Automatic boom-section control can save you up to 12% on over-application, according to recent University of Kentucky research. The study identified up to $2,745 in glyphosate savings across 3,000 acres of production from automatic boom section control technology.

GPS-controlled boom sections automatically turn off to avoid application to previously treated areas. These systems also reduce off-target pesticide application to grassed waterways or other georeferenced landmarks and areas outside field boundaries, with options of up to 48 boom-sections currently available.

Joe David Luck and Scott Shearer, ag engineers at the University of Kentucky, compared data collected from 7-section and 30-section automatic-control systems to a manual 5-section system (see Table 1).

“Lightbars and auto-steer systems may help reduce pass-to-pass boom overlap, but may offer little over-application reduction in point-row areas,” says Luck. “With automatic section control, the best strategy to minimize over-application in point rows is to distribute control sections evenly across the boom to reduce as many large boom sections as possible.”

And, as fields become less regular (square) in shape, over-application tended to increase for all of the sprayers studied. “The automatic control systems maintained lower over-application as field boundaries became more irregular or fields contained more grassed waterways,” he says. “The 30-section automatic system produced the least amount of over-application, followed by the 7-section automatic system, and finally, the manual control system, as field shape complexity increased.”

In comparison to the manual control system, the 7-section and 30-section automatic control systems offered reductions in over-application of 9% and 12%, respectively. All three of the sprayers used an automatic steering system; therefore, these results should be similar for pre- or post-emergence pesticide treatments, essentially doubling these savings if two treatments per year are desired. 

With 7-section automatic boom control, the producer would have saved $1,980 in chemicals across 3,000 acres based on the two-treatment scenario. In the case of the 30-section automatic control system, savings were $2,745 over 3,000 acres. 

A variety of automatic boom-section control systems are available from different manufacturers with between 5 and 48 boom-control sections currently offered. The cost of the automatic boom section control system will typically increase in proportion to the number of control sections.