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The term “artificial intelligence” has generated pages of dystopian copy surrounding the displacement of jobs and the dehumanization of the workplace, but in farm fields, AI and machine learning are proving to be an efficient ally of growers for combating weeds and keeping expenses in check.
In the 1980s, researchers were elated when they developed sprayers capable of on-the-go determination between bare ground and growing plants — a breakthrough that paved the way for what is now widely known as GreenSeeker technology. Crude sensors that differentiated the color of soil vs. the color of green plant material led to precision spectral radiance technology that provides the backbone of today’s remote sensing used in precise fertilizer placement.
As digital memory became increasingly miniaturized, it was possible to photograph and catalog various weeds in computer files used by applicators to further differentiate weeds from growing crops as they travel across fields — the entry of AI into agriculture, a debut that will forever change farm practices.
John Deere’s first See & Spray system introduced in 2021 allowed growers to reduce their non-residual pre-emergence herbicide use by more than 75% by targeting and spraying only weeds on fallow ground. That system installed on Series 400 and 600 sprayers allowed a single machine to act as an effective spot-sprayer as well as a broadcast applicator.
In 2022, Big Green launched See & Spray Ultimate for in-season targeted sprays for weeds in corn, soybeans and cotton. The system also features the ability to use two…