Farm Ireland

Saturday 18 November 2017

Testing times for sprayers

As the spraying season begins, we look at what's involved in the new sprayer 'NCT' test

Teagasc experts estimate that a farmer working 180ha of cereals will apply over €40,000 of sprays annually onto crops worth €270,000.
Teagasc experts estimate that a farmer working 180ha of cereals will apply over €40,000 of sprays annually onto crops worth €270,000.
Neil Butterly
Darragh McCullough

Darragh McCullough

While ground conditions are still poor in many parts of the country, many crops are overdue their first fungicide and herbicide sprays of 2016.

But before the sprayer can be taken into the field, farmers need to make sure that they are in good working order. Not only is it an important way to ensure that they are getting good value for money from the chemicals in the tank, but new regulations now oblige farmers to ensure that their machines are fit to pass a test often referred to as the NCT for sprayers.

Every sprayer over five years old must be certified by a recognised tester before November 2016. It is estimated that up to 40,000 Irish farmers own sprayers that are subject to these requirements.

The test has been introduced to comply with the new Sustainable Use Directive rules from the EU.

While it is effectively another layer of paperwork from Europe, it is also something that any farmer should pass with flying colours if they are taking their crops seriously. Teagasc's machinery specialist, Tom Ryan, estimates that a 180ha cereal farmer is applying €41,000 of sprays annually onto crops worth €270,000.

"Even a 100ac spring barley grower typically applies more than €6,000 of product through a sprayer annually," he said.

Any sprayer over 3m in width, and more than five years old, needs to be tested every five years. After 2023, the test will become compulsory every three years.

So what's involved? Really it's the basic checks that the farmer should be doing on his sprayer every year. The only difference in the test is that someone is being paid to do it. North Dublin machinery dealer and registered tester, Neil Butterly (pictured below) says that the going rate in his area is €10/m. So for a 21m sprayer, that works out at €210. Farmers should note that every nozzle on the sprayer must be tested, so those with triple nozzle-holders would face a charge of €30/m.

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"That's just the way it is - it takes three times the amount of time to do," explained Mr Butterly.

The main things that will be examined during the test are:


References for the amount that each nozzle should be applying per minute at a given pressure is available both online and from nozzle suppliers.

"Testers are obliged to use a two litre graduated cylinder for this - two litres to ensure that you can cope with every kind of setting, and cylindrical because this gives the most accurate readings," said Mr Butterly.

"A lot of my customers don't even bother testing old sets of nozzles. At €1.50 per flat fan nozzle, they just routinely change them every year."

However, with nozzles such as the air injected IDK types costing up to €7 each, farmers may be more inclined to test and get as much as possible out of their investment.

IDK nozzles create heavier droplets that increase spray windows in breezy conditions by as much as 20pc.

"If any of the nozzles are pulsing, there's a problem with your pump or filters," said Mr Butterly.

Testers will also test the pressure that the nozzles are working at. Again this will be determined by how well the pump is working. Boom, Lights, filters and gauges

The boom must be straight, as shown in the photo far right, without any bow that can often creep into older booms. In addition, the breakback for the outer section must be working (pictured left), and the distance between each nozzle should be uniform, which may be relevant for those who have added on additional nozzles on the ends of their booms. All lights, filters and gauges must also be fully operational.

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