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Sponsored: Spruce up Your Sprayer for Successful Application

Accurate herbicide application requires equipment maintenance before hitting the field

Control. If you own your own sprayer, that’s what you have. Whether it’s new or you’ve had it for years, your sprayer should be in top condition before heading into the field.

Start by reading the manual

Any sprayer, old or new, will perform better if you check it over in detail before heading into the field. The best way to ensure success: Review the owner’s manual and follow the recommendations.

“With the type of investment producers have in their sprayer and the importance of accurate application to beat resistant weeds, not reading the manual to fully understand the machine is probably one of the poorest choices you could make,” says Andy Asbury, Enlist™ field specialist with Dow AgroSciences. “Equally important in controlling tough weeds is reading labels for new products such as Enlist Duo herbicide.”

The sprayer manual will lead you – or your farm employees – through a top-to-bottom inspection of your sprayer whether it’s a pull-type machine or a self-propelled model. It’s vital to understand all the ins and outs of how your sprayer works. Brush up on the electronics, particularly how to set the rate control and change the application rate.

On machines that have been in the field for a couple of years or more, be sure to check for cracks or wear. Ensure everything is tight to reduce vibration that can lead to poor performance. Wear and vibration can be symptoms of serious mechanical issues. Consider scheduling a preseason checkup at your equipment dealer.

Never neglect the nozzles

Never overlook sprayer nozzles. The most common causes of inconsistent spray patterns are nozzle tips with different fan angles on the boom, uneven boom heights and clogged nozzles.

“How the chemical is placed on the target is as important as the amount applied,” Asbury explains. “Follow the manufacturer’s recommendations to select nozzles that will give you the best coverage for the job ahead. Know which types of nozzles are on your sprayer and whether or not their patterns need to be overlapped for complete coverage.”

Make sure nozzles are clear. Even partially clogged nozzles can change both the flow rate and pattern. Never use a pin, knife or other metal object to unclog nozzles. This can damage the nozzle. It’s helpful to replace rubber diaphragms on top of the nozzle every year to prevent drips and wasted chemical.

Since all nozzles wear over time, check the spray pattern and volume of each. Examine the spray pattern carefully for variations across the boom. If you can’t do a catch test to check nozzles, it usually pays to replace them regularly. Replacement is cheap insurance compared with the cost of wasted crop protection products, ineffective control or the consequences of unintended off-target movement. 

Check the boom

Proper spray overlap starts with the proper boom height based on the sprayer’s nozzle spacing. Check both the herbicide label and the nozzle manufacturer’s recommendations to match herbicide application requirements with boom height and nozzle choice. 

Get the pressure right

Consistent spray pressure creates consistent application rate, droplet size and spray pattern. Check your sprayer’s pressure. If it’s too low, the spray pattern won’t overlap, causing streaks. Too much pressure increases the number of drift-prone droplets.

Calibrate, calibrate, calibrate

“Applying chemicals with a sprayer that’s not calibrated and operated accurately is a recipe for poor control of weeds, insects, diseases and, in turn, reduced yield,” Asbury says. “Calibrate several times during the application season, not just the first time out.” Make sure the machine is measuring distance accurately, that each boom section is calculating the correct number of acres and that the flow meter is spot-on when calculating gallons applied.

Prepare for repairs

During spray season, you can’t afford downtime. Check and restock your inventory of common parts like extra nozzle bodies, tips and hose clamps. Gather commonly needed tools – such as a utility knife, pliers, nut driver, wire and zip ties – and keep them in a small toolbox just for the sprayer. Machine parts like hoses, belts and filters should be on your spring stock-up list, as well.

In season, keep it clean

A clean sprayer is essential for preventing damage to susceptible crops from herbicide contamination in the spray tank as well as for proper application. Sprayers should be cleaned as soon as possible after use to prevent the formation of deposits of dried spray residue. Don’t let a sprayer sit overnight without cleaning.

“Once nozzles are clogged, it is really tough to bring them back so that they operate like when they were clean and new,” Asbury says.

Postseason, protect your investment

Once application season is over, it’s equally important to make sure your sprayer is clean inside and out. Go through your sprayer top to bottom before parking it for winter. This helps protect your investment from freeze damage.

Thoroughly clean and drain the entire spray system from pump to hoses. Replace damaged and worn parts to get a jump on spring maintenance. Remove, clean, dry and store nozzles in a dry container. Change fluid and filters. Clean the cab. Lubricate moving parts and check and disconnect the electrical systems. Remove the battery and store in a heated area. Store the machine inside. Snow, ice, rain and ultraviolet rays can damage paint, hoses and other components.

Your crop protection resource

With the introduction of the Enlist™ weed control system, Enlist™ field specialists are working diligently to help growers understand the ins and outs of proper application, providing growers the support needed to optimize weed control and minimize unintended crop injury.

For more information about the Enlist system or product application, contact your local ag retailer, Dow AgroSciences sales representative or Enlist field specialist. Visit for valuable information, such as the Enlist™ herbicides product use guide and label.

®™ Trademark of The Dow Chemical Company (“Dow”) or E. I. du Pont de Nemours and Company (“DuPont”) or affiliated companies of Dow or DuPont. Enlist Duo® and Enlist One™ herbicides are not registered for sale or use in all states or counties. Contact your state pesticide regulatory agency to determine if a product is for sale or use in your area. Enlist Duo and Enlist One herbicides are the only 2,4-D products authorized for use in Enlist crops. Always read and follow label directions. ©2018 Dow AgroSciences LLC.

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