Dusty Fields & Filters

Dusty Fields and Filter Maintenance

Maximize sprayer productivity with proper filter maintenance

They are usually inexpensive and not the first thing you think about when conducting routine maintenance on your Apache Sprayer. But, when you operate in dry, dusty conditions, filters are an especially important element to keeping your sprayer well-maintained. That’s particularly true considering the cost of the damage poorly maintained filters can cause down the road.

Today’s modern filters are light years ahead of those in the past. More advanced designs and materials make air filters more effective in trapping dust and dirt that would otherwise reach critical system components and inflict damage. But, because they’re so much more effective and working in much more efficient engines today, they require more attention during routine maintenance, according to Apache Sprayers Senior Application Specialist John Casebolt.

“With modern engines, especially Tier 4, we’re actually doing more filtration than we used to. Filter systems are high-efficiency units, which means we’re going to clean the air better before it gets to the engine,” he said. “Those filters tend to become contaminated and plug more quickly, and people who have been running some of the older equipment with older engines and filtration systems aren’t accustomed to checking them as often as they should.”

Staying attentive to filters

Working in dry, dusty conditions can accelerate wear on filters simply by virtue of the volume of sediment they’re filtering, as well as the heat that typically accompanies that kind of intake. But, generally, there are other signs your filters are clogged or not performing optimally. Sometimes they’re the first thing to watch for in diagnosing filters that are nearing the end of their operational lives.

“All components are going to get dirtier working in hot, dusty conditions, and you need to clean out filters more frequently to prevent engine performance issues,” Casebolt said. “If it’s hot and your A/C system isn’t working, the air filter for your cab needs to be cleaned out more frequently, too. Keep your eye on these types of things when working with more dust.”

Cleaning filters

When cleaning air filters, it’s important to do so in a way that doesn’t alter or damage its structure or shape. It may be tempting to either knock dry sediments loose from the filter or use an air compressor that will get more of the loose material than cleaning by hand. These are likely overkill, though, and stand to potentially damage the filter worse than simply wiping the excess dust and sediment away gently by hand.

“If you try to clean it out with compressed air, it has to be done with low pressure and from the inside out so you don’t damage the fleece or paper in the filter,” Casebolt said. “Some people just grab an air hose at 100 or 120 PSI that you could blow something across the room with. I don’t think that’s wise because there can be more damage done to an air filter doing that than what they’ll gain. My recommendation is to clean it by hand and just get the loose stuff out of it.”

Tech tools help

The good news is that modern equipment, like an Apache Sprayer, typically has on-board diagnostics and warning systems that alert the operator when a filter’s performance is slowing down or being altered in a way that affects overall performance. But, don’t use those warning systems as the primary means of diagnosing filter issues.

“I’m not a fan of depending on those safeguards as a means of determining when I’m going to change my filter,” Casebolt said. “They’re there to warn us in those situations where it’s gotten a lot dustier than we realize, but by the time the warning goes off, I should have already checked my filter instead of running as long as I have with it in that condition.”

Casebolt recommends changing air filters at least once a year, or every 250 hours of operation, whichever comes first. For those who don’t operate that many hours in a season, it’s still important to change filters annually.

“Some will hit that 250-hour mark in a season, and some will hit 500 hours. For some operators, a filter will last an entire season, but for others, they’ll be changing it twice or three times a year,” he said. “If you run a filter too long, you are sacrificing engine performance, so you need to be proactive in changing them.”

Plan ahead

Though it’s not common among farmers today, keeping a basic supply of filters on hand is a good idea, Casebolt said. If you have a replacement already on hand for when a filter needs to be swapped out, you can minimize the time to do the job. During the off-season, that may not be that big of a deal. But, during spraying season when time is money, it can be huge.

“I’m in favor of operators planning ahead and not just buying what they need to service the machine right now, but getting what they will need for the next service. If they plan on putting 250 hours on a machine in a year, I would plan for that and have those filters on the shelf so I’m not spending precious time during the season waiting on filters to arrive or spending time trying to track them down,” Casebolt said. “Filters are consumables. It’s not like you are buying extra parts to sit on the shelf and maybe have to use. You are going to have to use them.”

