Sprayers shed weight, get selective

BOONE, Iowa — Big and light — that’s the idea behind carbon fibre sprayer booms.

John Deere began offering its version this year, starting with the Latin American market.

That makes sense from a historical point of view.

King Agro is one of the world’s only manufacturers of carbon fibre sprayer booms, and its 23-year history of using the tough-as, but lighter-than steel material in sporting and farm equipment is located in Argentina.

The company has been offering spray booms from 90 feet and up since 2012 with a new 156 foot boom introduced this past year. Most of its sales are in its home region, but the company has been expanding in Europe.

Jason Beuligmann of Deere debuted a set of the new booms at the company’s Des Moines Works in Iowa last month.

“Customers want their sprayers to be more productive, but weight and width go hand in hand,” he said.

“The strength-to-weight ratio is much higher with carbon fibre and it will also allow us to stretch well beyond 120 feet. We haven’t decided how big these booms will get, but we will ask farmers their opinions before we put a limit on it …. We partnered with (King Agro) to design a boom that will work with our (four series) self propelled sprayers…. It doesn’t have the level of strength that steel and aluminum have, but it can be repaired on the farm in a day with a kit we provide.”

The planned design has mid-boom and tip breakaway features.

“It won’t be as tough with an impact as aluminum or steel, but it will be quicker and easier to repair if there is damage,” he said.

“We have been running for several years in Brazil and Argentina, and we are now testing here in North America and we hope to make these available in the not too distant future.

“We don’t want to negate the features of carbon fibre, its weight savings for instance, by just making bigger booms. We want to improve overall sprayer performance.”

The lighter booms will save up to 2,000 pounds on a 120 foot machine, and those savings take place on booms travelling at up to 18 m.p.h. This should make it easier to manage boom height swings and allow for lower spraying heights and higher speeds.

“For those looking for very wide booms to travel at lower speeds and cover the same acres or those seeking more acres with lower weights, carbon fibre makes sense,” he said.

The carbon fibre booms use fewer supporting structures because they are lighter, which also cuts the weight.

Meanwhile, Elydia Thomas, a Deere product manager, introduced the Exact Apply Intelligent Nozzle Control, a pulse rate modulation system, at last month’s Farm Progress Show in Iowa.

Case Aim Command, Capstan Sharpshooter, Raven Hawkeye and TeeJet DynaJet all use this technology, which was pioneered by Capstan.

These systems work by replacing the diaphragm check valve found in most nozzle bodies. The flow of product is turned off and on at very high frequencies.

The length of time the solenoid keeps the valve open determines the application rate, but the Deere system pulses 15 times per second, and each multiple nozzle unit can have two running at any given point. This helps maintain constant pressure across the booms and droplet size, independent of machine speed.

Key to the Deere system is being able select, automatically or manually, between two nozzles on the fly.

A producer can select for a pair of nozzles attached to PRM valves: one that has a range that will provide, for example, a 400 µm sized droplet at lower speeds, and one that will also do so at high speeds.

The Deere system automatically chooses between the bodies as speed increases or decreases out of a nozzle’s range.

A farmer can also choose to select a standard low drift, air induction nozzle for the edges of a field and then shift to the PRM body for improved leaf coverage for the middle, all on the fly.

The Exact Apply system also allows for turn compensation, which reduces over and under application as booms swing or pause in uneven passes or curves.

“Of course, this also provides precise overlap control down to the individual nozzle,” she said.

Available in 15 or 20 inch spacing on stainless steel plumbing, the system can reduce spray costs by five to 10 percent on a 120 foot sprayer, said the company.

“In testing, we found we could get improved flow rates of up to 25 percent when compared to existing systems on the market,” Thomas told farmers at the Iowa event.

LED lighting is attached to each nozzle so producers can see at a glance how the spray pattern is performing, especially at night.

Individual nozzle data is provided to the display, allowing producers to spot plugs or poor calibration as they occur.

Thomas said the system is compatible with the 2630 Deere display, but in 2018, when producers can first take delivery of the PRM equipped sprayers, a new 4600 controller will be riding in the newly released sprayer cabs.

A retrofit kit will be available for farmers with existing Deere sprayers. The price of the option on a 120 foot unit was rumoured at the show to run about US$45,000.

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