Biological Systems Engineering


First Advisor

Joe D. Luck

Date of this Version

Spring 2018


Shearer, C.A., (2018). Development of A Sprayer Performance Diagnostic Tool Using Improved Mapping and Error Quantification Practices. MS Thesis. Lincoln, NE: University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Department of Biological Systems Engineering.


A THESIS Presented to the Faculty of The Graduate College at the University of Nebraska In Partial Fulfillment of Requirements For the Degree of Master of Science, Major: Agricultural and Biological Systems Engineering, Under the Supervision of Professor Joe D. Luck. Lincoln, Nebraska: February, 2018

Copyright (c) 2018 C. Aaron Shearer


While sprayer technologies have advanced greatly over the past decade and a half, chemical application errors are still prominent in many in-field operations. Over-application of pesticides can cause harm to the crop, reducing yield, and result in added pollution to the environment. Under-application of pesticides fails to control pests within the field, again lowering crop yields, and causing profit loss for the producer. Current operator feedback from in-field pesticide application operations conveys limited information and often times does not allow the operator to visualize a true representation of their performance. Farm Management Information Systems (FMIS) typically do not account for overlap, varying application rates across the width of the spray boom during turns, or off-rate errors due to controller response. Improved mapping systems and product distribution summaries would allow operators to make better-informed decisions leading to improved management practices during spraying operations.

The Pesticide Application Coverage Training (PACT) tool was developed to deploy data analytics methodologies to sprayer operations data collected during field applications. The goal was to provide improved operator feedback allowing for better management practices by providing enhanced feedback to operators over the course of two years. Data were collected for multiple Nebraska fields and processed by the PACT program which generated high-resolution as-applied maps and quantified error reports. PACT program output metrics were compared with currently available sprayer feedback software and previous studies related to high-resolution as-applied maps. Field-average metrics were not found to be significantly different when comparing the PACT program with these systems. However, when examining how in-field errors were distributed amongst various application rate ranges, significant differences were found. Differences in errors broken down by application rate ranges implied successful inclusion of previously unaccounted for error types by the PACT program. In addition, the program showed potential for technology adoption decision support. The PACT program successfully improved upon current sprayer operator feedback systems which will offer a platform for supporting better management practices in the future.

Advisor: Joe D. Luck