Nozzle technology holds the key to sprayer performance
They may not sound exciting but it's the developments in nozzles over the last two decades that hold some of the greatest potential for farmers to improve the performance of their sprayers, according to Teagasc machinery specialist, Dermot Forristal.
While the basic sprayer function has not changed in recent years, and GPS technology has the potential to make spraying more efficient, it's nozzle design that holds the most promise for farmers looking for cost-effective ways to get the most out of their sprayer.
The sprayer nozzle tip is the most important component of the sprayer because it determines the rate of product application, how evenly it is applied, and the droplet size distribution that is produced.
This affects how much of the product hits the target plant, and how much is prone to drift. The latter is a big issue, since it can result in uneven spray application on the crop, damage to adjacent crops and habitats if it hits water courses or other sensitive areas.
The biggest determinant of drift is the size of droplets produced by the nozzle, wind conditions at the time of spraying and the height of the sprayer boom.
In the past, nozzle size and pressure were the main focus for reducing drift. Larger nozzles operated at lower pressures are capable of producing reasonably large droplets that were less prone to drift.
The 'brown' 05 standard nozzle at three bar working pressure produces medium-sized droplets, but requires a quite high application rate of 200-250l/ha. With growers trying to reduce spray volumes to 100-150l/ha, the focus has shifted to nozzles that can give low drift even at these lower application rates.