Ep. 55: Using Spray Technology for Site-Specific Crop Management with Simer Virk, Ph.D.
“Crops require site-specific management.”
That’s how Simer Virk summarizes the “why” behind his agriculture technology research.
As a precision ag specialist and assistant professor at the University of Georgia, Virk’s career revolves heavily around the systems and technology of planters, sprayers and other application equipment, like drones.
But perhaps the most impressive testing he’s completed so far is his work on sprayer technologies - which according to Virk, is an important piece of equipment that lags behind the tech capabilities of other ag systems like planters, for example.
“We have so much technology, but we’re not really there yet with spray technologies,” says Virk.
Coupled with a combination of other tech tools to accomplish variable rate applications, Virk is interested in evaluating sprayer nozzle technology.
For Virk and most growers, rate control has always been an important focus. With the help of Pulse-Width Modulation (PWM) technology, growers can now improve sprayer accuracy down to each and every droplet from each nozzle on a sprayer boom.
“With PWM, we have the capability for solenoids at each nozzle to pulse at different rates across the boom to maintain the same application rate,” explains Virk. “PWM also provides individual nozzle control that can be turned on or off as needed.”
Virk experimented with PWM technology this past growing season to see “if this technology was fast enough to be able to implement site-specific weed management based on a prescription map, all while maintaining high speeds.”
Virk was impressed with the precision of each nozzle to come on at precisely the same spot as mapped.
“If you think about it, just imagine how fast those nozzles have to come on and off to be able to make sure we are hitting all the targets in the field at speeds of 12, 14, 16 miles per hour,” explains Virk.
Comparable to John Deere’s new See and Spray system, Virk concludes that “we are probably going to start seeing more of these types of machines tested” and says he’s excited to see where this technology goes.”
Here’s a glance at this episode:
[01:44] Simer introduces himself, and his background is precision ag technology.
[03:53] Simer discusses the weed prescription mapping and sprayer technology research he evaluates.
[05:45] Simer explains why variable rate application with Plant Growth Regulators (PGRs) is needed for southern crops like cotton and peanuts and why in-season, site-specific imagery is one of the best tools for farmers.
[08:54] Simer demonstrates how satellite imagery can help farmers determine where and how much fertilizer or other inputs are needed to capture a return on investment and boost yield.
[12:14] Discussing spray nozzle technology, Simer explains what Pulse Width Modulated (PWM) is as it relates to controlling application rates no matter what the ground speed is.
[15:50] Simer reveals the unique technological capabilities of PWN nozzle technology, including mapping by each nozzle.
[17:44] Simer describes the specific research he has worked on to test what he calls site-specific weed management and the benefits and pitfalls.
[22:20] Simer discusses his excitement and worries about drone spraying.
[28:35] Since researching the uniformity of drone spray applications, Simer discusses the features of drone spraying that are beneficial and those that need more testing.
[36:33] Simer shares his best advice for farmers using spray technology, including calibration and using the right nozzles.
[38:48] Simer leaves with what precision technologies he is most excited about.
Simer Virk is an assistant professor and extension precision ag specialist at the University of Georgia. Originally from India, Virk moved to the U.S. in 2010 where he was introduced to precision ag and worked with John Fulton at Auburn University. He completed his master's in ag engineering, worked for a sprayer company in Iowa for a few years, and came back to Georgia to do his Ph.D. in ag engineering. Since August 2020, Virk has been serving as an extension precision ag specialist for the state.