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An Automated Delivery System for Therapeutic Materials Using Needle-Based Trunk Injection to Treat HLB Affected Citrus

Published by the American Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineers, St. Joseph, Michigan

Citation:  2022 ASABE Annual International Meeting  2200615.(doi:10.13031/aim.202200615)
Authors:   Israel Ojo, Vinay Vijayakumar, Yiannis Ampatzidis, Ozgur Batuman, Sanju Kunwar, Ute Albrecht, Leigh Archer, Fernando Alferez, Haimanote Bayabil, John K. Schueller
Keywords:   Bactericide, therapeutic delivery, trunk injection, HLB.

Abstract. The biggest threat to the $9 billion citrus industry in Florida is the bacterial disease known as Huanglongbing (HLB) or citrus greening. The most common methods for applying liquid agrochemicals to manage HLB in agricultural fields are foliar sprays and soil drenches. These techniques are often accompanied by off-target losses and have not proven effective for HLB management. Chemotherapy by intravascular trunk injection is an alternative method that increases chemotherapy efficiency without compromising environmental safety. In this project, trunk injection efficiency is improved by using a multi-puncture approach, which does not require a drill and minimizes the duration of application and wounding. The prototype uses a “punching” action from two opposing pneumatic cylinders mounted on a pneumatically actuated retractable arm mounted onto a farm vehicle. The pneumatic cylinders move an aluminum manifold with two pencil point stainless steel needles (Gauge 12) on each side to inject the therapeutic material. Experiments were conducted on field-grown citrus trees of varying ages (6 to 8 years old). Different needle lengths (6 mm and 19 mm), sizes (Gauge 12 and 14), different needle arrangements (4 on each side or 2 on each side of the manifold), and different forces (0.45 kN-1kN) for punching and fluid injection pressure (100-160 psi) were compared. The movement of the liquid was visualized using Rhodamine dye, and the current prototype was compared with a recommended Arborjet injection device. Compared to the Arborjet system that uses drilled holes combined with a plastic plug (16 mm deep; 7 mm diameter), the current prototype resulted in significantly less tree wounding due to the smaller holes.

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