Eight Steps to Successful Sprayer Applications

Sprayer nozzles ( Sonja Begemann )

In the hustle and bustle of the season, don’t forget to take critical steps to ensure sprayer safety for not only your crops, but you as well. From nozzle tips, to clean out there is much to remember about your sprayer—here are a few steps to get you off on the right foot.

Each year, farmers spend greater than $4 billion on pesticides—and waste from improper application or clogs in the sprayer can quickly cut into your bottom line.

“Spray application requires more managerial decisions than any other farm operation because a lot of things could go wrong with a sprayer that you don’t know are going on,” says Erdal Ozkan, agricultural engineering professor at Ohio State University Extension and the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center.

Here are a few tips from Ozkan and other experts to make sure your sprayer is ready to go:

  1. Double check your nozzles—are they the right ones for your sprayer? Are they clogged? Do you know their spray pattern and are they working effectively?
  2. Watch for non-uniform spray patterns from nozzle tips with different angles on the boom or uneven boom height. This can cause streaks in the field.
  3. Make sure boom height matches label requirements and nozzle spacing to achieve uniform coverage and to lessen your risk or drift.
  4. If you don’t have rate control watch your speed. Speeding up could cause you to under-apply, while slowing down could cause over-application—either way you’re out money.
  5. Pay attention to spray pressure and make sure it’s in line with label specifications as it effects droplet size.
  6. Mind wind speed—even on pesticides that aren’t known for being prone to drift. The label should provide guidance for when it’s acceptable to spray.
  7. Periodically calibrate your sprayer.
  8. Thoroughly clean out your sprayer when changing chemicals, when it is going to sit for a period of time and at the end of the day. This can help prevent cross contamination into other fields—which could cause damage.

Most importantly, follow label guidelines. Each pesticide has different risks and requirements, be familiar with those to avoid potential errors that could lead to you or a neighbor experiencing crop loss. Labels provide information from nozzle tips, to ground speed, to cleanout requirements that must be followed.

“Everybody has made mistakes when they haven’t gotten things rinsed out well enough,” says Jeremy Hurt, Apache ET Works Senior Application Specialist. “Chemicals and crop input costs right now are really expensive, so it’s not bad to be self-conscious about doing it right.”