We were extremely proud and excited to be involved in the first wet trials of the PODS precision sprayer system, which took place on Tuesday 18 May at Plumford Farm in Faversham.
As all growers know, there is often significant tree-to-tree variability in orchards, with different tree structures (size, density), crop loads and quality often being linked to less than optimal, often poor, overall yield and quality.
This PODS precision sprayer system is the culmination of a 3 year Innovate UK research project which was set up to develop a precision dosing orchard foliar spraying system to improve the uniformity of orchards and greatly increase their economic performance.
While current practice is to spray whole orchards at the same dose regardless of tree structure or crop load, the equipment we have helped to developed will apply precision doses according to need to optimise performance.
We chose to use the KWH three-row sprayer because of the layout of the tower, which gave a nice base to work on having been carefully designed for modern orchard growing systems.
The variable rate sprayer, which was applying Brevis fruitlet thinner in the trial run, applies an exact dose tree-by-tree. It is able to apply different rates at different heights of the tree too and it is this attention to detail and targeted approach which will allow growers to significantly reduce chemical costs while also increasing production and quality.
Trials are currently focused on apples, but once ready, growers will be able to use the technology to apply crop protection and crop management sprays on a wide range of fruit trees.
It is hoped that this new technology will have a lasting impact on the UK apple industry, making a step change in productivity and competitiveness.
This is the first of two demonstrations being carried out this season and we are looking forward to continuing to work with Hutchinsons, the Acclaimed Software Company, Outfield Technologies, Plumford Farms, Worldwide Fruit and NIAB on this exciting project.