Granular applicators equipped with variable-rate technology (VRT) have gained popularity in recent years as a result of increased interest in variable-rate application. The purpose of this investigation was to characterize distribution patterns at varying rates for different granular applicators. Uniform-rate (UR) tests were conducted to assess the accuracy of variable-rate application from four granular applicators: two spinner-disc spreaders (A and B), and two pneumatic applicators (C and D). Pattern results indicated a consistent triangular pattern for spinner spreader B and consistent patterns for the pneumatic applicators (C and D). However, applicator D produced pattern variations at the center and right side. Simulated overlap analysis generated CVs < 20% for applicators B and C. Applicator A performed well at the two lower rates (CVs < 19%) but not at the highest rate (CV = 27%). Pattern unevenness for applicator D produced CVs between 25% and 34%. The spinner-disc spreaders over-applied, while the pneumatic applicators under-applied at the margins, suggesting an adjustment to the effective swath spacing or spinner-disc speed is needed to improve application accuracy. Further, overlap plots indicated pattern variability even when acceptable CVs were attained for applicators B and C. Therefore, it is recommended that CVs accompany simulated overlap pattern plots to ensure proper calibration of VRT equipment. Swath spacing analysis indicated that three of the four applicator spacings could be changed from the recommended value to improve application uniformity. Pattern comparisons showed that pattern shifts occurred for applicator A (P = 0.0092) with increasing application rate but not for applicators B, C, and D. These results demonstrate potential application errors with VRT and the need for proper calibration to maintain acceptable performance. Further, this investigation demonstrates the need for a VRT equipment testing standard.

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Published in Transactions of the ASAE, v. 48, issue 6, p. 2053-2064.

© 2005 American Society of Agricultural Engineers

The copyright holder has granted the permission for posting the article here.

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Funding for this project was provided through a special grant from USDA-CSREES titled, “Precision Agriculture: Development and Assessment of Integrated Practices for Kentucky Producers.”

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The investigation reported in this article (05-05-016) is in connection with a project of the Kentucky Agricultural Experiment Station and is published with the approval of the Director.