Looking to purchase filters for your Apache Sprayer? Head to our parts store.

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Testing Spray Tip Nozzles for Wear

Testing Spray Tip Nozzles for Wear

Regular testing prevents crop damage from worn sprayer tip nozzles

Tip nozzles are among the least expensive components of a modern sprayer, but underestimating their importance and being lax with maintenance can quickly get costly. That makes it critical to test them and ensure they’re functioning properly before beginning a busy spraying season.

Why nozzle testing matters

Why is testing tip nozzles so important? A clogged or damaged nozzle can alter spray patterns, and depending on the chemical you’re applying, can have major implications for your crop, both in growth and weed/pest control.

“Think about how many dollars per acre you are spending on chemical. With the price of chemicals, you want those nozzles to do their jobs. When they get worn, they lose their pattern and you start getting droplets in different places,” according to Apache Sprayers Service Technician and Application Parts Specialist Chris Weaver. “You run the risk of overapplication, spray drift and streaking in the field. The more worn your nozzles get, the worse it is going to be. If you’re spraying herbicide, weeds will be worse in those areas.”

Testing your tip nozzles begins by knowing your nozzle size, spray pattern and the volume for which they’re rated. Having a firm grasp on these variables will help determine exactly how they should be optimally performing based on the required 40-PSI pressure. That pressure information is critical to have on hand when manually testing tip nozzles, Weaver said.

Nozzle testing methods

Measuring the output of each tip for nozzle wear and tear is the basic testing procedure for justifying replacement, and there are both manual and automated (via rate controllers) ways to do so. If done manually, which typically gives the operator a better feel for the condition of his or her nozzles, Weaver recommends using a metering bucket, calibration jug or other container that can measure specific output levels for each nozzle. Once the system reaches 40 PSI, each tip should emit a specific amount of liquid. Weaver recommends testing each nozzle for either 30 seconds or one minute, though the longer you test, the more accurate your nozzles and spray pattern will be.

This is where nozzle size comes in; the size dictates the amount of output per tip, and if that output is greater than that specified amount, the nozzle is likely to be damaged or worn. That means it should be replaced soon to prevent inconsistent and potentially damaging applications.

“If you have an XR11002 spray nozzle, that’s a 0.2-gallon-per-minute nozzle rated at 40 PSI. You should get 0.2 gallons of spray per minute per nozzle. If you are at 40 PSI and you’re getting 0.25 gallons/minute, you have a worn nozzle,” Weaver said. “There are also tip calibrators that have flow meters built into them. You hold one under a nozzle and it will tell you your gallons per minute.”

When to test nozzles

Testing your sprayer’s tip nozzles is something that should be done at least once a year, starting when you perform pre-season maintenance on your machine. How often you need to actually replace your nozzles depends on use and nozzle type.

“If you use polymer nozzles, they’ll likely last around 15,000 acres before needing to be replaced, whereas stainless steel nozzles will last up to 25,000 acres,” Weaver said. “But, given the simplicity and brevity of the process, especially when performing regular preseason maintenance, thoroughly testing nozzles is the best way to find out their condition and replace them if necessary.”

“It’s something that’s so easy to do when you’re getting your sprayer ready for the season. You are already spending a good amount of time getting your sprayer ready in the spring,” Weaver said. “It literally takes one minute per nozzle or less to do it.”

To prevent further wear and tear on your nozzles, be sure to reference our Nozzle Maintenance 101 Guide.

 

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Calibrating ZF Transmissions

Calibrating ZF Transmissions

Calibration keeps your ZF transmission shifting smoothly

When Apache Sprayers transitioned to the ZF transmissions for the 2011 sprayer model year, operators had access to a new way to boost fuel economy and performance in the field through features like a locking torque converter.

Like any drivetrain component, ZF transmissions require regular maintenance to perform optimally. Though it is fairly automated and offers a lot of safety features to simplify and streamline the process, it’s important to go through calibration at least once per season to ensure components are protected and the transmission is shifting smoothly, said Apache Sprayers Application Specialist Chris Smith. Many operators calibrate their ZF transmissions when performing routine service and fluid changes.

