Variable rate spraying technology now available for orchards

In a talk at this year’s Fruit Focus, Dr Charles Whitfield from NIAB EMR clearly demonstrated how fixed rate sprayer technology has been holding growers back. 

We know that orchards are not one uniform mass. Canopy density and yield vary from tree to tree, row to row and site to site. And yet, growers have been forced to treat the orchard as one target when spraying. 

There is, however, now a solution. 

Over the last 3 years, we have been working on an Innovate UK funded research project with the Acclaimed Software Company, Hutchinsons, NIAB EMR, Outfield Technologies, Plumford Farms, and Worldwide Fruit to develop a precision dosing orchard foliar spraying system. 

Growers can have their orchards mapped using scanning and analysis services from Outfield. Information on canopy structure and density, blossom density, fruit load and pests and diseases can then be inputted into a prescription map which will tell the sprayer nozzles what flow rates are required at which points in the orchard.

The system, which we have built into a KWH sprayer, will adjust the spray output throughout the orchard tree-by-tree and can turn nozzles on and off to apply different rates at different tree heights.

At Fruit Focus, we held a demonstration in the plum orchard so that visitors to the show could come and see the sprayer in action. 

It was clear to see the individual nozzles adjusting according to the machine’s GPS position, with the spray plumes visibly switching off at the top of the canopy for each leader branch and all nozzles turning off when there was a gap in the trees.

This attention to detail and targeted approach will allow growers to significantly reduce chemical costs and impact on the environment while also increasing yields and the percentage of Class 1 fruits.

This technology is now ready to be rolled out. We look forward to supplying UK growers with the KWH variable rate sprayer, which can be used across a wide range of applications, such as growth regulators and foliar fertilisers, blossom thinning, fruit thinning and pesticides. For more information, please phone the office on 01580 712200 or email