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Over the past 50 years, the approach to application of plant protection products (PPP) on the field has not radically changed. The main tools are trailer, self-propelled and small mounted sprayers. Light aircrafts are also used. However, its share in the market is gradually decreasing. Instead, there appear the first working projects of ultra-low volume application of PPP with the help of drones.

The further development of spraying tools will be aimed at improving the accuracy of work, reducing the use of pesticides, increasing the processing speed of the field

The operation itself is simple. This is the treatment of plants or soil with a pesticide working mixture in water. However, low-quality input leads to lower yields, higher cost and loss of crops.

The main reason for the poor application of PPP is the human factor. Especially when working with old, non-automatic sprayers. Without the use of additional equipment, the machine operator cannot avoid passes and overlaps on the field. The risk of their occurrence increases significantly when working at night and in conditions of fog.


The quality of work is largely influenced by the speed of the sprayer, the weather conditions, the correctness of the calibration, the qualification of the machine operator.

There are three main areas to improve spraying efficiency:

three main areas to improve spraying efficiency

We would not give obvious recommendations. It is clear that:

Let's talk about how to apply PPP efficiently, if your equipment is not new, but you want to work with it as efficiently as possible.

Improving efficiency of field processing

Use guidance

The era of foam markers and flags during application of PPP has been passed. The GPS and GLONASS technologies allow you to determine your position on the field in real time.

The most common solution for improving the accuracy of the sprayer is a Guide or Navigator - a terminal with a touch screen and a GPS receiver.

The GPS-receiver is mounted on the tractor's hood. The terminal is fixed in the cabin. During operation, the machine operator sees on the screen the line of direction to be followed, as well as the already processed parts of the field. If the optimal trajectory is not met, the computer sounds a tone and displays the magnitude and direction of deviation - left or right. Thus, the machine tool is oriented on the field, even in the fog and at night.


Hexagon cruise terminal and external GPS/GLONASS receiver

Key functions of guidance for sprayers:

Practical side:

Autopilot and steering

Another option for using GPS-navigation when working on the field are steering and auto-piloting systems. These technologies are aimed at increasing the automation of work.

Using only the Guide, the machine operator independently manages the tractor. However, human is not a robot.

This leads to minor deviations in tractor movement.

The frequency and strength of tractor deviations depend on the level of fatigue and carefulness of the tractor driver, field relief, and so on.

When using a paddle or autopilot system, the tractor controls the movement automatically.

The automatic driving system has an on-board terminal with a touch screen, a GPS receiver (or a GLONASS receiver). An additional element is a drive mechanism, which is mounted on the steering wheel.


A set of SmarTrax™ steering system MD

The satellite signal helps to determine the position on the field, and the actuator controls the movement in automatic mode. The machinery operator only adjusts the speed and controls the tractor on the turns.

The introduction of additional driving system, as a rule, does not involve making radical changes in the design of the tractor - the trunk mechanism is installed directly on the steering wheel.

Unlike a steering system, the use of autopilot requires a more comprehensive re-equipment of the tractor. However, the autopilot is the most convenient, accurate and effective on the field.

The elements of the autopilot system are mounted directly to the hydraulic system of the tractor or self-propelled sprayer. In addition to the automatic control mechanism, autopilot may provide for the control of speed. This allows you to program not only the direction and the traffic pattern, but also the speed.

Rotation sensors, tractor position sensors and a powerful processor allow you to get the maximum precision of the field motion - from 2 centimeters! The work of the machine operator becomes more efficient and easier.

Additional functions of autopilot system:

Practical side:


The scheme of the creation of passes and overlays on an example of a seeding operation. The tractor does not use autopilot or guidance, the machine operator cannot fully keep the course perfectly straight

High accuracy of positioning of equipment on the field is a key aspect of work of the pointer and the autopilot.

In the usual stand-alone mode, the GPS signal allows you to receive data accurate to 5 meters. In crop production, this is too much.

For centimeter accuracy, the GPS signal is corrected, for example, with DGPS differential mode.

The essence of DGPS's work is to use two receivers. One of them - mobile - is installed on the tractor. The other - the ground or "base" station - is constantly at a point with known coordinates. The data received by the ground station is used to correct the signal of the mobile device.


Scheme of work of base station

Using a GPS signal is free, DGPS is paid. However, today there are free DGPS services. For example, the European geostationary navigation service EGNOS.

The system consists of a network of ground stations and a main station that collects information from satellites. EGNOS ensures signal accuracy of about one meter. At the same time, coverage on the territory of Ukraine by base stations remains uneven.


Map of DGPS signal coverage by EGNOS for year 2015

Coverage and signal accuracy up to 5 cm can be obtained using paid DGPS services such as TerreStar, OmniSTAR, Trimble CenterPoint, John Deere SF2/SF3 and signals of other companies.

Returning to the performance of the sprayers, we note that a non-automatic trailer sprayer with a width of 18 meters can operate with a productivity of 12-15 hectares per hour. The integrated application of the system of autopilot will increase its productivity by 50-70%. This sprayer will be able to handle up to 20-25 hectares per hour. In addition, the quality of the operations is increasing at night and under fog conditions.

LED-backlight on sprayer

The application of PPP at nighttime has the advantages of lower air temperature and low windiness. As a result, the level of evaporation of PPP and the desiccation decreases.

To operate the sprayer at nighttime, it is necessary to use an autopilot system and to equip rod sprayers with LED-diodes.

The backlight allows the machine operator to visually control the operation of the spray nozzles. Each sprayer plug is backlighted with blue or white lights. This makes it easy to see when one or more nozzles form an uneven torch or do not work at all. In addition to the backlighting of plugs, the LEDs are installed at the ends of the bar. This allows you to notice an obstacle in the dark at a distance of up to 20 meters.



