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Turbine Conversions and Zanoni Equipamentos Atomizer Testing at the Pesticide Application Technology Lab, University of Nebraska North Platte

by Ann Hatfield – Grahek

Turbine Conversions, Ltd (TCL) partnered with Zanoni Equipamentos in 2019, the Brazilian leader in spray system production, to represent their line of stainless steel dispersal equipment in North America.

“Zanoni Equipamentos is a family run business built on innovative, quality products, it was logical we form a partnership.” commented Bill Hatfield President TCL.

“The past 30 years I have brought innovative new options to our ag aviation partners. I was impressed with the manufacturing quality of Zanoni and knew it would be another way we could support our partners in the industry. Mark Grahek, is taking the lead on this new product line. His experience with Hatfield Spraying and Turbine Conversions for the past 20+ years makes him the right man for the job.”

Mark Grahek shared, “After speaking with operators at both the 2019 Ag Aviation Expo in Orlando & the 2020 Canadian AAA Convention in Victoria, British Columbia, there was definitely interest in the Zanoni atomizer. We had tremendous positive feedback from operators that worked the atomizers during the 2020 season for mosquito control in North Carolina and Louisiana. But we wanted some empirical data that supported the testimonies. This data would assist in having the Zanoni atomizer be added as acceptable equipment in the Canadian and American forestry program’s RFQs.”

Mark had heard about the wind tunnel at the Pesticide Application Technology Lab (PAT) located at the University of Nebraska North Platte and decided to arrange testing on the atomizers. To obtain data required, Mark reached out to PAT director Dr. Greg Kruger to discuss the possibility of Turbine Conversions testing the Zanoni Atomizer in their wind tunnel. After several conference calls between Dr. Greg Kruger., Lucas Zanoni and Mark Grahek to set up the protocol, arrange for equipment donations (the atomizer being tested was donated to the college for their archive) and acquiring the Foray 76B (donated by Jaque Dugal – Valent) a test date of January 13, 2021 was set.

The Pesticide Application Technology Lab (PAT) is one of only 3 facilities in the world with the testing capabilities needed. The development of the PAT lab is due largely to innovations of Dr. Greg Kruger. Dr. Kruger has been the director since 2010. His predecessor, Bob Klein, had a laser set up to measure droplet sizes from 1970’s application research. Dr. Kruger, who claims to be basically a “Farm kid with a license to do research.” (he has a BS from Ohio State and a Masters from Purdue) thought that building a wind tunnel to work with the laser for drift research would increase the potential of the program.  Fortunately, at the same time Winfield and Wilbur Ellis were looking to sponsor research programs and liked the wind tunnel concept.

When the representatives from Winfield and Wilbur Ellis visited PAT they were shown a building that was built for hog research. After the crash of the pork market in the late 90’s, the unit had become a storage building. They could see through “the collection of stuff” and envision a wind tunnel. In 2011 after fifteen semi loads of “the stuff” was removed and pig sties torn down, the building was ready for the renovations; including heating, cooling, and lights. In early 2012 the facility was assembled and ready to start testing.

The PAT team manager, Jeff Golus, supervisor Barbara Vukoja and a group of international graduate students ran a series of tests over a two day period on the Zanoni Atomizer. The main objective was the characterization of Valent Foray 76B with the Zanoni atomizer in high speed wind.

Standard testing is completed with water. “Water is pretty accurate, we don’t see a lot of difference between water and material. But Bt is thick and heavy, affected by humidity, heat, time etc.” comments Dr. Kruger. Different blade angles, VRU settings and different flow settings were also tested.

The testing conducted at PAT demonstrated that the Zanoni M14 atomizers offer a safe, reliable and consistent application of Foray 76B. This technology stands as a new option for agricultural aviation contributing to the control of the spruce budworm and gypsy moth in North America, being one of many innovations brought by the Turbine-Zanoni partnership to the aerial spraying industry.

Dr. Kruger is well versed in the ag aviation industry and a great ally. Integrating his experiences working with international students and traveling the world sharing his expertise internationally with several visits to Brazil, Dr. Kruger shared, “Think of your nozzle/atomizer as a tool and determine what it has to deliver (droplet size) and pair with the application that is needed. The goal of the testing is that the tool delivers consistent droplet size and what size of droplet that it delivers. In Brazil one thing you see is that many of the applicators are using atomizers for field crops which is something you don’t see very often in North America. In the application of herbicides – the requirement of a larger droplet size to reduce drift and hit target makes an atomizer not the right tool for the job, which is a demand in field crops in the US. But in the application of fungicides and pesticides the atomizer is an effective tool because they benefit from the smaller droplet dispersal. This is where international cooperation of sharing information between peers is so important.”

The PAT conducts a combination of laboratory, greenhouse, and field drift trials along with greenhouse and field efficacy trials to understand how to best maximize efficacy from pesticides while minimizing the unintended effects from those applications. The low-speed wind tunnel is designed to better understand droplet size and drift potential. The PAT lab has helped educate applicators on making safer applications with less pesticide drift.

Early in 2021 Dr. Kruger accepted a position with BASF as North American Agronomist specializing in Digital Agriculture based in Raleigh, North Carolina and is passing the PAT to a new team. Even though he was on his way to his new challenge. Dr. Kruger returned to PAT to assist with the Zanoni Atomizer Study. He has left the PAT with an experienced capable staff so work can continue. Turbine Conversions will be returning to run additional testing later in 2021.


Close up of Zanoni Atomizer mounted.


2nd option of wind tunnel PAC facility.


PAT facility with attached green houses.


PAT manager Jeff Golus and supervisor Barbara Vukoja prep donated Valent Foray 76B for test.


Close up of Zanoni Atomizer ready for tests. Atomizer was donated to the PAT reference collection.


PAT team L to R – Manager Jeff Golus, Director Dr. Greg Kruger, Supervisor Barbara Vukoja.


Wind Tunnel after Bt testing. (pic 6 and pic 12 show a before and after wind tunnel).


PAT data collection control center.


Zanoni Atomizer mounted to wind tunnel ready for testing Atomizador Zanoni montado no túnel de vento pronto para teste.


Hartzell build the massive fan to simulate an ag aircraft in flight.


Jeff Golus setting up the lasers to collect data from the test.




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