“The process keeps everything within the recommended specifications, because over time, things are going to start wearing out. It helps minimize typical wear and tear by reading and recalibrating new clutch pressures,” Smith said.

An automated process

When calibrating a ZF transmission in an Apache Sprayer, the machine’s on-board computer — tied to its transmission control unit (TCU) — essentially takes care of the process for you. After the operator runs the machine to get it to operating temperature — around 180 degrees Fahrenheit — the TCU runs a diagnostic check of all clutch pressures and provides performance feedback.

The process helps the operator stay on top of potential maintenance issues like replacing the system’s 15W40 oil as needed. In newer Apache Sprayer models, the TCU helps manage operations to optimize performance under different conditions.

“With our new 30-series machines, we’ve reprogrammed the TCU to where you can spray better in the 3rd- to 4th-gear range,” Smith said. “You can go into the TCU and change things like torque curves to accommodate the optimal speed and spraying speed and volume.”

Ultimately, ZF transmissions help operators not only stay on top of key maintenance schedules, but do so with the highest level of safety, given the number of safeguards the transmissions feature.

“You can’t do anything to tear it up, really,” Smith said. “There are so many safety features built in that, and with the ability to lock the torque converter, you can improve fuel efficiency and overall engine performance.”

Are you calibrating your ZF transmission as part of your annual maintenance schedule? See what else you should be doing on a yearly basis with our maintenance checklist. Start here.

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Cabin Filters and Why They Are Important

Cabin Filters: When Should You Replace?

Cabin filters do a lot more than keep you comfortable

Spraying agriculture chemicals can be a dirty and sometimes dangerous job. That makes it important to have an enclosed sprayer cab with a strong air filtration system, like today’s Apache Sprayers. Simply having a cabin filter system isn’t enough; it’s just as important to take the right steps to ensure it’s functioning properly, especially during the busiest time of year when farmers are spending a lot of hours in the cab.

A three-layer filter system
Apache Sprayers utilize a three-layer activated charcoal filter comprising a charcoal layer sandwiched between two paper layers with varying levels of filtration. The outer layer is pleated paper designed to catch the largest particles of dirt and dust from entering the middle layer comprising activated charcoal. The third inner-most layer is also paper, but is designed to catch finer particles that may have made it past the charcoal layer.

The lifespan of the filter layers

The cabin filter is designed to do more than just trap dust and dirt particles. The middle activated charcoal layer traps chemical fumes and odors that can sometimes be dangerous to the operator. Though the lifespan of the outer paper filter layers is typically based on the number of hours of operation, the charcoal filter’s efficacy over time is partially determined by the speed at which you operate your HVAC fan, according to Apache Sprayers Senior Application Specialist John Casebolt.

“Activated charcoal deteriorates more quickly with increased air volume,” he said. “If you’re running your fan on high speed all the time so you can feel the air in the cab, you’re pulling more air across the charcoal filter, so you will consume that more quickly.”

The reason for this deterioration is the charcoal’s contact with air in general. Activated charcoal’s long-term efficacy in preventing chemical fumes from entering the cab also depends on how the machine’s heating and air-conditioning system is used. If you crank up the A/C most of the time while you’re spraying, your charcoal filter’s lifespan will be adversely affected because of the increased airflow over the filter. Even when it’s not in operation, if the filter is installed and exposed to open air, it’s slowly losing long-term efficacy, Casebolt said. It’s an important factor to account for in how you store your filter during the off-season, just as much as accounting for how you operate during the season.

When to change your filter
Just as the machine’s A/C system can be the culprit of shorter cabin filter operating life, it can also be one of the first symptoms of a filter reaching the end of its life. When the filter stops working, it’s common for A/C systems to slow down or not function optimally.

When is the best time to change your cabin air filter? “If you start noticing chemical odors in the cab, then it’s time to take a look at that filter and see when it was changed last, because that activated charcoal begins to deactivate as soon as it’s exposed to air. It doesn’t deteriorate as much when it’s just sitting there versus when air is moving across it, but it does happen,” Casebolt said. If there aren’t noticeable performance issues, the cabin filter should be changed at least once a year, depending on overall use.

