Farm Ireland

Monday 18 December 2017

New sprayer rules have many pluses

The sprayer regulations regime will mean more red tape but it will also improve prices for second-hand machines

Spec: Kevin Nolan's impressive 30m Horsch Leeb sprayer with 6,000 litre tank capacity has a range of features to boost output.
Spec: Kevin Nolan's impressive 30m Horsch Leeb sprayer with 6,000 litre tank capacity has a range of features to boost output.
Sprayer inspections will look at pump and nozzle outputs to ensure they are within ISO standards.
Derek Casey

Derek Casey

From next year on, the world of sprayers is going to be considerably more regulated. The additional red tape will come as part of the introduction of the Sustainable Use of Pesticides Directive by the Department of Agriculture.

This directive states that by November 2016, all boom sprayers greater than 3m and all blast and orchard sprayers 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.

But how many operators will the new rules affect? The Farm Tractor and Machinery Trade Association estimates that there are around 40,000 sprayers currently in use in the country.

The bulk of these will either be tractor-mounted or trailed sprayers, with a very small number of self-propelled sprayers in the mix as well. 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.

While the new regulations will certainly add red tape to the sector, there are some positives that shouldn't be overlooked.

Apart from the obvious environmental benefits that will come from properly calibrated and serviced sprayers, industry sources expect a sort of "NCT effect" on sprayers that have a fresh cert.

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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 for another five years until 2020 or three years thereafter.

This should improve the quality of good secondhand sprayers on the market as those machines not up to the standard fall out of circulation.

One man who isn't losing much sleep over the new sprayer inspection rules is Carlow man Kevin Nolan, the reigning Zurich Farming Independent Farmer of the Year.

The 35-year-old has built up a cereal enterprise of more than 1,000ac of cereals on mostly leased land in and around the parish of Bennekerry near Carlow town.

En route to winning the top award last year Mr Nolan impressed judges with his use of technology, from GPS systems for spraying to a lively Facebook page, to drive the expansion of his business.

And it seems his appetite for using the most cutting edge technology has continued into 2015, with the recent purchase of an impressive new Horsch GS 6000 30m trailed sprayer from Kelly's of Borris.

"I think people might be worrying a little too much over the new sprayer certification rules," revealed Mr Nolan.

"If the machine is in good working order and if you maintain it properly from year to year I think the vast majority of farmers will have nothing to worry about. Those with newer machines will obviously find it easier to pass the inspections, but there are lots of clean second hand sprayers that will have no issues either.

"Those with older machines can go through a check list to see what they have to repair before the inspection. Yes it adds a few more forms to fill out and another layer of red tape, but by and large the rules are there for the good of the crops and environment. At the end of the day, a well maintained sprayer will only improve your crop yields."

Crop yields are certainly something that Mr Nolan knows about.

He regularly achieves winter barley yields in excess of 12t/ha, and is a serial award winner having also scooped the 2009 Syngenta sprayer operator of the year title.

His most recent machinery addition didn't come in light of the new sprayer inspection rules, but rather from a desire to improve output and widen the window of work available for spraying.

After researching a few different machines, Mr Nolan narrowed his choice down to a shortlist of Amazone, John Deere and Horsch, three brands that he has a lot of respect for.

In the end, however, he felt the new Horsch Leeb sprayer and the proximity of local dealer Kelly's of Borris for backup would allow him to achieve his targets through a number of high specification features, including:

l A 6,000 litre capacity tank with additional 520 litre clean water tank;

lLED lights on each nozzle to show up fans in night-time spraying;

l Water jets to wash the lights on each turn;

lAn auto nozzle switch and extra nozzles to allow spraying at half normal height;

lGPS system for accurate application;

l Automatic height control and air suspension axle;

lAir flushed lines after spraying to leave the boom lines clean and free of residue;

lAn hydraulically operated pump so a PTO shaft isn't required, improving machine safety;

lShod on special 650/85 R38 spraying tyres.


Having worked his new sprayer a few times now Mr Nolan has seen a big pick up in output.

"The first day I went out with it I managed to spray 97ac in an hour and 12 minutes - not bad going for day one!" he joked.

"I've been spraying since I was 14 years old and since then each time I've changed sprayer it has been to a more efficient model.

"This was a big investment but a really important issue for me is family time; I much prefer to have the right machine available when I want it so that I can do the job faster and spend more time with my wife and kids.

"So far I have been averaging about 80ac per hour, which is some jump from the sprayers I started out with."

Asked if he ever considered going down the self-propelled route, Mr Nolan says he doesn't think it would suit him because he already has tractors that may as well be put to use spraying anyway.

He currently uses a John Deere 6630 for spraying work because it offers the right mix of power and handling for the Horsch. "Self propelled sprayers have a role for sure, but I think they are more suited to dedicated spraying contractors who don't need tractors for other jobs on the farm," he said.

Safety was a key consideration in Mr Nolan's choice of new sprayer. Features such as a reversing camera on the back of the sprayer and a hydraulically operated pump will reduce the potential for accidents.

"I think you will see more machines going PTO-less in the future because of the inherent risks associated with them," he said.

"The reversing camera is a reassurance for the driver because you have a good size screen in the tractor cab to keep an eye on things. For a 30m boom I feel you probably need it."

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