How Precision Weed Sprays Can Fit Into Your Weed Management Program

Alberto Diaz
June 26th, 2023

Efficiency is king in today's dynamic agricultural landscape. The increasing cost of inputs and labor, public concern about environmental stewardship, and increased government regulation represent increasing challenges to profitable farming. 

Perhaps the most significant challenge to crop producers is the cost of inputs. The global economic effects of the 2020 pandemic, added to the current military conflicts in Eastern Europe, resulted in steep increases in the costs of agricultural inputs. The cost of Glyphosate, the principal ingredient in the now household name brand Roundup, have seen increases of up to 300% in some markets, a trend also reflected in prices of other herbicides as well. This places new and critical challenges to established crop production systems, where methods, materials, and costs are generally well understood. Any steep rise in prices can represent a critical challenge to profitable farming. 

Another important challenge to production systems is the increase in cost and reduced availability of farm labor, which follows right in step with costs and availability of inputs. This variable was not only influenced by the 2020 pandemic and global inflation but also by our national political climate. Farm labor is not only more costly on account of the higher cost of living but scarcer as well.     

The third critical factor in this dynamic trio is a public claim for sustainability and environmental stewardship. While the motivation for the regulator’s decisions is subject to heated debate, it is clear that farmers face diminishing resources to fight pests. Limitations on approved chemistries like glyphosate, dicamba, and 2,4d, coupled with Mother Nature’s ability to resist, rise an important technical challenge. We seek to produce enough foods to feed humanity in an environmentally friendly manner while limiting the technical choices to prevent pesticide resistance.  

How can a farm reduce the overall cost of inputs and labor, while effectively managing yield-reducing pests? The industry responded by developing innovative solutions to enhance efficiency, which effectively reduce the overall cost of waste while promoting environmental sustainability.  

One solution that has gained significant attention is the use of precision spray equipment. Out of several options available, the precision green-on-brown spray technology has emerged as an effective and affordable alternative. In this article, we will explore how precision weed spray systems can seamlessly integrate into your farm’s weed management program, and how they offer a range of benefits that extend beyond the obvious savings in cost of herbicides. 


1. Cost Savings of Targeted Weed Control 

Precision green-on-brown spray technology has revolutionized weed management. By enabling a targeted spray approach, the system precisely locates weeds within its detection zone and only opens the nozzle when the target falls within a predetermined range. This effectively eliminates the waste inherent to conventional sprayers, which spray on areas without weeds. By spraying solely when weeds are present, the system significantly reduces the total costs of materials required for effective weed management. 

The actual amount of savings depends on several factors, the principal of which is weed pressure. In terms of percent of the material used, impressive savings have been reported by large acreage farmers of the mid-west, while the southwest reports smaller but perhaps more financially significant savings.  

2. Reduced Labor 

In some applications, the use of precision sprayers can significantly reduce the cost of labor. By increasing efficiency, more area can be treated with one tank load. This reduces the time required to drive and refill the tank. Furthermore, in some orchard applications, 2 laborers are used to hand spray areas between vines of trees. The use of precision spray technology enables the design of specialized sprayers targeting areas previously requiring manual spray. 

    Water is a precious resource in agriculture, and precision weed sprays contribute to its conservation. By accurately targeting weed-infested areas, farmers can direct irrigation and herbicide applications precisely where they are needed most. This approach minimizes water wastage and ensures that water resources are utilized efficiently, supporting sustainable farming practices.

3. Environmental Sustainability 

Precision weed sprays closely align with environmental sustainability principles, by enabling farmers to minimize the amount of herbicide released into the environment. The reduced risk of soil and water contamination promotes the overall health of the ecosystem, protecting protects non-target vegetation, soil quality, and nearby water sources. 

These eco-friendly farming practices have hidden benefits. Fewer herbicides in the soil mean less chemical stress to soilborne microorganisms. These hidden inhabitants of the soil are key players in soil-plant dynamics. Nutrient availability, pathogen suppression, soil porosity, water holding capacity, erosion, organic matter decomposition, hormonal balance, and nitrogen fixation are some of the key areas highly influenced by the soil’s microbial population. The effects are complex and hard to measure, so expectations must be tempered by prudence. However, it is logical to reason that reducing the quantities of pesticides applied to the soil can play a role in optimizing the contributions of microorganisms to our cropping systems.     

4. Ease of Integration 

Integrating precision weed spray into your farm can be seamless. Many precision green-on-brown spray technology brands offer systems that can be easily fitted onto existing spray rigs, requiring minimal modifications or additional equipment investments. These systems, while relatively new to US agriculture, have had years of development and use throughout Europe and Australia. In the US there are a number of experienced distributors able to design and integrate the precision spray technology to existing equipment. The distributor’s experience and ease of integration ensure a smooth transition to advanced weed control in very diverse applications. These systems can be readily adapted to serve very different cropping methods, like the dryland grain fields in Nebraska, grape orchards in Napa Valley, onion fields in western New Mexico, pecans of eastern Arizona, or the berries in Watsonville, opening resources that help optimize the farm’s financial equation.  

5. Enhanced Crop Protection 

Beyond direct weed control, precision weed sprays offer additional benefits to the crop. The increased efficiency can redefine the financial equation, allowing the use of more effective chemistries without the associated increase in costs. This flexibility also helps reduce the risk of weed resistance to herbicides, ensuring continued effectiveness over time.  

It is clear that precision weed spray systems provide a host of advantages for farms seeking efficient, cost-effective, and sustainable solutions. From effective weed control to reductions in cost, and increased environmental sustainability, these advanced spray systems have the potential to significantly benefit our farming practices. By embracing these new technologies farmers can economically implement innovation to optimize their operations and pave the way for a more productive and sustainable agricultural future, while improving their financial results.

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