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Application Best Practices

Inspecting equipment before application begins can save time, money — and it ensures accuracy. 

It’s been months since you parked the spray rig in the shed, but it will soon be time to fire it up again with spring underway. Making sure you employ application best practices before you hit the field alleviates downtime and helps ensure you’re doing all you can to stop weeds in their tracks. 

Check, Check and Re-Check

According to Raven Precision Ag Specialist Gary Esselink, it’s good practice to do a once-over on the entire spray system before you head for the field.


From starting up the machine for the first time to unfolding the booms and checking for possible cracks in the frame, finding and fixing potential problems before they happen can save you precious time in the field when every minute counts.


“We have a lot of electronics on our precision equipment,” Esselink explains. “So, if you must jump start the battery or must do any welding on the machine, we recommend to totally disconnect all precision electronics because we don’t want to do damage to them.”


“Check all wiring, cabling and their connections,” Esselink says.  “You should also make sure all electronic components are free of corrosion on pins or connections. Be aware if there is corrosion on the connector pins, it could also work its way into the wiring.”


Sprayer tanks, strainers and nozzles should be inspected as well. A quick walk around to conduct a visual inspection can identify potential issues.


“Both time and temperature can cause debris to collect at the bottom of your tank,” Esselink explains. “Taking the time to clean that out is much easier than to have the debris distributed across the boom. Always make sure you run water through your system prior to filling it with actual chemical.”


While checking the spray rig before heading to the field might seem like an obvious task to complete, Esselink says it’s commonly overlooked.


Simple tasks such as running water through the sprayer to remove leftover chemical and examining sprayer tips can head off potential complications and could save you costly repairs and downtime.


“When it comes to application, a lot of times the sprayer tips are the most important part of making sure you have an even distribution and a good spray pattern when applying,” Esselink explains. “Calibrate with water and conduct a catch test of each sprayer tip. Make sure the flow of each tip is within the recommended range of the tip manufacturer.”

Be Mindful of Mechanics

Technology plays a key role in agriculture today. Checking field computer settings and electronics is essential before making your first application.


Esselink advises growers to review the software versions on your machine and be sure both field computers and electronic components are up-to-date. He recommends reaching out to your dealer with any questions.


He adds that precision ag equipment, like that featured by Raven, requires continual updates to operating software.


For example, just last year, Raven added software to include end of row automatic turn-around. The technology allows for hands-off turn-around so that rows are counted automatically, resulting in less stress and greater ease in application for the operator.


“Precision technology makes a huge difference,” Esselink says. “With GPS (global positioning systems), we’re able to be more accurate with our application. We reduce overlaps and skips. When we’re able to use technology for GPS swath control, we’re much more accurate, use less chemical and we don’t overlap.”


Greater accuracy, less chemical applied and reduction in sprayer overlap all help lower input costs, he says, which can protect that bottom line.


GPS also brings automatic shutoff options for growers, which can be beneficial when fields are oddly shaped.


“By using GPS, we can shut off the booms by section rather than the whole boom at once when driving into a previously applied area,” Esselink says. “This results in less chemical use and possible crop damage from overapplication.”


Esselink adds that with PWM (pulse width modulation) nozzle technology, like that featured with the Raven Hawkeye® Nozzle Control System, flow can be controlled at each individual nozzle — further enhancing application accuracy.


“If you have a 120′ boom with 20" spacings, the result is 72 nozzles. With Hawkeye, you can shut off in 72 different sections,” he explains. “Just by looking at the field map alone, it’s unbelievable how much chemical can be saved when reducing overlap.”


Because the chemical flow is being regulated at every nozzle body, Esselink says a consistent spray pattern is delivered across the whole boom. Flow is regulated at each individual nozzle through a valve at each nozzle body. Even when a sprayer is driven around a curve, greater application control is achieved when using what is called Turn Compensation.


“If we can compensate and put more flow to the outside of the boom and less on the inside, we’re still getting that consistent spray pattern and the correct amount across the sprayer boom, even if we’re taking a curve and not driving down a straight row,” Esselink explains.

Do a Post Spray Application Inspection 

Once application is complete, inspect the spray rig so that it’s ready to go for your next application by fine-tuning spray distribution across the boom.


Esselink says if the GPS corrections are not fine-tuned, swath control could be affected.


“You can see that when you have breakouts and weeds through the field,” Esselink explains. “Maybe there are times that you can see where you probably over-applied. I know I’m stating the obvious but walk your fields to make sure you know what is out there. Check for any misses or crop damage from overapplication.”


Once you do your post-application inspection, Esselink says you can adjust for the next application to ensure weeds are controlled.


Working with your agronomist or crop advisor is key to application best practices as well.


“To stay ahead of the game, you have to make sure you use the correct chemical and follow all label instructions,” Esselink notes. “You don’t want too much residual effect. You may have to alternate your chemicals from year to year just to make sure that weeds are not developing resistance.”


Bottom line, it’s all about efficiency. Accurate applications begin with a thorough review of equipment and following procedures to prevent sprayer skips and weed escapes.


“We want to do it right the first time,” Esselink says. “It’s economically sound, and it’s also good for the environment.”

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