varying field conditions that cause changes in speed will not affect pressure, so you can maintain a consistent pattern and droplet size across the boom.”
Another benefit is the ability to shut off flow by sections or individual nozzles—the latter, a more recent development in precision agriculture. “Not only can you save on chemical use, but it reduces overlaps and unnecessary overapplication, which can result in crop damage,” Esselink says. “Section or individual overlap control allows applicators to provide the best, most efficient coverage.”
Boom Height Control. Booms extend to 120 feet and beyond, so maintaining consistent spray height can be a challenge. “Many people assume boom height control is meant to keep the boom from hitting the ground,” Esselink says. “But it’s really for accuracy. You can control pressure and rate with a system like Hawkeye, but if your boom height is too low or high, it will undo all the good attributes the system gives you,” Esselink says. A system called the Raven AutoBoom XRT includes patent-pending radar-sensing technology that can replace existing ultrasonic devices. “The result is a cleaner reading of field conditions, ground and canopy detection, and faster sampling and updates,” Esselink says.
Besides, the technology can sense machine roll and understand equipment’s dynamics before movement impacts the boom, Esselink explains. Applicators can gain the ability to control boom height, boom yaw and an auto-fold function in one package.
GPS and Steering. Sure, auto steering reduces operator fatigue and can ensure consistent swath coverage. But with the latest technology, found in Raven’s RS1 platform, it can also log performance data to actually improve the machine steering function the longer it is in operation.
Accurate Application. With specialty herbicides designed to treat specific crops, applicators could be switching products frequently in the field. “Flushing and cleaning out spray tanks takes lots of time,” Esselink relates. The Sidekick Pro direct injection system pumps pure chemical into the main line of the spray, reducing the use of tank mixing, flushing, cleanout and disposal. Esselink shares that the Sidekick Pro is accurate down to one-tenth of an ounce per acre.
Documentation. The key is to integrate all of these features so applicators have a complete system that is responsive to the many variables they experience in the field. A field computer or task controller like the Raven Viper 4 or CR7 brings the technology together. Plus, it provides additional data, such as the correct rate, nozzle monitor, machine guidance, swath coverage, product applied, boom height monitor, and weather condition reader.
“When this data is gathered in the field, results can be sent to the main office via Raven Slingshot and to a record-keeping system such as AgSync,” Esselink says. Through AgSync, this data can be integrated with logistics for fleet management and integrated with accounting software to include an inventory management feature.
“Raven integrates the entire application process from the top of the cab to the spray tips,” Esselink says. “All of these components interact with other ISO-certified displays and task controllers in the industry. In the long-run, total integration of these products in one package provides the best experience and most features available. The ultimate goal is to ensure that ag retailers and their operators achieve the best possible sprayer application for maximum results.”