Agricultural sprayer: everything you need to know
Protecting crops against pests, diseases and insects and the availability of nutrients for the plants are among the main practices to ensure productivity in the field. And to ensure that the products can reach the desired target, the use of a quality agricultural sprayer is recommended.
Spraying is an old acquaintance of many farmers, but it is nevertheless an interesting, complex and, above all, very relevant subject. With that in mind, we created this article.
Below, you will learn all there is to know about the main functions of the agricultural sprayer, and the variations and parts that make it up, in addition to understanding how to choose a good sprayer. You will also read about the maintenance, care and parameters of this process. Finally, you will see the main trends for the future of this equipment.
So, are you ready to learn everything about the agricultural sprayer? Then, read the post below!
What does an agricultural sprayer do?
To spray means to distribute a liquid substance into small particles. In agriculture, spraying is generally used to distribute agrochemicals, nutrients or fertilizers in a general way. It can be done by land or by air, the latter being more common in large-scale properties.
Either way, sprayers are used to ensure that the product is distributed in the correct amount and in the desired locations.
In addition, products are usually purchased in concentrates and need to be diluted with water. This mixture, called syrup, is distributed over the crop with the help of the sprayer.
Therefore, an agricultural sprayer is an equipment that helps in the fight against pests, diseases, insects or several other threats. It can also help with the distribution of fertilizers and is therefore one of the main tools for working in the field.
What are the types of agricultural sprayer?
There are several classifications for agricultural sprayers. The first concerns the type of drive of the equipment. Basically, it can be manual, electric or fuel powered.
As the name suggests, manual sprayers are manually controlled. With each burst, the operator needs to activate the equipment. Therefore, they are only suitable for small areas, which can mean that they do not meet the needs of most farmers.
For small, medium and large-scale agriculture with the goal of marketing the production, it is best to use spraying machines. In this case, generally, a battery-powered or a fuel engine is used to drive the sprayer.
Other classifications pertain to the configuration of the equipment and the type of machine used to move it. Get to know some of them below!
It usually consists of a reservoir with straps that can be carried on the back, like a backpack. It can be manually, electrically or fuel-operated. In any form, this model needs to be carried by an operator, which makes it unfeasible for application in large areas of land.
Sprayer guns generally work with compressed air and can be manually or electrically operated. When manual, they are recommended only for those who have vegetable gardens, orchards and small gardens.
This agricultural sprayer consists of a boom with multiple spray nozzles, usually mounted on a tractor. With this, it is possible to cover large areas in a short time, unlike what would happen in non-tractorized models.
Therefore, this type of machine is recommended for farmers who work with any volume of production and who seek high efficiency in farming. It is commonly used on annual crops such as soybeans, corn, wheat, potatoes and horticulture in general.
In the case of atomizers, the product is sprayed onto the crop by the force of a high-speed air current. As a result, the product can reach long distances. This type of sprayer is mostly used on perennial crops, such as coffee and oranges, for example.
What are the parts and accessories of this equipment?
The parts depend on the type of sprayer. As a general rule, they usually contain the following components:
- tank or reservoir where the solution is stored;
- mechanical or hydraulic agitator;
- pressure regulator;
- drive set;
- application device (such as a gun);
- spray nozzles.
These are the basic parts, but agricultural sprayers may involve other items depending on the technology applied. Currently, they usually also have volume meters applied, GPS locator, remote control systems, among other facilities.
How to choose a good agricultural sprayer?
The choice of sprayer will basically depend on the type of crop and the size of the plantation. There are sprayers with different capacities and, therefore, it is important to evaluate this aspect. Let’s check out a step-by-step guide to choose your spray machine correctly!
Evaluate the type of crop
As already mentioned, the type of crop usually determines the sprayer to be used. For annual crops, motor sprayers coupled to a tractor are the most commonly used. For perennial crops, the atomizer is ideal.
Consider the area to be sprayed
The area to be sprayed will determine the capacity of the machine to be purchased or the amount of equipment needed. For motor type sprayers, there are machines with a capacity between 400 and 4500 liters.
Naturally, the larger the area, the greater the storage capacity. That way, you won’t have to stop the process to restock several times and, at the same time, you won’t invest more than necessary to meet the needs of your crop.
As for atomizers, the capacity of the machines does not vary much. In this way, the plantation area will determine the amount of sprayers needed. Therefore, whatever the culture, it is necessary to size the crop to conclude what the ideal sprayers are and how many will be needed.
