Trailed field sprayer start-up tips

Dr. Jason S.T. Deveau, Application Technology Specialist, OMAF and MRA; Mr. Brian Henderson, Sales Representative, HYPRO/SHURflo; Mr. Murray Thiessen – Consulting Agricultural Mechanic; Helmut Spieser, Engineer, OMAF and MRA

You should plan for half-a-day per sprayer for your start-up routine. It may not take that long, but pressure gauges snap off, fittings crack, and bearings seize – have a plan for getting replacement parts! Here are a few bulleted tips for you to consider as you get your sprayers rolling for the 2013 season.

  • Visual inspection, general cleaning and lubrication. Do an operational check of the sight gauge (it should not be opaque), regulator and valves. Inspect the frame for corrosion, broken welds or loose bolts – it might even need a paint job. Test the hitch integrity, check safety chains and tighten tank mounts, too. Be sure to clean and lubricate the power take-off telescoping shafts and the shields. Wheels bearings, lug bolts, wheel rims, tires should be inspected and tire pressure should be adjusted. An article on wheel maintenance can be found here: http://www.omafra.gov.on.ca/english/crops/hort/news/hortmatt/2012/30hrt12a2.htm
  • Pump Maintenance. One of the most common causes for faulty pump performance is “gumming” or corrosion inside the pump. You should get into the habit of flushing the pump and the entire system with a solution that will chemically neutralize whatever you sprayed that day. This will dissolve most residues remaining in the pump and will also leave the inside of the pump clean for the next use.

Diaphragm Pumps

Hypro recommends changing oil after 40 hours of break-in operation and every 500 hours after that. Diaphragms should be replaced every 500 hours and check valves should be replaced every 1,000 hours. Generally Speaking, EPDM (Black Diaphragms) are a better choice for airblast sprayers while the Desmopan (Amber Diaphragms) are a better choice for lawn care or field sprayers.

Centrifugal Pumps

Corrosion is the biggest concern. When you winterized your sprayer, you should have cleaned it and flushed it with a 50% solution of permanent-type automobile antifreeze (Prestone® , Zerex® , etc.) containing a rust inhibitor. Alternately, you could have filled the pump with Fluid Film® and then drained and saved the excess for the next application. The ports should have been plugged to keep out air during storage.

  • Flush the lines. If they aren’t already off, remove the nozzles, strainers and filters. Run a few tanks of clean water through the system with the agitation running. This is when rust, scale, anti-freeze and who-knows-what-else breaks free of the sprayer tank and lines. Run them until the discharge is clear, then clean and replace the nozzles, strainers and filters. (One suggestion is to flush the boom one section at a time to get good flow.
  • Search for leaks. With the tank full, check it for leaks. Get the sprayer up to pressure and look for wet areas on all hoses and connections. If your booms drain through the nozzles when the boom is off, consider new nozzle bodies with diaphragm check-valves.
  • Check your strainers and filters. If you don’t already have three levels of filtration (including the tank-opening basket) then consider individual strainers before the nozzles. If you don’t use them because they plug up, individual boom section strainers will serve the same function as nozzle screens. A build-up of  sludge at the bottom of your tank is an indication that your pesticide is not mixed or staying suspended properly. That leads to clogged strainers and nozzles. It may also be your sprayer hygiene: You should be washing nozzles and strainers after each spray day.
  • Are you sure your pressure gauges are accurate? The relief valve should always be in the by-pass position during sprayer start up. If you get a pressure spike during start-up and the needle buries, then the gauge will always read high and must be replaced. An opaque, leaking, fluttering or otherwise old gauge should be replaced. Consider purchasing a good quality gauge (e.g. www.winters.com) rather than a $20 dollar version for a farm supply store. New or old, test your gauge for accuracy. A tool to do this can be found here: http://www.omafra.gov.on.ca/english/crops/field/news/croppest/2012/06cpo12a3.htm

So, there are lots of other tips – more than we could include here. Always consult your sprayer manufacturer’s manual.

Happy Spraying!

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