Companies must get with the times on spray info

The year is 1977. A producer walks into the local co-op, says hi to his friend Bob, who pumps the gas and has managed the place since 1959. He avoids the creaky floor at the hitch pin display as he approaches the parts counter.

“I need some nozzles,” he says.

“How many gallons?” the parts manager asks.

“Five. Need 50.”

The parts manager has all the information he needs. He counts shiny steel nozzles while the producer looks at the latest galvanized roller pumps on display.

And that’s all. A five-gallon tip was an 8001 nozzle, and everyone knew it. Within that number, the 80 described the fan angle, and the 01 identified the flow rate, in this case 0.1 US gpm at 40 pounds per square inch.

It just so happens that this size of nozzle, when fit on a spray boom with 20-inch nozzle spacing, operating at 40 psi. Travelling at the standard five miles per hour, it delivered exactly five gallons per acre. A 10-gallon tip was the 8002. Done.

The year is 2015. A producer walks through automated sliding doors into the sun-bathed two-storey lobby of the local multinational equipment dealer. He smiles at the sales professionals in their cubicles and weaves through the leisure-craft display toward the parts counter.

“I need some nozzles,” he says.

“Have a seat. Need some info.”

The producer settles onto a bar stool across the counter and watches the parts clerk’s eyes narrow.

“What type of nozzle are you looking for? We have conventional in 80 and 110. Pre-orifice with a couple different ratios and one with a 20-degree exit angle, and four air-induced versions, two high-pressure, one of those with twin-metering orifices, and two low-pressure, one with a five degree exit. We like to alternate those forward and back.

“We’ve also got these new twin nozzles, symmetric and asymmetric, whatever you want. Plastic, steel insert, or ceramic? Do you use pulse-width modulation? We had this fellow come in last week talking up hollow cones, so we’ve got those too, now.

“What about your travel speed range? Can you over-ride the rate controller with a minimum pressure setting?

How high a pressure is your pump capable of, anyway? Do you use fungicides? Here, let’s go to their website. Say, what does the product’s label recommend?”

The customer pretends his smartphone is vibrating, mouths “I’ve got to take this”, slides off the stool and backs away slowly. He waves on his way out the door.

Welcome to an age of innovation in which it’s hard to keep up. There is wide selection, glossy brochures, apps, great prices, next day delivery and yet we’re not sure what to buy.

We need the right product, and yes, we want it to be sophisticated, but we require trouble-free performance and crave simplification.

For that to happen, we need up-to-date information and a consistent message from pesticide manufacturers, agrologists, sprayer sales professionals and parts clerks.

That’s not happening.

The nozzle industry has undergone a revolution in the past 20 years. When air-induction nozzles were introduced to Canada in 1995, applicators immediately recognized their potential to address a major problem: spray drift.

A few years later, when manufacturers started offering nozzles that produced low-drift sprays, they became the new standard. Everyone is using them now. Please, someone tell the chemical manufacturers.

Here is an excerpt from a new herbicide label, introduced in 2013:

  • “Spray nozzles: 80 or 110 degree, flat fan stainless steel nozzles are recommended for optimal spray coverage. Application of the spray mixture at a 45-degree angle in the direction of travel will result in improved spray coverage. Do not use flood type nozzles, controlled droplet application equipment, spray foils or hollow cone nozzles.
  • Pressure: 275-310 kPa
  • Application: Apply uniformly at 6-8 km/hr. and avoid overlapping. Shut off spray boom while starting, turning, slowing or stopping to prevent crop injury from an over application.“

This label is straight from 1977.

It is akin to buying a 2015 F-150 and reading the following in the owner’s manual: “To start the engine, make sure the transmission is in neutral. Prime the gas pump, then remove crank from trunk and proceed to front of engine.”

We need to collectively up our game. Pesticide labels should reflect current technology.

Company representatives should be conversant about which nozzles are suited for their products.

Agronomists should be able to make product, rate, timing and application method recommendations to their clients.

We all need to understand how to identify the spray quality our tips produce and the pressure at which they should be used.

Some people are there. The majority isn’t.

With the possible exception of the operator, the nozzle is the most important part of the sprayer. Your success depends on it.

We shouldn’t need to let someone else handle those technical details.

For more information, contact Deveau and Wolf via Twitter @spray_guy and @nozzle_guy or email jason.deveau@ontario.ca or agrimetrix@gmail.com.

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