Add another tool to your management toolbox with smart spray technology.
Grandpa might have passed down a secret or two about controlling weeds but achieving clean fields today calls for an entirely different protocol.
Herbicide-resistant weeds such as Palmer amaranth can make season-long control challenging. That’s why growers must include a variety of tools in their management toolbox. When combined, cultural and mechanical practices, effective seed trait selection and chemical control and eradication diligence practices can work in harmony to help growers eliminate Palmer amaranth and waterhemp populations on farm.
Advancements in smart sprayer technology represent a new frontier for weed control and are beginning to slowly enter the marketplace to offer growers a tool in their toolbelt to make them more efficient and effective.
The approach with smart spray technology involves integrated technology that can move onboard a sprayer through a field early in the growing season to identify and control weeds.
In a joint venture with Bosch, BASF offers smart spray technology powered by an agronomic logic and decision support system onboard commercial sprayers that make spray applications by detecting and spraying weeds in real time.
According to Greg Kruger, senior agronomist with BASF’s digital farming team, smart sprayer technology is a tool that can identify and/or detect and individually treat weeds in a field, making application more precise and accurate.
“We see this as a tool that’s going to help enable more precise and more accurate applications on the field,” he explains. “Historically, we’ve broadcast a single rate of a single product or a combination of products across that field, assuming every individual target had the exact same need. Now, we’re able to step up our game to control difficult weeds like Palmer amaranth in a more aggressive manner.”
Smart spray technology is a paradigm shift in the industry for growers as they consider herbicide applications. The shift involves an open mindset that nudges farmers to think outside the box and into a new way of managing weeds.
Kruger says in successful weed management strategies, smart spray technology is a tool that will help enable more efficient, more effective control early in the growing season.
“We’re bringing a level of precision to the field that we’ve never seen before. We’re going from treating an acre or treating a field to now treating a plant.”
—Greg Kruger, BASF senior agronomist
“We’re bringing a level of precision to the field that we’ve never seen before,” Kruger notes. “We’re going from treating an acre or treating a field to now treating a plant. By doing that, it’s going to open doors and enable us to look at these programs in a way that we’ve never looked at them before.”
Efficiency is a driving force on farms today. As growers consider managing weed resistance, securing effective weed control is the bottom line in achieving that.
“We’re talking about applying herbicide to 22% of the acre instead of 100% of the acre,” explains Liam Vincent, BASF technical market manager. “To be able to reduce the amount of herbicide and the number of acres you have to treat equates to cost savings very quickly.”
Through the high-powered onboard sensor technology co-developed by BASF and Bosch, Kruger says weeds can be detected in an area as small as 10 square millimeters or less than half a square inch.
“The resolution, the tools that we have there are absolutely going to enable adoption of this technology,” Kruger notes.
While smart spray technology is being rolled out uniquely in different regions, Kruger says in Europe, it could have a major impact on the EU mandate to reduce pesticide use there by 50%.
“A tool like smart spray might significantly increase the efficiency and reduce some of the labor demands that ag retailers and growers are facing today.”
—Greg Kruger, BASF senior agronomist
“A tool like this is going to help enable that by picking chemistries that are only needed on those 22% of the acres, effectively helping us reduce chemical inputs by 78%,” Kruger says. “In places like North America, where we have very good but expensive weed control programs, this might enable us to use maximum labeled rates where the product is really needed.”
Still, in other areas, Kruger adds smart spray technology could help growers become more efficient in how they approach their farming operations. For example, labor is continually pointed to as a reason for on time herbicide applications.
“A tool like smart spray technology might significantly increase the efficiency and reduce some of the labor demands that ag retailers and growers are facing today,” Kruger explains.
Research and development teams like those at BASF are working to ensure the products they bring to the market in the future fit within the realms of smart spray technology, Vincent notes.
“That’s how serious our industry and BASF is taking the future impact of smart sprayers on weed control,” he says.
When it comes to herbicide resistance management in pigweed, realizing the impact of one pigweed depositing seed into the seedbank can have long-term impacts on weed control needs, Kruger says, it is critical to get better, more effective weed control.
“The millions, even billions, of dollars that we lose on an annual basis due to herbicide resistance is a big driver in our industry,” Kruger explains. “And, if we can mitigate that, it’s a huge impact on the agricultural economy in North America.”
As growers consider new technology as part of their weed management plan, looking to innovation like smart spray technology can help diversify the production toolbox.
As Kruger concludes, “Smart spray technology is about bringing the right product at the right rate at the right place at the right time.”
Visit https://www.operationweederadication.com/ to learn more about how smart spray technology and other strategies can benefit your weed management plan.