Bayer and Bosch have signed a three-year research collaboration agreement with the objective of developing the Smart Spraying technology to make the application of crop protection products more efficient.
Bosch’s research work is focusing on highly effective sensor technology, smart analytics and selective spray systems. In its partnership with Bosch, Bayer is contributing the lessons it has learned in the field of Geographical Information Systems (GIS), including the development of algorithms that serve as the basis for agronomical decision-making, integrated pest management as well as formulation and application technology. The Smart Spraying technology concept will be presented at this year’s Agritechnica trade fair in Hanover, Germany.
“We want to venture together with Bosch into new territory, combining different technologies to ensure that herbicides are only applied in areas where they are really necessary,” says Tobias Menne, head of Digital Farming at Bayer. Weeds are difficult to identify, especially in the early stages of growth. Using camera sensors, the new technology can determine what is growing in the field and can then adopt a targeted application technique to spray crop protection agents specifically on weeds.
“Smart Spraying provides sustainable weed control. It protects the harvest and is environmentally compatible at the same time,” adds Markus Heyn, member of the Management Board of Robert Bosch GmbH.
More intelligence in the field
Field crops such as corn or wheat compete against weeds for sunlight, water and nutrients, which leads to poorer harvests. Efficient control of the undesired plants usually involves the widespread use of herbicides even though weed growth is not always distributed consistently across the entire field.
As Dr. Johannes-Joerg Rueger, President of the Commercial Vehicles and Off-road group at Bosch, puts it, “Smart Spraying brings more intelligence to the field.” The difference between Smart Spraying and existing systems on the market is that the latter can only identify greenery but cannot distinguish between crops and weeds.
A quantum leap in weed control
This is how it works: before the farmer sets off for a field, a digital “Field Manager” helps him assess the situation on the field and recommends the optimum timing for treating the weeds. Accurate identification of the weeds and application of the crop protection agent are performed in a single work step while driving over the respective area. To this end, several cameras distributed over the entire working width of the field sprayer continually take pictures of the surface. The different weeds are identified and the optimum method for treating them is determined. The final step involves spraying the necessary quantity and mix of herbicide on the appropriate weeds using the right application parameters, while weed-free areas are left untouched. The process is incredibly fast, taking just fractions of a second.
According to Björn Kiepe, head of Agronomy in Digital Farming at Bayer, “Smart Spraying constitutes a quantum leap in weed control. We are combining state-of-the-art weed detection technology with the means of applying different agents on a case-by-case basis and extremely accurately on an area of less than one meter. This will make it even easier for farmers to practice sustainable crop protection.” One very important aspect is that the system incorporates pretreatments, alternates active ingredients and focuses on herbicides with the greatest possible efficiency to prevent weeds becoming resistant.