Turf & Rec

Features Agronomy
Regular sprayer maintenance is crucial


December 1, 2011
By Mike Jiggens


Topics

Lawn care companies which regularly maintain their sprayers and exercise common sense in the way they are used will realize fewer problems during the course of a season, an audience of operators was told in September at Nutrite’s first annual customer appreciation day at the Springfield Golf Club in Guelph, Ont.

Sean Jordan, an agronomist with Nutrite, spoke of the importance of proper sprayer maintenance, citing measures which will not only protect the mechanics of the equipment, but which will also greatly reduce the chances of contamination.

He said he was aware of several lawn care companies which had put their sprayers away for an extended length of time, but soon ran into issues with them once they were taken out again.

Filters and agitators are key components of a spraying system which cannot be ignored, Jordan said.

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Filters must be cleaned, and it has to be “a force of habit” to have them regularly checked to ensure they are not straining the pump and that there is sufficient flow through the system.

“You also need to make sure you have enough flow to keep the agitator going, to make sure that whatever material you put in the sprayer stays in suspension.”

The agitator is important because many of the products used in sprayers have to stay in suspension.
Typically, tanks are constructed of plastic, although several older ones are made of metal. Products used in the sprayers, when placed into a spray solution, make them acidic while others will be basic.
“All the components of a sprayer system will react differently to the sprayed materials.”

Jordan cautioned that the amount of time these materials are allowed to sit in the spray system be limited. Some lawn care companies are apt to prepare their system the night before to save on downtime the following morning.

“The problem with that is if you have a very corrosive or acidic material sitting in these tanks, some of those components just don’t like it. They can’t handle sitting in with these metal fittings. They’ll eat them through.”

Other areas of the system can become clogged up.

Contamination is another issue which can frequently occur if certain precautions aren’t followed. It can occur from improperly cleaned tanks and from changing materials.

Jordan said he has experienced occasions where someone will spray a herbicide, make a quick rinse and then put in a fungicide to be sprayed. The applicator then wonders why everything he’s sprayed has turned yellow.

It’s because the applicator hasn’t properly cleaned the tank, Jordan said.

Machines need to be rinsed thoroughly with clean water unless the applicator is physically spraying or getting ready to do so. Mixing and spraying should be done in the same day, Jordan said, suggesting to applicators that they only mix what they plan to use in that day.

If an applicator still has half a tank remaining after that day, he wasn’t thinking ahead, Jordan said.

“Now what are you going to do with that half a tank of material? You don’t want to throw it out and it’s getting too dark to go back out, so it’s going to have to sit overnight in that tank. When that mixture sits in the tank overnight, it’s going to eat away.”

Whatever was in the tank beforehand needs to be thoroughly rinsed out so that it doesn’t contaminate the next batch. Jordan likened the measure to cooking something in a pan which hadn’t be cleaned and then cooking an entirely different meal in the same pan afterwards. The second meal will contain much of the taste of the previously meal.

He said it’s also vital to test mixes in advance to ensure their compatibility. Someone may decide to mix a herbicide with fertilizer, not realizing that “they might not like each other.”