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Tree shape and foliage volume map-guided precision orchard sprayer

Matching spray volume and direction to tree sizes and shapes can reduce chemical application, thus reducing operational costs and environmental pollution by 30% or more. A tree-specific, variable-volume, precision orchard sprayer guided by foliage shape and volume map is proposed. Tree maps will be obtained by a novel 3-D aerial survey method, converted from defence applications, and will be incorporated as a layer into a plant protection and orchard management GIS (geographic information system) database. The sprayer guidance module will control the spray amount and direction according to the foliage structure map. The supporting GIS database will be capable of monitoring infestation, using plant protection management and decision support systems, and automatically keeping detailed records of spray applications from the guidance system feedback.

The main aim of the project is to develop a precision control system for orchard sprayers where the spray orientation and spray volume is adjusted to tree foliage shapes and volumes, under the guidance of a three-dimensional digital orchard map derived from a stereoscopic photography aerial survey. The main components of the system will be:
1) A digital elevation model (DEM) of tree location and foliage size and shape. It will be created by an aerial survey of the orchards, with a novel three-dimensional reconnaissance system, developed and used for defence purposes. Relevant parts of the reconnaissance system will be converted to agricultural and orchard mapping.
2. A tree shape and volume map (TSV) layer in an orchard management, geographic information system (GIS) database. The DEM will be incorporated as a specific layer in the GIS intended for plant protection management and other general uses in orchard management. A digital interface file for sprayer guidance will be created as output. Spray applications will be recorded as tree-specific inputs in the same database by the sprayer guidance system feedback module.
3. A sprayer guidance and control module, to be guided by the digital interface file map (tree position and volume - TPV) representing the tree locations, shapes and volumes. Positioning in the orchard will use a differential geo-positioning system (DGPS), anchored to fixed ground reference points. The spray volume will be adjusted to tree size by control of the outputs on a segmented vertical-spraying boom to match the foliage shapes and volumes of the mapped trees.
The system will be designed in independent modules, interfaced with the guidance map file. This will allow autonomous and independent operation of the sprayer from aerial surveys and re-use of the map interface file, thereby reducing the costs of operation.

Progress to Date
1. Tree position and volume maps (TPV) of various orchard types in the Netherlands and Israel were generated from aerial surveys. Final validation for the specified tolerances will be accomplished in 2003.
2. The orchard management GIS is operative, enabled to store the TPV maps in specified sprayer guidance formats, to provide a user interface for pest management and spraying decisions and to download the sprayer guidance file.
3. The GPS-guided precision sprayer prototype is now able to follow tree contours fed into the controller, and change spray volumes accordingly. It was tested in actual field conditions in 2003.


Scientist responsible for the project

Lane 3 S. Ind. Zone Box 831
11 016 Kiryat Shmona
Israel - IL

Phone: +972 6 6953 505
Fax: +972 6 6944 980


Project ID QLRT-1999-01630
Organisation MIGAL Galilee Technology Center
Area 5.1.1
Start date 01 February 2000
Duration (months) 48
Total cost 3 002 200 €
Total EC contribution   1 686 524 €
Status Ongoing

The partners

  • Retired from the project, Denmark - DK

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