The most affordable is Guidance. In Ukraine, the average price of different models varies from 20 000 to 60 000 hryvnia.

The equipment of MTZ tractor with a set of guidance with an autopilot will cost an average from 150 000 to 250 000 hryvnia. The cost of a paid DGPS signal can vary from 2 000 to 30 000 hryvnia, depending on the term of subscription, coverage area, service company.

The installation of LED diodes on sprayer bars costs from 10 000 to 40 000 hryvnia.

Optimization of PPP expanses per hectare

Section control

Of course, the presence of a guidance with an autopilot increases the quality of work. During direct driving of a tractor it is possible to really reduce the frequency of appearance and size of passage and overlap areas. However, in cases where the first passage occurred on the upper sector, or the field has an uneven contour, there is a problem with a timely shutdown of the supply of the working solution. The operator must monitor the moment the sprayer passes on the processed areas. For example, during a reverse movement.

When treating crops with sprayers of an old park, errors arise in this proportion:

That is why there were automatic section control systems. The technology allows to fully automate the process of supplying the working mixture to the sprayer. Most new sprayer models get this option factory installed. In addition, automatic section control can be equipped with old equipment.

There are such options for setting auto-off sections:

How practically is the re-equipment of old machinery takes place? There are different options. We will describe the most optimal (for example, MTZ tractor).

    1. Technical inspection of the tractor, installing the system of parallel driving (only the indexer or the index pointer and autopilot).
    2. Connect to the DGPS service (EGNOS, OmniSTAR, Trimble RTX, etc.) or to the RTK base station signal, system testing.
    3. Technical inspection of the sprayer, installation of the controller, its calibration.
    4. Setting the section control.
    5. Training of personnel.

The result is high accuracy of operations (up to 2-4 cm), repetition of the passage of equipment, the possibility of differentiated application (sections of the sprayer are automatically switched off on overlap).

An additional effect will be the reduction of fuel, water, PPP, wages. Generalized calculations are quite complicated, but they show a savings of from 5% to 30% for each of the listed resources. Specifically, the cost of PPP is reduced in the range of 5-25%, depending on the configuration of the field!

ppp economy

Increasing the number of sections and atomizer operation control

Another way to increase the efficiency of the application of PPP is to increase the number of sections and the use of the atomizer control function.

The increase in the number of sections is, in fact, the separation of the edge sections into several. In other words, each part of the edge section is connected separately to the controller and switches off independently. This enables the reduction the size of the “triangles”, thus, saving more PPP.

Atomizer control allows you to enable/disable not only the sections but also each atomizer separately. The control can be carried out by the on-board terminal automatically.

HawkEye is a Raven system that allows the computer to deliver a working solution to each atomizer with the help of a valve system. In addition, the HawkEye aligns the pressure in the bar, preventing the formation of different volumes of droplets in the torch.


In addition to HawkEye, we have to mention the use of WeedSeeker sensors. Their use delivers the technology of powerless switching off for maximum efficiency.

WeedSeeker sensors are mounted on each atomizer. During motion, the sensor automatically and continuously scans the vegetation cover. Detecting the weed, the computer switches on the supply of the working solution in the nozzle, under which it was detected. The working solution falls precisely on weeds. You can imagine what level of savings is achieved when applying a contact group of herbicides.


There is a reason to use atomizer control system after you are already working with a section control.


Equipment for the equipment of a rod sprayer by the controller for automatic switching off of sections, depending on the type and width of capture, will cost an average of 20 to 90 thousand hryvnias.

Complex re-equipment of a tractor and a trailed sprayer, which includes a set of installation equipment, customization of equipment and personnel training will cost between 1 500-2 000 USD. This same set, but along with autopilot - about 15 000 - 20 000 USD.

Lowering costs for driving over the plants

Along with the introduction of the autopilot system for the application of PPP, an important point is the development of parallel driving. Before sowing, it is necessary to plan the placement of the lines relative to the field. Why is this important? If your sprayer will work not in-between the rows, but in diagonal to the rowes, you will incur additional losses from driving over plants.

Let's count their amounts on an example of corn:

lowering costs for driving over the plants

This is a loss on one, ideally flat field of 100 hectares. In real conditions and in the entire enterprise, the losses will be huge! How to avoid this? Apply autopilot or guidance not only when applying PPP, but starting from the moment of sowing. It is necessary to work the motion of the sprayer on the inter-row, and this requires a centimeter accuracy. The same applies to the application of fertilizers.

Other possible ways to increase the efficiency of spraying

In the end, we would like to add: let's not forget about simple and understandable ways to improve the quality of your sprayer. This includes the timely servicing of units and assemblies (pumps, atomizers, regulating equipment, etc.). Many farmers openly save on this, trying to service using their own forces. In the worst case, they do not do it at all, until something goes wrong. Unfortunately, such negligence will cost a lot. For example, a failure of the pump may cost several thousand dollars and a few days of idle time.

Another promising way of improving old bar sprayers is to replace old slit sprayers with modern injector or rotary sprayers. Both types of atomizers significantly contribute to reducing the flow of working mixture (injection small, rotary - to a greater extent), and therefore, the savings on volumes of water and its placement on the field. Due to the optimization of the size of the drops, the quality of the deciduous mass is also increased. The level of losses significantly decreases.


Taking into account the need to increase the margin of agriculture production, one of the priority directions for implementation is the most effective application of plant protection products.

Do it systemically, work on parallel driving, section control  and moving in-between the row, and then it will enable you to save over 50 USD/ha, perform high-quality technological operations, reduce the need for technology and increase yields in your fields.

Authors: founder of SmartFarming, Artem Belenkov and founder of FRENDT, Vitalii Shuberanskyi

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