Description of the airflow produced by an air-assisted sprayer during pesticide applications to citrus
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Atmospheric drift of plant protection products is considered a major source of air pollution during pesticide applications. Citrus protection against pests and diseases usually requires application of these products using air-blast sprayers. Many authors have emphasized the influence of vegetation on the risk of spray drift. The aim of this work was to describe in detail how the airflow from an air-blast sprayer behaves when it reaches citrus trees and, in particular, the effect that the tree canopy has on this flow. Tests were conducted at a commercial citrus orchard with conventional machinery, placed parallel to a row of trees. Air velocity and direction was measured using a 3D ultrasonic anemometer in 225 points situated in three parallel planes perpendicular to the equipment. The stability of the airflow at each measuring point was studied and the mean velocities were graphically represented. Two vortexes, one behind the canopy, and another over the tree, have been deducted and never been reported before. Both may have an important influence on the trajectories of the sprayed droplets and, as a consequence, on the way in which plant protection products are diffused into the atmosphere. Observed turbulence intensities were higher than in similar experiments conducted in other tree crops, which may be attributable to the higher air volume generated by the machinery used for citrus protection and to the higher foliage density of citrus orchards.