It was an odd September day when select media traveled to a field near Leslie, Ga. Visitors found themselves in a field that by the size of the cotton looked more like spring than fall. In that “late-planted” field John Deere demonstrated its newest technology – See & Spray Ultimate – offering a look at how this green-on-green targeted sprayer works.
The company launched See & Spray Select in 2021, providing farmers out West with a system that cut herbicide use by only spraying green material in a brown field. The new See & Spray Ultimate offers in-crop weed control for corn, soybeans and cotton using both targeted technologies combined with the option for broadcast spraying.
“We have a two-tank sprayer design,” says Kaylene Ballesteros, product marketing manager, sprayers, John Deere. “One can be used through the See & Spray system and the other for broadcast application.”
That approach keeps the sprayer from being a single-purpose machine. A farmer can use the sprayer throughout the season, engaging the See & Spray spot system only as needed. It also offers the opportunity to carry products on board that may be antagonistic in a tank mix but be available in a one-pass application. “We’re working with farmers to help control herbicide resistant weeds,” Ballesteros adds.
See & Spray Ultimate models
The factory-installed system is available for 2023 in three sprayer models – 410R, 412R and 612R. The two-tank system comes in either 1,000-gallon total capacity or 1,200 total capacity. The 1,200 gallon option is split into a 450-gallon tank for targeted spraying and a 750-gallon tank for broadcast spraying. The 1,000-gallon option is split into a 350-gallon tank for targeted spraying and a 650-gallon tank for broadcast spraying.
The system includes 36 cameras along a 120-foot carbon boom and each camera can “see” a 2,200 square-foot area of field. “That’s about the size of a house,” Ballesteros observes.
The field of vision overlaps from camera to camera allowing a view deep into the crop row. The system, using machine learning can differentiate weeds from the growing crop.
Franklin Pietz, marketing manager, John Deere, explains that from the camera view to the processor to application, the machine is making the decision to spray in 0.2 seconds when running at 12 miles per hour. "12 miles per hour is the speed most operators would operate in the field," he adds.
EYE ON WEEDS: 36 of these cameras positioned every meter along the See & Spray Ultimate carbon boom provide vision needed to tell the system when to spray. The technology can "see" a weed, decide to spray and initiate the application in less than .2 seconds from camera to ground while running at 12 mph.
Pietz says the See & Spray Ultimate can spray only what it sees, and once the crop canopies over, conventional spraying is needed. However, in spot-spray mode, this machine is using as much as two-thirds less product to control weeds. And having the broadcast system means the farmer can get full-season use out of the machine.
For targeted spraying, the machine is optimized to spray in rows 30-inches and wider during application and in soybeans, Pietz says the targeted weed system will be effective up to stage V-5. "In corn it's going to be V-4, and for cotton we're looking at more like the four- to five-leaf stage," he explains.
The technology for See & Spray Ultimate was developed by John Deere in conjunction with Blue River Technology, a wholly owned subsidiary. And from the early stage prototype to the 2023 commercial model, development has moved fast.
Jason Norsworthy, extension weed scientist, University of Arkansas, has spent quality time with the system. "We've been running the system for four years in the field," he notes. "It amazes me the speed we progressed from prototype to this machine."
The challenge was working to make sure the sprayer didn't hit he crop, targeting only weeds. But the precision is higher than that. "The sensors trigger spraying a weed only a quarter-inch in size," he says.
Norsworthy adds that the ability to use the sprayer both as a targeted machine and for broadcast spraying allows "growers to optimize the tool for their farms."
Pietz adds that the split tank design can help farmers battle herbicide resistance. In a media announcement for the launch of the system, he points to an example of an Illinois strip trial for soybeans that compared weed control of a broadcast, single tank mix to See & Spray Ultimate's dual product system. "The single tank mix had three modes of action and with dual product we were able to add a fourth mode of action that wouldn't be as effective with a one tank mix due to antagonism," he says.
The See & Spray Ultimate dual product pass with that fourth mode of action showed a 7% boost in weed control.
The sprayers will come factory equipped with JDLink connectivity plus a new integrated StarFire 7000 GPS receiver and the Generation 4 CommandCenter display.
Ballesteros explains that farmers will be able to use the new sprayer through the Generation 4 CommandCenter display. "We've worked with our farmers to make that easy to use," she says.
During a test ride of the system, the controls were intuitive and simple enough that a novice user could engage or disengage the system easily. This interface brings higher level weed control to a system already familiar to John Deere sprayer users.
The StarFire 7000 receiver will bring to market a new type of RTK signal, SF-RTK, which will rely solely on satellite communication for position accuracy.
Ballesteros adds that the machine will capture a weed map during application, a new data layer farmers can use to analyze yields. It's essentially a high-end as-applied map showing where See & Spray 'fired' a nozzle to hit a weed. "You will have a weed map that shows the density of the weeds in the field," she notes. "The whole key here is to provide information to have better insights for your farming operation."
You can learn more about the See & Spray Ultimate at johndeere.com.
Brad Haire, Southeast Farm Press, contributed to this report.