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16 steps to better spraying

Kacey Birchmier Updated: 02/05/2014 @ 4:03pm Agronomy & Conservation Editor for Successful Farming and Agriculture.com. I grew up on a fourth-generation farm in central Iowa. Follow me on twitter - @KaceyBirchmier.

Here’s what you can do to optimize efficiency and to minimize off-target drift during the 2014 season.

1. Read the Label

Chemical manufacturers are starting to specify droplet size on product labels.

“As more and more chemical manufacturers start incorporating more information into the label, it will be critical that you study the label in detail,” says Bob Wolf, co-owner of Wolf Consulting and Research.

Reading the label gives you information required for optimal pest control. The label also contains information to curb off-target movement.

2. Think About Spray Nozzles

You are faced with the challenge of selecting proper nozzles, ones that provide necessary spray coverage to kill the targeted pest yet minimize drift.

“We commonly think it’s a good idea to have small droplets to get better coverage, and oftentimes in the real world, we’re working in environmental scenarios. Those smaller droplets will drift,” says Wolf.

Small drops give better coverage to control your pest target.

“The challenge then to the application is to get those droplets into the target area and not have them move off target,” he says.

Fortunately, there are nozzles built and engineered to reduce drift.

3. Pick the Best Nozzle

Visit our website at Agriculture.com/sprayer to see a rundown of several nozzles that can reduce off-target movement while giving good pest control.

4. Use a Pattern Check

What does a spray-pattern check do? It checks your spray pattern, obviously!

One tool is the Redball Pattern Check, which tests the pattern with the sprayer holding water. You place the pattern check on the ground and spray on top of it. When it’s held up, the pattern is revealed. Through the pattern check, you can confirm that you have the proper nozzle spacing and boom height.

5. Look for Proper Pattern-Check Alignment

The pattern check shows that proper spacing and the proper height above the target can boost spray-pattern uniformity.

If a nozzle is out of whack, the tool indicates it by a misaligned red ball.

“You need to correct that immediately,” says Wolf. “Nozzle blockage can prevent the sprayer pattern from being as uniform as it could be.”

An ideal spray pattern should have all the balls at the same height across the Redball Pattern Check.

“It’s probably impossible to have a completely level spray, but something reasonably level should be accomplished,” says Wolf.

So what harm does a faulty nozzle cause? You’ll see spotty pesticide coverage. Weed streaks across the field are a dead giveaway. Ditto for disease streaks after you’ve applied a fungicide. Chewed-up or dying spots across a field after an insect application are giveaways, too.

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