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Set Yourself Up for Spraying Success

MINNEAPOLIS, Mn. (July 10, 2024) — A successful spraying season can be one of the star players of a bumper crop year. To get the most out of your spraying window, get expert advice from Mark Duffing, application product manager at Ziegler Ag Equipment, an ag dealership serving growers in Minnesota, Iowa, Wisconsin and Missouri.
Preseason preparation
“These machines aren’t fine wines,” said Duffing. “They don’t get better with age, and they don’t appreciate in value, especially if you don’t take care of them.”
When it comes to preseason maintenance, preparation should start at the end of the previous season. Take some time to reflect on how your spray season went and identify things to take care of during the off-season.
“What went well, and what went poorly?” said Duffing. “Looking forward to the next season, what do you need to fix or update?”
After the last use of the season, avoid the urge to clean your machine right away. Instead, let the dust and dirt that sits on the machine help detect leaks that you wouldn’t be able to see if the machine were spotless. When evaluating your sprayer during this time, pay special attention to:
  • Potential kinks in the lines
  • Hoses that may be rubbing on the frame
  • Loose or defective clamps, fittings, or nozzle bodies
Scheduling a preventive maintenance inspection (PMI) with a local dealer can also help you proactively identify what repairs need to be completed before the next use.
Before putting your equipment into storage for the off-season, update any applicable controller software so you can get started right away in the spring. Topping the fuel tank off prior to storage can also help reduce any condensation that may form while the machine is not in use.
Daily maintenance
Once you’re in the field for the start of the next season, it’s important to be intentional with both equipment decisions and daily maintenance.
“We’ve got to make sure that we’re doing things right along the way because it’ll come back and burn us in the end if we don’t,” said Duffing.
Each morning, walk around your machine before you start spraying. During this walk-around:
  • Grease the machine, if necessary
  • Check tire pressure
  • Look for leaks, bends, or twists in the machine’s plumbing or leaking nozzles
  • Confirm there are no error codes in the controller
  • Perform any necessary calibrations
After a successful day of spraying in the field, Duffing recommends draining all the spray solution back into the tank and cleaning out your boom. Doing so will reduce the chance of leftover chemicals plugging the nozzles.
“Taking care of things at the end of each day ensures that you can start with your best foot forward,” said Duffing.
Tips and nozzles
After ensuring the sprayer itself is in good condition, it’s time to evaluate which set of nozzles and tips will be most appropriate for the day’s job. When setting up the sprayer, consider:
  • What kind of crop you’ll be treating
  • Which chemical you’re spraying
  • Application rate
  • Spray pressure
  • Travel speed
  • Spray drift risk
There are many tips and nozzles available that can help you be the most successful, given your specific goals and conditions.
“If you go to the app store and type in ‘spray nozzle calculator,’ there are multiple options available for download that can help make your tip selection a lot easier based on what you’re trying to do,” said Duffing.
In addition to specific tip selection, it’s important to be mindful about how many acres you’re spraying with your tips.
“Tips do wear out when we’re spraying pesticides and crop nutrients through them,” said Duffing. “The rule of thumb is approximately 30,000 acres on a set of tips before we should replace them.”
 Chemical control
Once you’re out in the field spraying, one of the biggest concerns is the risk of drift. Wind is obviously the biggest cause of chemical drift, but there are multiple ways to help reduce the risk. These include:
  • Keep the nozzle as close to the target as possible
  • Drop the boom down in the early growth stage (the higher the boom, the higher the chance for drift)
  • Consider purchasing low-drift nozzles
  • Trust your gut
“If you’re questioning whether the wind is too strong to spray, don’t spray,” said Duffing. “If you’re unsure if you’re going to be able to control your drift, the smartest thing to do is to wait until that doubt is gone.”
Reading the label for each chemical and talking to an agronomist prior to spraying are also good ways to help mitigate any potential damage.
Additional resources
There are many resources that can help you make the most out of your spraying season.
“Your first line of tech support nowadays is the internet,” said Duffing. “Online forums like AgTalk and Facebook groups such as Professional Custom Applicators Association and Custom Applicators Forum are a great way to connect and discuss sprayer topics with other farmers directly.”
Manufacturers’ websites are also home to useful product information, while industry leaders like Ziegler Ag Equipment and AGCO maintain YouTube channels with informative videos. You can visit the Ziegler YouTube channel for specific videos on sprayers and applicators.
Dealerships can also be a great troubleshooting resource should any problems arise. Every operation is different, and they can offer tailored advice to help you get the most of your spraying season.
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