Get to grips with sprayer maintenance
The maintenance of sprayers is going to become more tightly regulated with the introduction of the SUD
Published 13/04/2016 | 02:30
From next winter the maintenance of sprayers is going to become more tightly regulated. The additional red tape comes as part of the introduction of the Sustainable Use of Pesticides Directive (SUD) by the Department of Agriculture.
The directive states that by November 2016, all boom sprayers greater than 3m will need to have been tested and certified by a registered inspector at least once.
If your sprayer doesn't meet the required standard in terms of safety and application it will either have to be repaired or decommissioned.
The SUD will affect a huge amount of farmers because sprayers are a very common implement on the farm.
In fact, the Farm Tractor and Machinery Trade Association estimates that there are around 40,000 sprayers currently in use in Ireland.
That figure comprises a vast majority that will either be tractor mounted or trailed sprayers, with a very small number of self-propelled sprayers in the mix.
Regardless of output capacity, once your sprayer has a boom width greater than 3m you are obliged to have your machine inspected.
Sprayers will have to be tested once every five years until 2020 and once every three years thereafter. Support from the machinery industry and your local sprayer agent is available in the form of pre and post-test repairs as well as the actual sprayer testing itself.
The good news is that the industry at large has been preparing for the new sprayer rules over the past year.
For example, the distributors of the popular Hardi brand of sprayers, IAM in Kilkenny, have invested in the necessary sprayer testing equipment and staff training required for advising farmers.
John Heatherington (pictured below) from IAM's service department has successfully completed the required training courses, and is now officially listed as an Approved Pesticides Equipment Inspector for the whole of Ireland.
Mr Heatherington has a vast amount of experience on Hardi technical related issues, and he thinks most farmers will have little to worry about in terms of the SUD directive.
"From what I have seen in my time working with sprayer operators in Ireland the vast majority will pass the test without any additional repair work required.
"For those who do fall short, I would say the two biggest pitfalls will be tank leaks and pump failures. In the run up to the test my advice to operators is just to get the basics right - make sure you have the obvious things in place like proper PTO guards, repairing leaking tanks, replacing worn pumps and replacing sprayer nozzles. If those boxes are ticked the test won't be a problem for you."
In terms of logistics, IAM will be asking operators to bring sprayers to their premises for testing and it is expected most test centres will take a similar approach.
This will make it easier to carry out repairs to any sprayers that do need work in order to navigate the test. At successful passing the sprayer operator will be issued with a completed test report form.
The inspector will also fix a uniquely numbered sticker to the machine stating that the machine has passed the test, as well as the date of the test.
It is expected that a copy of the test report form will be sought by the Department of Agriculture for verification and compliance purposes.
Similar moves have been made by all of the other big names in sprayer brands so be sure to contact your local dealer for advice if you are cagey about whether or not your sprayer is fit to pass the new standards.
While the new regulations add a layer of red tape, there are some sizeable positives associated with keeping your sprayer in good condition that shouldn't be overlooked.
Apart from the obvious environmental benefits that will come from properly calibrated and serviced sprayers, machinery industry sources expect an "NCT effect" to kick in on sprayers that gain a fresh SUD certificate.
As in the car industry, sprayers that pass the inspection are expected to gain value as they are certified as being in good working order. This should improve the quality of good second hand sprayers on the market as resale values of certified sprayers improve.
Needless to say, no one enjoys a financial outlay and it would be misleading to suggest the new rules won't incur extra costs. However, increased productivity and agrochemical efficiency, as well as improved machine reliability and resale value, means the test cost of around €150 to €200 (depending on sprayer size) should pay for itself.
Another benefit comes in the form of improved sprayer efficacy and accuracy; with improved boom and nozzle maintenance, operators can feel more confident that they are using expensive pesticides most efficiently.
It's about getting the chemicals exactly where they're needed and in the appropriate droplet size, with minimal money-wasting excess.
For contractors, a test certificate will indicate to farmer customers your adherence to best practice procedures and reflect favourably on your professionalism.