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The right order

04/01/2013 @ 10:40am

You've likely heard the Las Vegas advertising catch phrase, “What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas.”  There's a twist on that line when it comes to mixing spray solutions. Mixed properly, pesticides, adjuvants, and drift-reduction additives pass flawlessly from the mixing vat and inductor into your sprayer and onto your crops. This minimizes field trips and off-target movement while maximizing pest control.

Or not.

What happens in your sprayer tank may not stay that way. “Anytime you put something in the tank, it changes the dynamics of the spray solution,” says Jim Reiss, vice president of agricultural chemistries at Precision Laboratories.

Remember the old compatibility test of the Mason jar and kitchen spoon? That's when farmers poured a sample of spray mix ingredients into a Mason jar and mixed it with a spoon. If the mix mimicked jelly or curdled milk, that meant it was added in the wrong order or was incompatible. If the mix and mixing order were right, the ideal form would range from milky white to clear or translucent.

Jelly recipe

Nowadays, applicators have swapped the Mason jar for mixing inductors that convey the mix to the spray tank. Unfortunately, compatibility testing is a lost art, says Reiss. Too many applicators just dump products into the inductor with sometimes terrible results.

Suppose you want to add a little zip to glyphosate in order to control some tough weeds in corn while minimizing drift. Here's the mix and the order of herbicides and adjuvants you pick:

  1. Roundup PowerMax
  2. AgriStar 2,4-D LV 4
  3. Atrazine 4L
  4. Border Xtra 8L

Since the glyphosate product, Roundup PowerMax, is the main product, you'd think that would be the first product in the inductor, right?

Wrong.

“It actually would look OK until you added it to water,” says Reiss, “Then it would start gelling as it entered the sprayer.”

Here is the right order:

  1. Atrazine 4L
  2. Border Xtra 8L
  3. Agri Star 2,4-D LV 4
  4. Roundup PowerMax

Adding chemicals separately is also key, since improperly mixed gelled products clog sprayers. “Inductors are meant to be giant funnels, not mixing vats,” points out Reiss.

What it costs you

Sprayer ownership has many advantages. “That way, I'm not waiting for someone else to do it,” says Scott Church, who farms with his son, Jared, near Catlin, Illinois. It enables you to get the most out of good weather conditions for spraying and to shut down during suboptimal weather.

However, sprayer ownership means mixing your own spray products. That's why the Churches have been working with Reiss and Chad Barnes, an Illini FS sales representative, to develop better spray mixes and to boost their spraying-season efficiency.

Improper mixes cost time and money. Reiss points to a Southern Illinois University analysis showing that a day of downtime at a 400-acre-per-day spray rate leads to lost revenues of $9,600. That assumes 2-inch daily weed growth that clips soybean yields by 2 bushels per acre at $12 per bushel. Higher prices mean heavier losses, Reiss adds.

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