Choose trusted suppliers
Choosing a good supplier is also crucial for the quality of the sprayer. For peace of mind, choose suppliers that guarantee the necessary spare parts and that care about maintaining a good after-sales relationship.
Look for a supplier that shows interest in offering quality and becoming a partner in solving the problems of those who work in the field. Finally, with the information about the models available, correct sizing of the crop and the support of good suppliers, the farmer has a great chance of choosing the ideal sprayer.
What are the maintenance conditions that you cannot ignore?
After choosing the right sprayers and acquiring the necessary machines, the farmer needs to think about the conditions of maintenance of the equipment.
Keeping them clean, calibrated and changing parts at the right time will help to prolong their useful life and also save inputs and increase spraying efficiency. See below the maintenance conditions you can’t ignore!
Any agrochemical residue remaining in sprayers can result in contamination for people or animals. In addition, residues can end up mixing with the new product to be sprayed, impairing its performance.
Therefore, cleaning is essential both to guarantee the health of workers and the preservation of nature, as well as to not impair product efficiency. It must be done at the end of each working day or when there is a change in the type of product.
All work with the sprayer, including cleaning, must be done with the appropriate PPE (Personal Protective Equipment). In addition to water, special detergents, degreasers and other products can also be used, always following the manufacturer’s recommendation.
Parts such as the trigger, filters and nozzles must be removed and immersed in water and the washing process must be repeated a few times to make sure the equipment is clean. The storage tank must also be washed.
For all parts, do not use a heavier material than which is being cleaned. Otherwise, you run the risk of damaging it, causing scratches and wear. In addition, always use good quality water, avoiding the accumulation of particles, such as sand.
Adjustment and calibration
These two processes are intended to prepare the sprayer to achieve the desired performance and verify that it is, in fact, doing what it was programmed to do. In this way, regulating and calibrating your equipment will ensure that you use the correct amounts of product and that they are applied under the intended conditions.
This process can be done to check, for example, that the spray volume and pressure at the nozzles match the machine or process specifications.
In short, calibration helps the farmer to verify the reliability of the spraying process and therefore needs to be part of the routine in the field. It can be done whenever the consumption of products reaches 15% more than that obtained with the previous calibration.
Replacement of nozzles and parts
Parts must be changed at the frequency recommended by the manufacturer, preventing defective parts from compromising other components and the spraying process.
In this sense, the nozzles deserve even more attention. Worn nozzles generate losses mainly because they end up generating product waste. To avoid this, they must be replaced when the flow is deviating by a maximum of 10% from the nominal flow.
What are the main parameters of agricultural spraying?
Now that you know more about sprayers and have learnt how to choose and keep them working well, we can talk a little bit about the spraying process itself. To perform it, you need to know some of its variables. Now let’s see the spray parameters every farmer needs to know!
The dose represents the amount of biologically active ingredient that must be applied per area to achieve control of the target population. This measurement can be expressed in grams per hectare or in liters per hectare.
For each product, the recommended dose range can be read on the package insert. The exact number, in turn, must be calculated by a trained professional, usually an agronomist or forestry engineer.
The application volume measures the amount of spray to be applied per unit area. This parameter depends on factors such as target type, nozzle used, weather conditions, plant and product type.
Coverage refers to the amount of product drops that are deposited on the target during spraying. Desirable coverage is determined by product type, droplet size, and other factors.
In addition, the architecture of the plant, leaf density, among other details, must also be taken into account to determine the coverage necessary for the proper functioning of the agrochemicals.
Droplet size, usually measured in micrometers (microns), refers to the diameter of the sprayed droplet. It is defined as a function of factors such as the product’s mode of action (systemic or contact), climatic conditions and the target’s situation (more or less closed plantation, for example).
This parameter influences the spraying process in different ways, changing, for example, the product penetration. The desired droplet size usually determines the type of nozzle to be used and is also often calculated by agronomy professionals.
Pressure within the spray system can be used to identify flow rate and droplet size. It can be read on the pressure gauge that comes with every sprayer. Regulating the pressure in the system is also crucial to maintain the other parameters and follow the recommendations of the professionals who made the calculations.
Wind, temperature and relative humidity
Wind is a great delimiter of spraying. For example, spraying with small drops cannot be carried out when the wind is more than 10 km/h.
In addition, relative humidity and temperature also influence spraying. It is recommended that it only be carried out at temperatures below 30°C and with relative humidity above 55%.
Of course, these ideal conditions cannot always be met. In this case, the droplet size can be increased to minimize the effects of wind, relative humidity and temperature. In this case, pay attention to the decrease in penetration and the decrease in the amount of drops distributed over the target.
