Proper maintenance for field sprayers

Looking to save time, headaches and money? Proper maintenance and use of field sprayers can be your saving grace. Sprayer cleaning is a critical component of maintenance that will prolong the life of the sprayer, prevent unnecessary and costly repairs and help to eliminate crop injury from contamination. While proper cleaning in preparation for winter is important, it is also critical to clean the sprayer throughout the spraying season.

Thorough sprayer cleanout is important following all pesticide applications, and especially after the use of growth-regulator herbicides such as 2,4-D or dicamba products. These types of herbicides have systemic activity and are very selective, even at extremely low rates. If the tank is not properly cleaned after use, small amounts of the growth-regulator herbicides can remain in boom lines or on the walls or bottom of the tank. Crop injury can occur even after several months of storage if other herbicides or adjuvants dissolve the residue in the new sprayer mix. A crop with moderate damage will suffer both delayed maturity and reduced yields. Leaf cupping is one sign of injury from sprayer contamination from growth-regulator herbicides.

Sprayers should be cleaned as soon as possible after use. Leaving the spray solution in the sprayer for long periods of time allows the herbicide mixtures to dry within the tank. This increases the difficulty of contaminant removal. Some pesticides can even cause the equipment to deteriorate over long periods of time.

Here are a few guidelines for properly cleaning a sprayer.

Mix only the amount of pesticide required, and apply the entire contents on the field as directed on the label. Dispose of any excess spray by applying it to an approved crop according to label directions.

Thoroughly rinse sprayer tank with water, circulate the water through the sprayer system and, if possible, apply rinsate on the treated field. Do not rinse it down a drain as this can contaminate well or groundwater. Many products will require a triple rinse of the spray equipment to get a thorough clean.

Fill the sprayer half full of water then add the recommended cleaning agent as directed on the herbicide label. If a cleaning agent is not recommended on the label, add a mixture of water and detergent to the spray tank. For best results, let the solution sit in the sprayer several hours, or overnight.

Be sure to rinse out the entire spray system with fresh water.

Always refer to the herbicide label for specific information on the recommended cleaning agent, protective clothing required and proper cleaning procedures.

Sprayers are important equipment for pesticide and nutrient applications. By properly using and storing a field sprayer, you can increase the life of the sprayer, save time by eliminating repairs and most importantly, save money in the long run.