Studies Evaluate Precision Herbicide Applications

 By Rodney G. Lym; North Dakota State University, Fargo, ND. Presented at the Western Society of Weed Science Annual Meeting. March 2018. 

By Rodney G. Lym; North Dakota State University, Fargo, ND. Presented at the Western Society of Weed Science Annual Meeting. March 2018. 

The Pulse Width Modulation spraying system (PWM) is a technology developed to improve precision application of pesticides. PWM flow control involves switching an electrically actuated spray nozzle on and off very quickly in order to control the flow rate of the nozzle. This cycling takes place so rapidly the flow often appears to be constant, and the coverage remains uniform.

Controlling flow rate by adjusting the duty cycle (opening and closing of the nozzle), and cycling the frequency of an electric nozzle while maintaining a constant pressure, provides advantages over simply controlling flow by adjusting pressure. Normally, increasing spray pressure results in increased flow rate; however, increased pressure also changes the spray angle and drop size and may result in increased particle drift (Sidebar). PWM flow control provides an extremely wide range of flow rates from a single nozzle, maintaining a consistent spray angle and droplet size without having to adjust pressure.

Objectives

Objectives of this study were two-fold: 

1) To evaluate PWM sprayer technology on pasture and rangeland for reduction of off-target herbicide movement (drift) while maintaining herbicide efficacy.

2) To incorporate knowledge gained from field studies into practical use for land managers.

  Figure 1:   Close-up of pulse width modulating nozzles for applying the herbicide solution at various droplet sizes. Photo by Rodney Lym.

Figure 1:  Close-up of pulse width modulating nozzles for applying the herbicide solution at various droplet sizes. Photo by Rodney Lym.

Methods

  Figure 2:   Herbicides were applied with a Ranger ATV-mounted boom sprayer, equipped with pulse modulating nozzles. A tractor-mounted boom sprayer with 8002 nozzles was used as the control treatment for comparison. Photo by ROdney Lym.

Figure 2:  Herbicides were applied with a Ranger ATV-mounted boom sprayer, equipped with pulse modulating nozzles. A tractor-mounted boom sprayer with 8002 nozzles was used as the control treatment for comparison. Photo by ROdney Lym.

Five experiments were established to evaluate leafy spurge and Canada thistle control using PWM. Various nozzles were used with the PWM sprayer to apply herbicides so that the majority of the spray pattern consisted of 150, 300, 450, 600, 750, or 900 micron droplets (Figures 1 and 2). A tractor-mounted boom sprayer with 8002 nozzles was used as the control treatment for comparison. All herbicide treatments were applied at 17 gallons per acre (gpa) and 35 pounds per square inch (psi) pressure. Tordon® 22K specialty herbicide at 1 pint per acre (pt/A) plus 2,4-D at 1 quart/A was applied in the leafy spurge study while Milestone® specialty herbicide at 5 fl oz/A was applied for Canada thistle control. Separate spring or fall studies were established on June 23, 2016 and September 14, 2016 for each weed species. Leafy spurge was at the true flower or fall-regrowth stage at the time of the spring or fall treatment, respectively. Canada thistle was at the rosette to bolting stage for spring applications and at the rosette growth stage for fall. 

Results and Conclusions

Herbicide applications with the PWM system on leafy spurge and Canada thistle resulted in control comparable to applications from a standard boom sprayer at all droplet sizes, except 150 microns. For example, Canada thistle control averaged about 98 percent 12 months after application (MAA) with either spring or fall application, except with the use of nozzles applying 150 microns (Table 1 and 2). Control averaged about 36 percent with the 150 micron nozzle. 

  Table 1:  Canada thistle control 1, 12 and 15 months after a spring application (MAA) with Milestone® specialty herbicide at 5 fl oz/A applied with two types of equipment. Herbicide applied June 23, 2016.

Table 1: Canada thistle control 1, 12 and 15 months after a spring application (MAA) with Milestone® specialty herbicide at 5 fl oz/A applied with two types of equipment. Herbicide applied June 23, 2016.


  Table 2:  Canada thistle control 9 and 12 months after a fall application (MAA) of Milestone® specialty herbicide at 5 fl oz/A applied with two types of equipment. Herbicide applied September 14, 2016.

Table 2: Canada thistle control 9 and 12 months after a fall application (MAA) of Milestone® specialty herbicide at 5 fl oz/A applied with two types of equipment. Herbicide applied September 14, 2016.


Results were similar for leafy spurge (data are not shown).  Tordon 22K plus 2,4-D applied with the pulse sprayer nozzles provided the same control as the broadcast sprayer, except when the 150 micron droplet size was used.

The fifth study evaluated leafy spurge control with quinclorac, applied at 12 oz/A with the PWM sprayer set at three application speeds, 5, 10, and 15 mph. The droplet size was held constant at 600 microns for all application speeds. Applications were made in June, 2017 when leafy spurge was in the flowering growth stage. Leafy spurge control averaged 95 percent 2 MAA, regardless of application speed. 

The PWM sprayer can be used to apply herbicides in pasture and rangeland at a variety of travel speeds while maintaining medium-sized or larger droplets. This allows for reduced drift and more uniform coverage compared to traditional boom sprayers. Land managers adopting this technology also reduce herbicide over- and under-application resulting in more consistent invasive weed control on a variety of terrain.

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For More Information

LINK TO MORE INFORMATION REGARDING PULSE WIDTH MODULATION SPRAYERS:

Ranger ATV-mounted boom sprayer with pulse nozzles.

CAPSTAN Ag Sprayer Technology Advancement

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Milestone specialty herbicide is not registered for sale or use in all states. Contact your state pesticide regulatory agency to determine if a product is registered for sale or use in your state.

When treating areas in and around roadside or utility rights-of-way that are or will be grazed, hayed, or planted to forage, important label precautions apply regarding harvesting hay from treated sites, using manure from animals grazing on treated areas or rotating the treated area to sensitive crops. See the product label for details. State restrictions on the sale and use of Milestone apply. Consult the label before purchase or use for full details.

Tordon 22K specialty herbicide is a federally Restricted Use Pesticide.  Always read and follow label directions.