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Sprayer Tip Selection and Clean Out Procedures

Choosing the right nozzle and proper cleanup enhances sprayer performance.

When it comes to applying crop protection products, the type of nozzle you use on the sprayer is extremely important. Before purchasing, take steps to ensure that the nozzle you are using is the right one for you. And after making your selection, properly cleaning and maintaining sprayer equipment ensures your nozzles will continue to perform at their peak.

Nozzle knowledge

A nozzle, while seemingly a pretty simple device, is a precise instrument designed to perform many duties. It first breaks the liquid into droplets, then forms a spray pattern before finally shooting the liquid in the correct direction. The type of nozzle determines application variables such as the volume of product applied, application uniformity, target surface coverage and potential drift.

It’s also important to note here that the way a chemical works influences nozzle choice. Crop protection products generally function in two ways: systemic or contact. Systemic chemicals are absorbed by the plant and are designed to move within the plant; they do not have to be applied to a certain part of the plant surface in order for them to work. Contact chemicals must be directly applied to the problem area; generally, the more plant surface coverage, the more effective the chemical.

Types of nozzles

Here’s an overview of the major nozzle types:

Flat-fan: These nozzles are most often used for broadcast spraying of herbicides. There are several subtypes of this variety, including standard, even, low pressure and extended range. They are available in many spray angles as well. The spray pattern is self-explanatory—a flat, fan-shaped pattern.

Flood: Flood nozzles are typically used to apply suspension fertilizers where clogging could be a problem. They are also used for soil-incorporated herbicides with spray kits mounted on tillage implements. Typically, the pressure used with this type of nozzle is lower compared with flat-fans, but the spray pattern is not as uniform.

Raindrop: In a raindrop nozzle, large drops are produced in a hollow-cone pattern. They are primarily mounted on tillage implements and used for herbicide incorporation. They are not recommended for use with post-emergence or non-incorporated herbicides as the droplets are too big.

Hollow-cone: This variety of nozzle is mostly often used to add insecticides or fungicides when complete coverage of the leaf surface is required. Because the droplets are so small, however, the risk of drift is higher. Experts do not recommend that hollow-cone nozzles be used to apply herbicides.

Full-cone: This type of nozzle is best used for soil-incorporated herbicides. As their droplets are larger than flood nozzles, their risk of drift is lower. They work well with sprayers equipped with flow controllers.

Fine hollow-cone: These nozzles are typically used for post-emergence contact herbicides, as the device reduces the liquid to fine particles for complete coverage of plants or weeds.

Selecting a sprayer nozzle

  1. Consulting the chemical label is the first, and most important, step in deciding which nozzle you need. The label contains valuable information, like application rates, controllable pests,  weather conditions to consider when applying, gallons per acre, as well as nozzle type and spacing recommendations. 
  2. Next, determine operating conditions. Select or measure the ground speed in miles per hour then determine the desired nozzle spacing and spray volume. Remember that generally the greater the operating pressure or spray angle, the smaller the droplets become.
  3. The next step is to calculate the required nozzle discharge. There is an easy formula to follow in order to determine the nozzle discharge, or GPM.
    • GPM = (Travel Speed (mph) x nozzle spacing (inches) x spray volume (gallons per acre)) / 5940 

    The nozzle you choose must have a flow discharge that corresponds with the recommended pressure range. You can find the advised discharge rates and pressures for various nozzle sizes in manufacturers' catalogs.

  4. The catalogs will display which nozzle is right for you based on the GPM. Experts advise that selecting a nozzle that matches your GPM requirements and operates at a low pressure while giving a range for fine-tuning. Most of the time, nozzles perform only over a limited pressure range.

Cleaning your sprayer

It is very important to have a clean sprayer before use. Make the job easier by cleaning the sprayer immediately after use. Residues from chemicals can remain and build up, making it more difficult to clean as time passes.

Equipment cleaning recommendations should be on the chemical label. The label will also specify approved product combinations: A mix of incompatible products could leave deposits that are hard to clean and might break free during a later application. Try to avoid using poorly maintained spraying equipment as rusted elements can trap deposits as well.

For more information on nozzle selection and cleaning, please consult your southern States Agronomy Expert or local extension office.

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