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Intelligent Spray Systems

College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences



The ornamental industry produces an abundance of flowers, nursery shrubs and trees to beautify our environment and improve our lifestyle. This abundance is predicated on the use of pesticides to protect them from pests. However, the application efficiency of conventional pesticide spray technologies for crop protection is very low. Consequently, excessive pesticides are often applied to target and non-target areas, resulting in greater production costs, worker exposure to unnecessary pesticide risks, adverse contamination of the environment, and undesirable impacts on wildlife and sensitive ecosystems.

The capabilities of conventional sprayers are limited and unable to optimize spray outputs and thus cannot compensate for the rapid changes of growth characteristics in nursery crops. The industry has constantly demanded the development of new advanced sprayers that deliver pesticides economically, accurately and require minimum human inputs during the entire spray application process. The objective of this research is to develop advanced and affordable spray systems that employ intelligent technologies to continuously match system operating parameters to crop characteristics during pesticide applications. Significance of this research would be to provide critical technology to increase application efficiency and reduce uncertainty associated with current pesticide sprayers used in nursery crop production, and to achieve real cost benefits to producers, consumers and environments with newly pesticide application strategies.

Floral and ornamental nurseries will be the primary beneficiaries as a result of achieving the objective, as well other specialty crops including orchards, vineyards, berries, and vegetables. Pesticide applicators and sprayer manufacturers will have access to safe, reliable and user-friendly sprayers that deliver pesticides more economically, accurately, timely and in an environmentally sustainable manner with minimum human involvement before, during and after applications.

This research project is partially funded by the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture through the Specialty Crop Research Initiative. Project leaders include research scientists and faculty from USDA-ARS, The Ohio State University, The University of Tennessee and Oregon State University.


  1. Intelligent sprayer technology is featured in the FLC planner calendar

    Feb 27, 2017

    The intelligent sprayer technology developed by Dr. Heping Zhu’s team including USDA-ARS and university collaborators is featured in the April sidebar of the 2017 Federal Laboratory Consortium (FLC) planner calendar. FLC recognized the potential impact of this innovative FLC_Calendartechnology which is the only USDA-ARS entry selected for the 2017 calendar.    You can download a copy of the calendar here.