US EPA SAI X8-97132801-0

Project title

"Towards more targeted pesticide application in commercial apple orchards in Massachusetts and New England – a pilot sprayer testing, calibration, and automation project"

Full proposal - project narrative (PDF)


1.) Provide a voluntary orchard sprayer inspection/calibration service to selected Massachusetts and New England Eco Apple orchards in 2008 and 2009. Such an inspection should result in more efficient and accurate application of pesticides to orchards, including reducing drift and the total amount used (including organophosphate insecticides).

2.) Demonstrate orchard sprayer inspection procedure(s) to all Massachusetts orchards in 2008 and 2009 via meetings, newsletters, website, etc. Include other New England orchards/meetings as opportunity arises. Such outreach will result in education about the importance of sprayer performance testing and monitoring to improve pesticide applications to a New England-wide audience of apple growers.

3.) Outfit ‘best-criteria’ selected sprayers with automation technology to further improve application accuracy and efficacy. As the cost of doing this is high, this Project will serve as a catalyst for growers to consider sprayer automation as a way to improve and simplify application control adjusted for block-to-block orchard differences. It will also provide much-needed documentation as to exactly what growers are applying to their orchards.

Project narrative/work plan

Objective 1. – The components for an orchard sprayer test bench will be purchased. After initial set up and testing, appointments will be made with selected Massachusetts apple growers (up to 10 for 2008, 10-15 more in 2009, approximately 50% of Massachusetts commercial apple growers representing app. ¾ of the total acreage) to perform the sprayer test/inspection. Sprayers will be adjusted and/or parts replaced/modified and retested to make sure they are conforming to specifications and match orchard architecture. In addition to the Massachusetts apple growers, all Eco Apple growers in New England (seven at this time, including Connecticut, Vermont, and New Hampshire) will be included in the sprayer test bench/inspection program.

Comments on progress and results...

• all sprayer test bench components purchased in 2008 as planned, including pressure gauge tester, flow rate collector, and patternator; 2008 Toyota Sienna van (shared with other project) and trailer purchased to transport sprayer test bench; misc. tools and parts purchased to support sprayer test bench and calibrations

• a total of 12 sprayers (8 orchards in MA and NH) were tested/calibrated in 2010 and 2012; most needed little if any adjustment, however, some sprayers were outfitted with air-induction (drift reduction) nozzles, and changes were made to nozzling to achieve better/more uniform spray pattern; calibrations typically took 2-3 hours per sprayer; one sprayer calibration pending for 2014 (Headwater Cider, MA); no Eco Apple growers sprayers were calibrated, however two are pending for 2014 (Lyman, CT and Sunrise, VT)

• despite demonstrating and advertising sprayer testing at twilight meetings and in newsletters, little interest shown by more growers in participating; there is a prevailing attitude to leave well enough alone if it's working

• UNH's George Hamilton borrowed (2011) and then purchased their own flow rate collector, and began a vigorous testing and education program in New Hampshire and Pennsylvania

Objective 2. – During regularly scheduled Extension ‘twilight’ meetings and other grower meetings, the sprayer test bench will be demonstrated. Dr. Andrew Landers from Cornell University will be invited to speak and demonstrate how to modify the airblast sprayer based on results of a sprayer inspection. Note that the UMass Extension Fruit Program has a long history of successful outreach to Massachusetts tree fruit growers. Through a combination of twilight meetings, Newsletters (‘Healthy Fruit’), research publications (‘Fruit Notes’), web site (‘UMass Fruit Advisor’), and one-on-one contacts (grower visits, etc.), IPM innovations and implementation strategies have been well communicated to tree fruit growers.

Comments on progress and results...

