Air-carrier spraying is an important process used for applying pesticides which are critical inputs in the production of specialty crops such as almond, grape, citrus, pistachio, stone fruit, and walnut. These crops are very common in the San Joaquin Valley area of California. In the application process, nozzles are used to deliver tiny spray droplets of pesticides in solution to achieve good coverage on the target tree canopy.
However, interaction with environmental factors, especially weather conditions, result in the loss of spray material via off-target drift. Also, variability within and between fields causes over-application and under-application of spray material in different areas of application. In addition to the economic loss, both of these phenomena pose undesirable environmental and health risks.
New developments in agrochemical formulations and spray application technologies aim at mitigating these problems. Precise delivery of soil/crop inputs through the development and application of monitoring and variable rate application technologies for managing soil and crop health lead to better productivity and environmental safety. However, more research is needed in order to better understand the benefits of new technology and establish best practices that potentially reduce environmental risks while at the same time increasing precision, efficiency, and productivity.
Therefore, the AgAppE Lab seeks to provide, through research and extension, crucial timely information to growers and chemical applicators through research, training, and technology transfer. For example, our research will lead to a better understanding of the drift reduction performance of different spray nozzles used in crop production. In addition, our research will lead to the discovery of effective techniques in variable rate spray application of agrochemicals. The knowledge gained will translate into actionable intelligence and a set of recommendations to help growers and applicators make better decisions regarding application practices so as to reduce the problems associated with off-target spray drift and over- and/or under-application.