Five things you can do to increase sprayer efficiency
We all know that good agronomy is all about timing. From seeding to pest management to harvest, getting a job done at the right time is necessary to preserve yield and crop quality. Looking at it another way, good agronomy is as much being prepared to do something as it is knowing what needs to be done.
In the sprayer business, we often talk about the right way to spray. We’re looking for the correct water volume or spray quality, perhaps a specialty nozzle, to get the job done in the best way possible. And that’s obviously important. But in emphasizing these, we risk relegating the timing aspect as a secondary concern. As a result, we might do an excellent job spraying, but, alas, at the wrong time.
How do we ensure good spray timing? By being productive. That means being able to get a job done quickly, ahead of bad weather, or when the task load is heavy. Here are the top five recommendations for improving the efficiency of the spray job:
- Do a time accounting. It sounds boring, and that’s probably why nobody does it. It simply means making notes of how time is spent on a spray day. Let’s assume the weather is good and the crop is ready. If you’re not applying product, what are you doing instead? Are you picking up product from your retailer? Are you scouting the field? Are you filling the tender truck, or loading the sprayer on a flatbed and struggling with the tiedowns? Perhaps you’re on the field, but filling, cleaning, adjusting, repairing, record keeping. Write it down. Soon you’ll have a much better idea of how much spray time you’ve spent on other tasks, and you’ll be able to adjust your habits and squeeze more spray time out of the day.
- Invest in the largest time users first. Look at your time accounting list. If you’re driving the sprayer back to the yard to fill, you could be spending most of your spray day on the road. Even if you use a tender truck, make it worthwhile by filling as fast as possible. A good pump and induction system can reduce fill times to 10 minutes for a 1200 gallon tank. A pre-mixed transfer can be done in four. A neat idea by one farmer was to place tanks in the corners of some of his outlying fields, and keep them full of water. This saved time for re-filling, and didn’t require a tender truck.
- Don’t dismiss the little things. After tackling filling and cleaning improvements, you may feel that the rest is comparatively unimportant. But it still adds up. How do you check for plugged nozzles, or deal with them when you found them? Are you using boom section remotes, or flow sensors? Do you ever misjudge your remaining volume in the tank and fill up one round early to be safe, or run out? You might be a candidate for a more accurate tank volume measuring system like the AccuVolume.
- Invest in very low-drift nozzles. Windy conditions have done the most to prevent timeliness. Most nozzle manufacturers now have a new generation of Ultra Coarse nozzles. Check for the TeeJet TTI, the Hypro ULDM, the Greenleaf TDXL-D, or the Wilger DR or UR. These nozzles permit spraying under windier conditions without increasing drift risk. Of course, there are worries about coverage. With a bit more water volume, noticeable performance losses can be minimized.
- Commit to an off-season project. Some sprayer improvements require more than a few days that the sprayer is idle. Installing a new, wider boom, converting to a recirculating plumbing system, installing a continuous rinse system, or creating the ideal tender truck setup takes time to do it right, to test and improve.
Remember, productivity isn’t about driving faster. It’s about spending more time driving.