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Abstract

Changing orchard sprayer technology and rising pesticide costs to fruit growers raise the need to analyze the profitability of alternative sprayer investments. This study analyzes investments in four orchard sprayers for use in Michigan apple production: an air blast sprayer, a tower boom sprayer, a tower boom sprayer equipped with electronic sensors that activate spray nozzles when foliage is detected, and an air curtain sprayer that targets spray with a layer of forced air. Assuming equal pest control efficacy, the study calculates the annualized net present cost per acre of owning and operating each sprayer for ten years using a baseline discount rate of 10 percent over 200 acres of semi-dwarf apple trees. The analysis found the annualized net present cost per acre, from least to greatest, to be $287 for the air curtain sprayer, $312 for the tower sprayer with electronic sensors, $345 for the plain tower sprayer, and $391 for the conventional air blast sprayer. Sensitivity analysis revealed that the ranking of these cost results was sensitive to farm size, but not to percentage of funds borrowed, discount rate, loan interest rate, or pesticide costs within the ranges investigated. The air curtain sprayer was lowest cost for orchards of 25 acres or more; the conventional air blast sprayer was lowest cost for 10-acre orchards.

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