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Big moves forward with green-on-green spot spraying

Kade Mutter, Three Springs WA, says growers should be getting green-on-green spot spraying systems “straight away’’ because of the chemical savings it achieves.

AFTER gaining considerable crop chemical savings and improved weed control and operational productivity, WA Mid West grower Kade Mutter is quite unequivocal about green-on-green spot spraying.

“One hundred per cent, I would get it straight away because of the savings and you definitely won’t go backwards, that’s for sure. I will keep getting it as we buy sprayers,” he said.

Kade farms with his family near Three Springs in the northern WA wheatbelt, growing wheat, canola and barley and managing chemical fallow areas.

Like for most growers, annual ryegrass, which has become difficult to control due to some resistance to herbicides, and wild radish are the major weed concerns over their property and the green-on-green spot spray technology is mainly used against the radish and some volunteer canola and blue lupins. It is also used for green-on-brown weed control in between seasons.

The Mutters had the Bilberry Intelligent Spot Spraying System installed across the 48-metre Pommier boom mounted on their Miller Nitro 7380 sprayer after using it on a previous sprayer.

The system uses an embedded camera network, artificial intelligence, and deep learning software to identify weeds and is controlled via an intuitive user interface through display screens in sprayer cabs.

Bilberry’s weed recognition applications are constantly evolving to ensure specific weeds are precisely targeted with the appropriate herbicide in real time. Trials have shown a minimum hit and kill rate of 80 per cent, as well as chemical savings of up to 90pc.

“Savings are the key these days and we have found the savings to be pretty good,” Kade said.

“It’s pretty cool to watch and see the savings that you are making that’s for sure. Normally (with blanket spraying) you will be spraying flat out and going to fill-up all the time. It’s pretty good to just cruise around and see what is being hit and what’s not and you are not wasting your money into thin air.

“You are only spraying 20-30pc of your crop, so you are saving 70-80pc of the chemical you would be spraying out over a paddock.”

As a result, he said the ability to then use high chemical rates helped to significantly improve weed control.

“When we were blanket spraying, we would never put the full label rate of chemical out because of the cost, but when spot spraying, you can put that full rate out knowing you are saving anyway, and that weed will be dead after you have sprayed it – there’s no coming back from it.”

Kade said they spot sprayed the radish late in most cases, so they could control all germinations in one pass.

“It does a pretty good job and spots-out a fair bit if it’s dirty. Maybe you could blanket spray dirty areas earlier, but generally we have been spraying as late as we can with a high rate of chemical.”

“Sometimes you can be spraying up to 40 litres per hectare in a patch and in other patches there might be none. It doesn’t go much higher than 40-50L/ha.

“We normally go with a water rate of 100L/ha with the Bilberry. It allows us to have a low-down pressure with the system we have got, so we can put out big droplets and know we are going to hit the target with a fine mist behind it.”

He said the green-on-green spot spraying also resulted in strong productivity benefits and had not altered their normal spraying operation.

“The time between refills is once a day or every day-and-a-half depending on how many weeds you are spraying.

“It’s definitely good to sit in the machine and just spray and not have to go back to the tank and waste time. You can cover 300-400ha in a day because you are not having to stop and get out and muck around.

“With the big boom, we tend to only spray at about 20 kilometres per hour anyway and the cameras can do just fine at that, so we stick at that, cruise along and still cover a good amount of hectares.”

He said the cameras needed to be set at the correct height and calibrated, and auto-height control on the boomspray was handy.

“We go a little bit higher because we have got some rough country, but it has worked well.”

“If you have a paddock that is a bit undulating or has a few crabholes, you just turn your before and after-spray up or down a bit depending on what you are doing. If the cameras are a bit higher, you can turn it up so it comes on earlier and goes off later after the weeds.”

Kade said the installation of the Bilberry weed identification system was straight forward and it incorporated 13 nozzles per camera that fed back to a couple of node boxes and through to the display in the cab.

“You get your head around the display within a day. It’s no different to any other display in a machine you have.”

“The system pretty much runs itself. You only have to change from spot to blanket spraying every now and again, but otherwise you can just set and forget.

“It also has the ability for weed mapping, so it can take photos of where your ryegrass is for your pre-emergent spraying. You will be able to put higher rates of ‘pre-em’ chemical out where you know it is and know it will be coming before it’s even up. So you will be able to control your grass weeds a bit better by putting a bit more chemical where it is needed and not everywhere else.”

Weed algorithm updates and user support has also been a simple process.

“They can remote support in and update, see what’s happening and make sure everything is running sweet. They can load it right there and then. You don’t have to wait for people to come out and fix anything,” Kade said.

Growers pay a subscription to the Bilberry Intelligent Spot Spraying System either per hectare or on an annual basis with unlimited hectares, and it incorporates all software updates and performance improvements.

“The subscription helps them better the technology, so the payment is not a big deal and they are good with the updates. We have had a few updates and it’s always getting better. The more people that have it and the more photos that are taken, the better it will get, especially for Australia and our conditions.

“They are improving the shading from crops or when it’s cloudy. They are getting better and better and there is a new update out every week – they are pretty on to it.”

In addition to targeting broadleaf weeds in cereal crops and blue lupins in lupin crops, other applications for Bilberry systems have included grasses and broadleaf weeds in lupins, as well as volunteer vetch in lentils. Further applications for use in canola, chickpeas and sorghum have been tested across Australia this season.

Kade said he was looking forward to possibly targeting wild oats or brome grass in wheat in the future.

“It will be all moving forward,” he said.

If you are interested in further information about the Bilberry Intelligent Spot Spraying Syste, you can contact your local branch