Pesticide losses and uneven spray distribution should be avoided as much as possible as they reduce the effectiveness of spraying and increase environmental contamination as well as costs. Within the H2020-project OPTIMA the goal is to develop a smart sprayer for bed-grown carrots, including optimizations such as air support and variable nozzle spacing. This paper focuses on selecting the most optimal nozzle types, spacing and height for spraying bed-grown crops, while taking into account different target zone widths depending on the growth stage, based on spray distribution and droplet characterization measurements.
The results indicate that four bed spray configurations consisting of four nozzles per bed, i.e. XR8004/XR8004/XR8004/XR8004, AIUB8504/AI11004/AI11004/AIUB8504, AI8004/AI8004/AI8004/AI8004 and XR8002/XR8002/XR8002/XR8002, spraying at 300 kPa and recalculated to 12.0 km h−1 forward speed, are appropriate for spraying different target zone widths (ranging from 1.2 to 2.2 m) with high uniformity (CV < 12%) and minimal losses out of the target zone (<17%) when applied at the most appropriate nozzle spacing and height (varying from 0.35 to 0.65 m). Droplet characterization measurements showed that for the same nozzle size and spray pressure, air inclusion nozzles produced larger but slower droplets than standard flat-fan nozzles. Air support increased the droplet velocities but had only a very limited effect on droplet size.
Laboratory spray distribution and droplet characterization measurements allowed selection of the most optimal nozzle type, spacing and height for bed spray applications in terms of reduced pesticide losses compared to conventional broadcast applications.