“Whether it’s more often than once a year depends on the hours on the machine and the conditions in which you’re running,” Casebolt added.

Storing and replacing the filters
Because activated charcoal starts deteriorating with any contact with the air, it’s also important to store filters in a way that minimizes that contact, thereby maximizing the functional life of filters containing the material, like Apache Sprayers cabin filters.

“When you buy filters, they come wrapped in plastic cellophane or something to prevent the air from getting to it even when it’s sitting on a shelf. It’s wrapped very well. I recommend putting a new filter on right before you start spraying. Get your sprayer ready during the off-season, but leave that charcoal filter wrapped up, set it on the seat and wait until right before you go to the field to put it in.”

Replacing cabin air filters is just one part of regular maintenance on an Apache Sprayer. Do you want more maintenance ideas? Start with our annual maintenance checklist.

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Pulse-Width Modulation Spraying

Pulse-Width Modulation

Spray smarter, save money with pulse-width modulation

Spray drift continues to be a big issue for chemical applicators, and it has led to the rise of digital spraying technology that utilizes pulse-width modulation (PWM). The new sprayer innovation, available on every Apache Sprayer through the Raven HawkeyeTM system, helps operators more efficiently apply chemicals and sustain environmental and crop quality by preventing spray drift.

Why Use PWM
When facing windy or inclement conditions but a spraying job must be done, the operator typically has to slow down the sprayer and back off application pressure. This is needed to effectively deliver chemical where it needs to without wind catching, taking it elsewhere and inflict damage to other crops or plants. Today’s PWM helps operators sustain more consistent field operations at speeds close to, or at the same level as, optimal conditions.

Pulse-width modulation isn’t the newest technology in the world. Some manufacturers have been offering the functionality for more than a decade, but more recent advancements, spurred by increased scrutiny of the chemical application sector, have made new systems more functional and efficient in controlling drift. In the last five years alone, issues with drift and increasing overall chemical and crop input costs have amplified interest and demand for digital spraying and PWM.

How PWM Works
Pulse-width modulation, like that in the Raven Hawkeye system, uses solenoids at each spray tip that open and close a valve at the nozzle tip that “pulses.” The pulse of the valves’ opening is consistent, with the valve opening once every 1/10 of a second, and spray volume and droplets are applied based on percentages of the modulation’s “duty cycle.” A 25% duty cycle in a PWM system would result in a lighter application that would ordinarily require a low pressure. A 75% duty cycle, on the other hand, would mean a higher application rate.

“At a 25% modulation, you’re only going to have that valve open 25% of the time when the nozzle is pulsing, so you’re going to have a lower flow rate. At 75%, you’re going to be open during much more of that pulse, so you will be applying more,” said Tyler Gordon, Apache Sprayers Service Specialist. “Adjusting the percentage of the duty cycle is how you increase or decrease your flow rate, all the while keeping the same pressure.”

“We actually hook these solenoids up near the check valve on each nozzle. The fluid reaches that check valve at the nozzle, and we can control the flow with that solenoid. Now, when we want to shut off the fluid flow, like when we enter an area that’s already been applied, we can instantly turn off some of the nozzles,” Gordon said. “You basically have 40 pounds of pressure at the nozzle tip at all times.”

Benefits of PWM
1. Consistent pressure
Through a sequence of valves constantly opening and closing, the system maintains more consistent pressure and makes adjustments via a central in-cab monitor based on operator adjustments accounting for weather conditions and map inputs. The system can also provide per-nozzle control, preventing spray overlap and allowing a higher level of application precision, and PWM allows more precise control of droplets even when running at ground speeds that would ordinarily prevent the required pressure from building to adequate levels for the chemical to reach its target plants.

2. More precision and flexibility
Pulse-width modulation makes it possible to eliminate the “run-down time” associated with conventional spray booms and nozzles, adding precision to the spraying process. It also provides operational flexibility, allowing the operator to spray at different speeds but maintaining the same coverage when conditions would otherwise keep the sprayer parked. Most importantly, it helps prevent spray drift since the pulse-width modulation helps better deliver chemical in a wider array of conditions – namely wind – without adjusting speeds or changing components. That, in turn, makes spraying operations more consistent and efficient by eliminating two factors that can add to overall spraying operations and their efficacy.

