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Liming Chen, Matthew Wallhead, Michael Reding, Leona Horst and Heping Zhu

Laser-guided variable-rate intelligent spray technology is designed to significantly reduce pesticide use with a positive impact on the environment. However, there have been no reports on applying this technology to commercial fruit farms. Comparative experiments of intelligent variable-rate and conventional constant-rate spray applications for pesticide use and pest control were conducted at a fruit farm in Ohio during two consecutive growing seasons. Apple (Malus pumila), peach (Prunus persica), blueberry (Vaccinium section Cyanococcus), and black raspberry (Rubus occidentalis) were used for the tests. Pest severity of codling moth (Cydia pomonella), oriental fruit moth (Grapholitha molesta), scab (Venturia inaequalis), and powdery mildew (Podosphaera leucotricha) in apple; oriental fruit moth, brown rot (Monilinia fructicola), and powdery mildew (Podosphaera pannosa) in peach; spotted wing drosophila (Drosophila suzukii), mummy berry (Monilinia vaccinii-corymbosi), and phomopsis (Phomopsis vaccinii) in blueberry; and anthracnose (Elsinoe veneta) in black raspberry were assessed. There was equal severity of pests between intelligent and conventional spray applications, whereas the intelligent spray reduced pesticide use by 58.7%, 30.6%, 47.9%, and 52.5% on average for apple, peach, blueberry, and black raspberry, respectively. These results illustrate that intelligent spray technology is more environmentally friendly than conventional standard spray technology and equally or more effective for control of insect and disease pests in fruit production.