• at least four twilight meetings/events in MA, NH and ME in 2009, 2010, 2011, and 2012 where the sprayer calibration bench was demonstrated, including large Mass. Fruit Growers' Assoc. summer meeting in July, 2009 with Andrew Landers

• in addition, UMass Tree Fruit class (2009), EPA Region 1 coordinators (2010, NH), and Rutgers Snyder Farm (NJ) meeting (2011) where the sprayer test bench and proper calibration were demonstrated

• Clements gives talk on sprayer calibration using the test bench at New Hampshire Fruit Growers' Meeting, March, 2010

• it's estimated the Extension/Outreach component of the project reached 400-450 growers and other interested individuals in New England and beyon

Objective 3. – Based on the results of the sprayer test bench/inspection process, and a survey of individual orchard architecture, up to seven orchard sprayers will be chosen to install automatic controls. (These will include two to three Eco Apple growers.) These sprayers and orchards will have been identified as the result of the sprayer test bench/inspection procedure, as well as individual orchard architecture/design that will most benefit from sprayer automation.

Details of what specific pieces of equipment needed to automate the sprayer will vary, but can be assumed to include some form of computerized controller combined with automated valves, sensors, and sprayer manifold modification(s). The cost of retrofitting sprayers will be a combination of parts and labor to perform the modification(s). Such automation/modification of sprayers will allow pre-programming of application rates and spray patterns to automatically select the appropriate combination of spray volume and pesticide rate to
exactly match changing orchard canopy conditions without onerous – and often now neglected – manual modifications by the spray operator/applicator. The potential to minimize overapplication of pesticides is huge, as well as possibly improving pest control in some cases.

Comments and progress and results...

• a total of five TeeJet 844-AB spray controllers and supporting parts were purchased and installed; in 2009, Tougas Farm and UMass Orchard; in 2011, Parlee Farms, Apple Valley (Clark Bros.), and Rutgers Snyder Farm

• installation and operation of the 844-AB's has been a real mixed bag for various reasons, including: complexity of correct installation and utilization of proper parts; part failures; complexity of operation and programming

• the 844-AB at the UMass Orchard has been subsequesntly removed and is inoperable; at Tougas Farm, it is operational but only using it with one setting at 50 gallons per acre (Mo Tougas comments); at Parlee Farms it is installed and operational on new sprayer purchased in 2012 (Mark Parlee comments and pictures); at Rutgers Snyder Farm it is installed, but has not been programmed nor used the way designed; status at Apple Valley is unknown at this point

Project timeline and specific activities with links to files/pictures/video/resources

April 2009

Received sprayer test bench equipment from Salvarani in Italy, now available from Advanced Agricultural Measuring Systems (AAMS):

Vertical Patternator [VP]

Manometer [M, pressure gauge tester]

Mechanical Measuring Device [MMD]

April 2009

Fruit Twilight Meeting, UMass Cold Spring Orchard. App. 30 attendees. Demonstrated VP, M, MMD. Discovered flow rate of nozzles not what thought, made adjustments.


May 2009

Received two TeeJet 1044-AB controllers, one to Tougas Farm, other at UMass Cold Spring Orchard. Both installed with various results. Much discussion could ensue. Note that OESCO installed (no charge, in-kind contribution) CSO unit. Air Induction nozzles installed and used at both locations to reduce drift.
Mo Tougas happily installing his controller:

June 2009

OESCO's Howard Boyden and Sukie Kindwall at UMass CSO to work with VP.

18-July, 2009

Cornell's Andrew Landers @ Massachusetts Fruit Growers' Association Summer Meeting, Tougas Family Farm, Northboro, MA. Demonstrated all aspect of sprayer calibration, drift-reduction strategies.

App. one week after above, Andre and Mo Tougas spends a couple days with patternator adjusting spray pattern. Says takes alot of work and trial-and-error to "get it right."

23-September, 2009

UMass Tree Fruit Production class demo with Kathleen Leahy at UMass Cold Spring Orchard.

25-March, 2010

Presentation "Towards more targeted pesticide application..." by Jon Clements, New Hampshire Fruit Growers Meeting. App. 60 in attendance.