“If I want to spray at 30 PSI, PWM allows me to run anywhere from 8 to 16 MPH with the same nozzle tips and the pressure going through those tips will create the droplet sizes I need. It’s changing that duty cycle to hold 30 pounds of pressure at a wider range of ground speeds,” Gordon said. “The pressure going through that tip is what creates the droplet size of the chemical. Now, I can maximize my chemical applications by yielding a 500-micron droplet size more consistently, for example. The higher the droplet size, the more drift you might get.”

3. Spray no matter what the weather conditions
That’s the primary benefit of pulse-width modulation. It helps the operator avoid spray drift by applying larger droplet sizes more consistently – and at a wider range of speeds – through the adjustment percentages in the pulse-width modulation system, not the actual overall system pressure itself. But, that’s not the end of its benefits. It also allows the operator to spray in conditions that might otherwise prevent it because of wind or other issues that influence drift and sprayer ground speeds.

“Depending on the application, most operators are spraying at 40 pounds of pressure or so. If you get over a 10 MPH wind, most can’t spray or they have to slow way down,” Gordon said. “But with this system, you can turn pressure down to 20 PSI and reduce drift yet continue to spray at the same speed.”

Specifics of the Raven Hawkeye
Other benefits come in the design of the Raven Hawkeye system. Because it manages sprayer booms in sections, the system creates up to 16 “virtual boom sections” that help precisely manage applications by providing shutoff capabilities through the solenoids and valves that otherwise manage each tip’s pulse modulation.

“A lot of farmers who operate a lot of large, square fields don’t think that they need that level of precision, and they may not need that level of precision. But, if you don’t farm a single square field, you can see up to a 15% savings on chemical,” Gordon said. “If you add that up over the five-year average life of a sprayer, that could be thousands of dollars in chemical savings. That’s what I have heard from farmers who have operated the Raven Hawkeye system for a year.”

Those cost savings are likely to be a mainstay on operations utilizing PWM, especially as Apache Sprayers continue integrating more technology as it develops in the future. In the end, it will remain critical for farmers to focus on connecting their uptake of new tools like pulse-width modulation with overall operational efficiency.

“The bottom line is it comes down to dollars and cents,” Gordon said. “You almost always know, in the ballpark, how many bushels of corn or soybeans you’re going to get out of your fields every year. It just always comes down to reducing input costs and making your spraying operations more efficient is one way to do it.”

Looking to upgrade your sprayer precision? Find out more about Raven Hawkeye and other precision options with Apache Sprayers.

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Strainer Maintenance and Why They Should Be Replaced

Strainer Maintenance: A How To Guide

Prevent crop damage with thorough strainer maintenance

Spraying even trace amounts of the wrong chemical in your fields can be costly. When you’re lax with inspecting and maintaining your sprayer’s strainers, you run the risk of that happening. Get our crop-saving tips on how to properly maintain the strainers on your self-propelled sprayer from the Apache experts.

Why strainers matter

Strainers, like tip nozzles, are inexpensive components to any sprayer, but they have a major influence on the performance of a sprayer, making it important to take the time and energy to maintain them well, according to Apache Sprayers Service Technician and Application Parts Specialist Chris Weaver. Chemical residue left in strainers – whether made from plastic or stainless steel – that aren’t cleaned and well-maintained can enter spraying streams later on when applying a different product, sometimes leading to crop damage that can cut yield potential.

“Clean-out is so important. If you leave some of those chemicals in there all year long, it’s not only going to potentially affect what you’re spraying, but also damage the strainers themselves, Weaver said. “You may be moving from a GMO field to a conventional field, and the residual that stays in the screens will be applied, especially if the strainers are snagged or damaged.”

One cleanout strategy

Strainer maintenance is a process that starts once the sprayer’s work is done for the season. The best time to remove, inspect and clean existing strainers is when you’re winterizing your sprayer at the season’s end. Weaver recommends a simple, low-cost procedure using common household products to thoroughly clean strainers.