Drift is technically defined as the movement of product through the air away from the target during spraying. In other words, it is the amount of agrochemical sprayed that does not reach the target.
Drift is strongly influenced by wind, temperature and relative humidity and also by droplet size. To reduce drift, the grower needs to observe these conditions and, if possible, perform spraying when they are favourable.
Nozzles, also called spray tips, are one of the most important sprayer accessories. In addition, they are also one of the variables of the spraying process.
How to choose a spray nozzle?
Basically, there are fan-type, cone-type, impact nozzles and other special models, such as air induction nozzles. Each of them generates droplets of different sizes and provides a pattern of jet propagation. The working pressure range is also defined by the nozzle type.
That is, when changing the nozzle, it is possible to vary several process parameters. The suitable nozzle is determined by the biological target, position of the application area (soil, leaf, etc.), climatic conditions, coverage and desired volume.
Therefore, the choice of nozzle can only be made at the time of spraying while observing all these conditions. It is worth saying that there are many models on the market and there will probably be more than one correct product for each situation.
What are the main precautions needed during spraying?
Spraying can bring excellent results for agriculture, as long as it is applied correctly. Errors in handling or during spraying, in choosing the product, among others, can negatively affect the result.
In addition, it is also necessary to think in terms of health and safety of workers and the environment. Check out some precautions you can take:
- purchase quality products and machines;
- promote the health of workers with the use of appropriate PPE;
- respect the application time of each product;
- use good quality water;
- check the weather conditions and adapt your process to them;
- dispose of waste according to regulations, avoiding damage to the environment;
- use agrochemicals in appropriate amounts, ensuring cost control, spraying efficiency and reducing impacts on the environment;
- invest in technology to measure, calibrate, manage and generally optimize the processes and machines involved;
- maintain and clean with the correct frequency and methods;
- work with suppliers that have extensive knowledge on the subject, making them your partners.
By taking these precautions your production will have everything to keep up, aided by the benefits of spraying.
What is the future of the agricultural sprayer?
Spraying, like other agricultural processes, is evolving and follows various technological trends. The use of automation, GPS, remote control of processes and, at the same time, concern for the environment is growing. Would you like to know what’s next? Take a look at the future of crop spraying with the following trends:
Self-propelled spray machines are one of the main trends in this area. With their own chassis and engine, they have a large storage capacity and allow a large volume of spray to be sprayed without having to stop the machine.
In addition to ensuring more agility in the process, these machines are performing better and with more and more technology. Among the innovations are, for example, hydraulic control bars and a GPS device to map and track the process.
Smartphones and apps
With the rise of smartphones and the internet in the most diverse regions of the country, their use also grows in the field. There are already applications designed especially for the interests of farmers and that can help at different times.
This is the case, for example, with the Smart Selector. It was developed to assist in the choice of spray nozzles. All it takes is for the producer to enter some information about the work to be carried out and the application will suggest the best options. As a result, the producer is confident that they are using the proper and most efficient tip.
Precision agriculture is a practice that aims to use data collection and information management to optimize the use of inputs, agrochemicals, fertilizers, nutrients, etc.
In traditional production, all these products are distributed evenly across the terrain, often based on general studies of soil, climate, and other factors.
In precision agriculture, data collection systems, GPS, sensors and other technologies are used to promote a variable distribution of inputs. With it, only the areas that really demand it will receive a certain product. This practice can also be used for spraying and can lead to considerable savings.
Sustainability is being increasingly demanded by inspection bodies, consumers, farmers themselves and society in general. Respecting the environment during planting and harvesting is a trend that should become stronger in the coming years.
Concerning spraying, there is growing concern about the amount of product used, as well as their destination. The idea is to prevent contamination of water and soil by agrochemicals and use only the necessary amounts, ensuring sustainable and responsible production.
As we have seen, the agricultural sprayer is used in practically all stages of production, from soil and seed preparation to the nutrition of the leaves of adult plants. Not only chemicals, but also biologicals and nutrients are supplied to the crop through this process.
Sprayers, when properly used, are capable of optimizing productivity and ensuring that the farmer has control over everything that is being used in the crop. On the other hand, a poorly controlled process can generate waste and unnecessary expenses.
Thus, it is clear that the agricultural sprayer has a fundamental role in production and that its efficiency depends on many factors. Therefore, pay attention to all stages of the process, from the choice of machines, nozzles and products, to their cleaning and maintenance. Always count on good professionals and reliable suppliers.
So, do you want to optimize spraying on your farm? Contact us and choose the best agricultural sprayer for your farm!