Biological Systems Engineering


Date of this Version



Transactions of the ASABE, Vol. 54(2): 423-431


Copyright 2011 American Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineers


The use of precision agriculture technologies such as automatic boom section control allows producers to reduce off-target application when applying herbicides. While automatic boom section control provides benefits, pressure differences across the spray boom resulting from boom section actuation may lead to off-rate application errors. Off-rate errors may also result from spray rate controller compensation for ground speed changes or velocity variation across the spray boom during turning movements. This project focused on characterizing application rate variation for three fields located in central Kentucky. GPS coordinates, boom control status, and nozzle pressure data (at 15 nozzle locations) were recorded as the sprayer traversed the study fields. Control section coverage areas and nozzle flow rates (calculated from the nozzle pressure with manufacturer calibration data) were used to estimate application rates. Results indicated the majority of each field received application rates at or below the target rate, as only 25% to 36% of the area in the study fields received application rates within the target rate ±10%. Spray rate controller lag time appeared to contribute to lower application rates as the sprayer accelerated and higher application rates as the sprayer decelerated as the controller attempted to compensate for changes in sprayer velocity. In addition, as boom control sections were turned off, pressure increases in the remaining sections resulted in higher application rates. Conversely, as boom sections were turned on, spray rate controller lag time may have contributed to lower application rates. Estimated application rate maps were also generated from the data to allow for a visual summary of the potential errors.