Farm Ireland

Tuesday 12 December 2017

Get your sprayer in gear - a ten-step plan

It's essential to clean and decontaminate your sprayer before the new season
It's essential to clean and decontaminate your sprayer before the new season

Derek Casey's 10-step plan to optimising your spraying kit.

1 Safety first

Before you start, make sure you are wearing the proper personal protective equipment (PPE). Agrochemicals are extremely corrosive and can cause very bad burns on skin or through eye contact.  Check the tractor is switched off and you have the key in your pocket. Is the PTO guard up to scratch for another season?

2 Decontaminate

Long-term exposure to the many pesticides that pass through a sprayer can corrode the sprayer components. In addition, trace amount of pesticides lodged in the sprayer parts from last year can damage crops if carried over to spring. It is essential to clean and decontaminate your sprayer before the new season. Some farmers opt to power wash the inside of the tank - be sure to wear the proper PPE if doing so.

3 Rinsing

Remove the strainers and wash and rinse them thoroughly by hand with soapy water. Cleaning the sprayer properly involves circulating water through the whole system for an effective rinse. Several rinses using a small volume (about 10pc of the spray tank capacity) are more effective than just filling the spray tank once.

If using a detergent, make sure you drain the spray tank properly away from open water courses. Wash the outside of the tank as well.

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4 Tank and chassis

Take the time to inspect the overall sprayer body for any defects as well as the tank itself. Check the frame supporting the tank, particularly for rust and cracks. On basic sprayers, all boom forces (forward and back/up and down) will stress the chassis so watch for cracks. Check for tiny fissure cracks on plastic tanks. This is a reaction to UV rays from being left outside.

5 Pump

If the oil in the pump is a creamy colour, combined with failing pressures, then the pump may need expert attention and reconditioning. This can be easily identified by a sight glass fitted on most sprayers or by examining the dipstick. Remember, poor pressures can also be caused by a blocked valve or inlet pipe.

6 Nozzles

Before the season kicks off, check for wear on the nozzles. This is perhaps best identified by an uneven spray pattern. The easiest thing to do is to run the sprayer for a few minutes - this will quickly show the condition of the pump as well as the state of the nozzles.

If you don't know the history of the machine or you aren't happy with the pattern, it's better to replace all the nozzles.

7 Controls

Depending on the sprayer age and spec, the controls will either be manual or electric. Make sure all controls work properly with a test run. A useful tip here is that a spray of WD40 will drive out moisture and protect the control box.

8 Pipes and hoses

These are generally hard-wearing and, if minded, are not an issue. One thing to remember is to check for wear at points of friction where, for example, a pipe may be brushing against another, or at joints on the boom of the sprayer. In general though, pipes will not perish, even on old sprayers.

Hopefully, you have remembered to wash antifreeze through the sprayer over winter when it was idle. This prevents the pumps, pipes and controls from cracking in frost.

9 Boom structure

Check its condition. Too much play in the boom will mean poor distribution of chemical. Fold out the boom and measure the height of the boom at different points. Height difference should be less than +/- 60mm.

Check that the break-back mechanism is working - if it is seized, it can result in further damage in the event that another obstacle is hit. Make sure the boom pipes are firmly attached to the boom.

10 Certification

Finally, remember that under the Sustainable Use Directive, if your sprayer has a boom width greater than 3m you are obliged to have your machine inspected and certified. Sprayers have to be tested once every five years until 2020 and once every three years thereafter.

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