Make your spray droplets glow in the dark

Farmers who like the way a disco strobe does that freeze-frame trick on their dance partner will love the way it stops action on their spray pattern.

Moving those strobe lights from the disco to the spray boom might give them an entirely new perspective on what they’re doing in the field at night.

Many farmers are reluctant to spray at night because they feel they can’t adequately monitor what’s happening or see if they have plugged tips. Autosteer has removed the challenge of knowing a sprayer’s location in the dark, but it doesn’t tell farmers if they’re experiencing nozzle problems.

ATI Agtronics’ high intensity LED lights with strobe capability can solve that problem, says company representative Bryan Anderson.

The South Dakota farmer said the AppliMax Spray Nozzle Light system has been on the U.S. market for two years.

“I don’t think I want to encourage people to be out there spraying all night long, but we know the benefits of night time spraying. The most obvious factor is that the wind generally drops so you should have less spray drift,” Anderson said.

“With cooler night time temperatures, the product evaporates slowly so you get better absorption by the plants. Some insects come out at night, so they’re exposed to more chemical for a better kill. And of course, you open up your spraying window a lot so you get more acres done per day. If time or weather is an issue, spraying at night is sometimes your only option.”

Anderson worked 19 years as a sprayer service technician before recently taking over the family farm. He said he has dealt with just about every sprayer problem imaginable, and one of the big re-occurring issues is finding plugged nozzles in low light situations.

“In fact, it can even be difficult in full sunlight, so our LED has a strobe mode that freezes the spray pattern of each tip for easy diagnosis. It shows us pattern distortions due to blockage or nozzle wear in broad daylight,” he said.

“On my farm, I spray a lot of times when the wind goes down, usually from sunset to dark, just at that twilight time. The LED shows me my spray pattern clearly. I can see the spray all the way down the boom.

“One thing I’ve found is that it gives you really good depth perception. You can see how far from the ground you are with the boom or how close to obstacles. You really see drift, in which case you don’t spray.”

The AppliMax kit is designed for one light unit per nozzle, which Anderson said is easy to install on any boom. The same AppliMax light is used for all brands of booms. Cost ranges from US$1,700 to $2,200, depending on nozzle spacing and boom size.

“Your ROI (return on investment) is very quick. You can recover that in one evening of spraying, in some cases, if you have plugged tips,” he said.

“The ability to eliminate crop damage due to spray drift is a huge benefit, whether it’s crop damage on your own farm or the neighbour’s farm. Consider the legal liability if the crop damage is on a neighbour’s field.”

Anderson said it’s important to calibrate sprayers and deal with nozzle problems and other maintenance issues well ahead of spraying season. The best time is at the end of a spray season when farmers are putting equipment away and it’s still warm outside, he added.

“That’s when you should be doing it. If you have a big heated shop, of course, you can do it during the winter months. If not, take all the nozzles off and check them during the winter in your kitchen. We sell a test stand for that. Either way, it’s one chore out of the way and off your mind before spring.

“When you see a damaged tip on your boom, generally it’s over-applying chemical and possibly causing crop damage. That’s why we test each spray tip and measure to see if it’s in spec or not. Throw away bad tips. You don’t want them hanging around.

“However, at $12 or $13 per tip, you don’t want to throw away tips if you merely suspect they’re bad. Only throw them out if you know for sure. That’s why we have auto calibrators. The ATI Smart Series spray nozzle calibrator list at $829 US. It can save you a lot of money.”

Anderson said the precision pressure sensor is easy to use, plugging into the calibrator between the nozzle body and the spray nozzle. Nozzle output and pressure are measured simultaneously to determine nozzle wear. It gives a precise readout that can be saved in the Smart computer and transferred to the AppliPad. He said it takes time to do all the nozzles, but if a farmer is interested in precision farming, then precision sprayer calibration is one of the first items to address.

“I can tell you from years of experience that understanding your sprayer and how it affects your agronomy is very important to your bottom line.”

Anderson said ATI is developing LED strobe lighting for planters, air drills, strip till machines and other implements that need better light in the precise spot where the actual work occurs.

For more information, contact Anderson at 605-265-0015 or visit www.ati.ag.

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