14-April, 2010

Sprayer calibration (1 sprayer), Clarkdale Fruit Farm, Deerfield, MA. With Tom and Ben Clark. No particular problem identified, nor any major corrections made.

21-April, 2010

Sprayer calibration (1 sprayer), Mack’s Apples, Londonderry, NH.With George Hamilton. Also fruit twilight meeting with NH and MA gowers, calibration and adjustment demonstrated. App. 75 attendees.

15-October, 2010

Sprayer calibration (1 sprayer), Red Apple Farm, Phillipston, MA. With Al Rose. No particular problem identified, nor any major corrections made.


October, 2010

EPA New England coordinators @ Brookdale Fruit Farm, Hollis, NH. Demonstration of calibration procedure, including checking sprayer pressure, output, and pattern

March, 2011

Received three TeeJet 1044-AB controllers -- one to Parlee Farms (Tyngsboro, MA), one to Apple Valley/Clark Bros Orchard (Ashfield, MA), one to Rutgers University Snyder Farm (Win Cowgill/John Grande). Parlee installed with new sprayer purchase, spring 2012. Clark Bros. current situation unavailable. Rutgers installed in Rears tower sprayer, however, not fully operational.

9-June, 2011

Sprayer Setup and Calibration Meeting for Commerical Growers "How to Save Dollars;" Rutgers Snyder Research & Extension Farm, Pittstown, NJ

Pictures from meeting (coming soon)

July, 2011

George Hamilton (U. of New Hampshire) borrows Mechanical Measuring Device (MMD) for series of Penn State sprayer calibration workshops

17-May, 2011

AMS Mechanical Measuring Device (MMD) used for verification of Lipco tunnel sprayer output. See or (video only on YouTube)

3-May, 2012

Sprayer calibration meeting with Renae Moran (UMaine), Glen Koehler (UMaine), George Hamilton, (UNH) and Jon Clements (UMass) at Highmoor Farm, Monmouth, Maine. App. 20 Maine growers in attendance, particularly representing some of the larger orchards (1,000 acres total) in Maine.

4-May, 2012

Sprayer calibration/pattern adjusting at Ricker Hill Orchard, Turner, Maine. Several airblast sprayer (4 or 5?) were adjusted for spray pattern using patternator. Extremely inclement weather limited recordkeeping, but most growers who brough sprayer were pleased with adjustments and results. App. 15 growers in attendance representing some of the larger orchards in Maine (app. 1,000 acres total).

31-May, 2012

Sprayer calibration (2 sprayers), Honeypot Hill Orchard, Stow, MA, with Andrew Martin. No particular problem identified, nor any major corrections made.

Sprayer calibration worksheets (PullBast 300, PowerBlast 400)

Pictures of sprayer calibration

Note that a Apple Numbers spreadsheet was developed prior to this calibration to aid in data entry during calibration. After entering measurable parameters, then spray speed, Tree Row Volume (in dilute gallons per acre), left and right nozzle output, total gallons per minute, and gallons per acre are automatically calculated and recorded. For example, see: Carlson-new.pdf. The Numbers spreadsheet, which can be edited on a Mac computer or iOS device, can be requested from Jon Clements ( An exported (and slightly different, but still functional) Microsoft Excel version is here.

6-June, 2012

Sprayer calibration (2 sprayers), Carlson Orchards, Harvard, MA, with Frank and Bruce Carlson. No particular problem identified, nor any major corrections made.

Sprayer calibration worksheets (OLD sprayer, NEW sprayer)

Pictures of sprayer calibration

25-June, 2012

Sprayer calibration (1 sprayer), Autumn Hills Orchard, Groton, MA, with Greg Barnet. No particular problem identified, nor any major corrections made.

Sprayer calibration worksheet

Pictures of calibration procedure

Video of sprayer with Vertical Patternator


Sprayers 101 (an on-line course)