Bigger boom solution: go wide, go slow

Improving suspension to reduce boom bounce encourages operators to drive faster

Implements are on the brink of an obesity crisis if prairie producers continue looking the other way.

However, there are a few things manufacturers and farmers can do to address the escalating problem, says spray specialist Tom Wolf of Agrimetrix Research and Training in Saskatoon.

“The answer is wider booms. We put a lot of technology into all parts of the modern sprayer. That pushes the price up to the range of $400,000,” he said.

“Personally, I wouldn’t invest in the engine or the suspension. I’d invest in the boom and nozzles, the parts that really matter. Those are the components that do the actual spraying for you. The idea is so simple. A wider boom lets you slow down and cover the same number of acres per hour. Consider something like (a) 150 foot telescopic aluminum boom.”

Wolf said big booms can create a catch-22 situation. The bigger boom allows the operator to cover a lot of acres at a more prudent speed, thus reducing spray drift. However, bigger boom width also makes it more difficult to get down to the magic 20-inch height without risking damage to the boom.

There is a trend to improved suspension on sprayers, which results in less boom bounce. However, that allows the operator to go faster, which makes spray deposition worse.

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“The reality is that as manufacturers continue to make the sprayer ride smoother, it only results in operators driving faster. That’s not a good trend in my opinion,” he said.

Wolf feels the industry has just about hit the limit in terms of further improvements to conventional nozzles, but he also think further advances might come from pulse width modulation technology such as AIM Command. It excels at flow control, but that doesn’t mean it lets farmers spray faster and still do a good job, he added.

Wolf said the logic of big tanks is debatable.

“Water is a big part of the total weight of a sprayer. The dilemma is that if you reduce the water volume as a means of reducing weight, then you end up with finer droplet size and more drift. It’s a difficult position. We want high productivity, but we have to pay a high price to get it. Filling speed is one area with a lot of potential. Make sure you’re set up to get back spraying just as quickly as possible,” he said.

“Controlled traffic is another option, depending on what kind of soil you’re on. Keep your wheels running in the same tracks with all implements every year. Just accept the compaction and write off those wasted acres as part of the price you pay.”

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Running multiple sprayers is an option, but few farmers have the luxury of surplus dependable operators.

Wolf said he recognizes that farmers deliberately decide to spray fast and sacrifice quality to cover all their acres.

“I can’t argue with that line of reasoning,” he said. “It’s their own benefit and risk equation and they know what their own numbers are. And for certain you don’t want to leave crops unprotected.”

Contact ron.lyseng@producer.com

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