Economic potential of site-specific pesticide application scenarios with direct injection and automatic application assistant in northern Germany
A growing and promising sector of precision agriculture is the site-specific application of pesticides, having a high potential for reductions in pesticide use. Within the research project ‘AssSys’, site-specific pesticide applications with a direct injection sprayer system and an automatic application assistant were evaluated economically with respect to herbicide and fungicide applications. The application assistant aims to support farmers in decision-making and implementation of site-specific pesticide applications either in the planning stage or as ex-post analysis. The economic assessment was based on field trials and scenario analysis referring to a model farm. The field trials were conducted in 2018 and 2019 in northern Germany. In the scenario analysis, two site-specific application scenarios were compared to conventional uniform treatment (100% of the field area). Weed monitoring was conducted as (1) standard procedure according to integrated pest management, (2) camera-based and (3) drone-based in the field trials. The pesticide application costs include pesticide costs, labour and machine costs of monitoring and pesticide applications. Investment costs of the necessary technical equipment for site-specific applications were included as annual labour and machine costs. As a major key performance indicator of partial budgeting at field level, extended gross margins were calculated. The economic scenario analysis showed pesticide application cost savings from 26 to 66% for site-specific applications compared to conventional applications. The average extended gross margin for site-specific applications of 787 € ha−1 compared to 631 € ha−1 for conventional application showed a clear economic advantage of the site-specific application scenarios. Site-specific pesticide applications can support farmers in implementing precise, sustainable and economically beneficial pesticide management. The technology presented may contribute to meet the goals of the European Green Deal to reduce use and risks of pesticides.