The issue was first noted in banana plantations. Bernard Bonicelli, researcher at the Irstea Montpellier center, was working on a project in the West Indies when he participated in tests for a spraying nozzle fixed atop a bracket 10 meters high. "Spraying conditions are extreme in the tropics, where products evaporate quickly due to the heat and are often carried away by winds," explained the expert. Current spraying techniques could certainly stand to be improved to prevent product from spreading so much.
Back in Montpellier, the problem was analyzed by the PEPS team  Bonicelli works with. Different options were modeled and tested. One technique stood out from the rest: surrounding the product droplets with a high speed air flow. The droplets are supported and protected while they travel through the air, evaporating less and reaching their target more often, even from 10 meters away. The patented innovation is now available to manufacturing companies through the SATT (Technology Transfer Acceleration Company) AXLR, of which Irstea is a shareholder since 2013.
This new nozzle will not, however, be used in large-scale wheat, beet or canola farms. “It is specifically designed for higher canopies such as olive or banana trees as well as ornamental trees found in towns. It could also be used in inaccessible areas such as lagoons during mosquito control operations. Product gains of 20% have been observed." stated the researcher. These gains are significant in relation to the Ecophyto plan, which aims to reduce the use of pesticides by 50% by 2025, with an intermediate threshold of 25% by 2020. Improving spraying equipment is one way of achieving these aims.
It is also the main reason behind the Irstea Montpellier center's Reducpol technological research platform, a 3,000 square meter facility. “Our platform is the only on in France to have been approved at a European level. It has made it possible for sprayer manufacturers to achieve environmental certification for their equipment in order to benefit from purchasing grants.” The agricultural sector is not the only one interested in this laboratory facility and its rigorous protocols. “We have already worked with the pharmaceutical industry on throat sprays,” noted Bernard Bonicelli. Think about it: a spray involves thousands of droplets flying through the air before reaching their target.
For more information
- Reducpol: high technology spraying
- Irstea's technological offers
- Browse the web pages of the Information, Technologies, Environmental Analysis and Agricultural Processes (ITAP) research unit and the Irstea Montpellier center.
 PEPS: Environment, Pesticides and Health Processes. One of the 4 teams of the ITAP (Information, Technologies, Environmental Analysis and Agricultural Processes) Laboratory based in Agropolis Montpellier.