“I will pull them out and put them in a five-gallon bucket of water and dish soap, then soak them in that for a while to degrease them,” he said. “Then, I dry them off and keep them inside during the winter to prevent freezing damage. In the spring, I blow them out and check for any damage.”

That damage typically comes in the form of holes in the screen that can render the strainers ineffective in their primary function.

Inspect strainers regularly

Regularly inspecting strainers is the best way to know they’re performing optimally. That includes strainers at T- and Y-joints in the sprayer booms, as well as at the tips. Be aware of different mesh numbers and types in the different strainers, as it’s important information to keep in mind when diagnosing overall strainer health and performance, Weaver said.With stainless steel strainers, it’s important to check for rust. “Stainless steel strainers are not completely stainless, especially when spraying a lot of fertilizer, they can develop a little rust,” Weaver added.

“Strainers develop holes over time, so you want to check them every time you clean out your sprayer,” Weaver said. “Visually inspect them a couple times a year. And, they can get snags in them if you just try to force them into place. It’s good to keep an eye on them, especially if you are switching between fields and chemicals a lot.”

Finally, in inspecting your sprayer’s strainers, be gentle. Even the slightest malformation or damage can seriously alter a strainer’s performance.

What else should you account for in maintaining your Apache Sprayer? Start with our annual maintenance checklist.

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Driveline Maintenance and Care

Driveline Maintenance and Care

Follow regular driveline maintenance schedules to maximize sprayer performance

The key to smooth operation of any machinery is regular maintenance, and Apache Sprayers are no exception. Taking care of routine maintenance on manufacturer-recommended schedules is important to sustaining productive, efficient field operations over the life of your sprayer.

Nowhere is that regular maintenance more important than the sprayer’s driveline, the collection of components that delivers power to the wheels and keeps the machine running in the field. Technology today can help in keeping track of important maintenance timeframes; however, it’s up to the operator to follow those timeframes, says Equipment Technologies Service Specialist, Tyler Gordon.

“The scheduled maintenance app on the Apache display, now an option on new machines, can tell you what you need to do based on hour intervals,” Gordon said. In-cab displays themselves are optional on all Apache Sprayers, but every machine is wired for one. That makes it easy to add a display later on.

Be sure to grease every 40 hours
Even with the most advanced diagnostic tools, it’s up to the operator to follow the manufacturer’s maintenance schedules. First and foremost, routine driveline maintenance on Apache Sprayers starts with greasing the line’s eight universal joints every 40 hours of use. “When we talk about greasing the driveline, we also grease any axle or chassis frame component in that same 40-hour interval,” Gordon said, adding these tasks are typically always included in a routine inspection.

In addition to the universal joints on the driveline, it’s important to check the sprayer’s rear differential every 500 hours, the same interval for engine oil changes and any planetary wheel drives and wheel gear dropboxes.

Stay on schedule
The number of hours of use and overall treatment of a sprayer has a lot to do with its maintenance needs over time. With tasks like scheduled driveline maintenance, it’s important to stick closely to the manufacturer’s recommended timeframes, even if the calendar doesn’t match the machine’s overall use. Failing to do so can be costly in the long run.

“Operators will sometimes wait until they get to 500 hours, even if we recommend maintenance every year or 500 hours. If they put 200 hours on it a year, they’ll just wait until the second year,” Gordon said. “But, oil breaks down over time. Once it’s in a component like a rear differential, the oil gets debris in it over time and starts breaking down. It doesn’t matter if the machine doesn’t run as much. Once the oil is in there, it’s exposed and taking on that debris.”

“Failing to take care of regular maintenance like this always comes back to bite you.”

The Owner’s Manual for each Apache Sprayer includes a Lubrication and Maintenance chapter with manufacturer’s maintenance schedules. See more on driveline maintenance in the Apache Sprayers yearly maintenance checklist.

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5 Tips for Buying a Sprayer in a Down Ag Economy

5 Sprayer Buying Tips for Today's Market

After facing years of challenging grain markets, general farmer optimism is starting to rebound. As improving sentiment translates into making much-needed machinery purchases – including sprayers – it’s important for potential buyers to stay well-informed about local market conditions and how factors like available inventory and demand influence prices.

At the same time, it’s important to continue planning for the long term and not make cost containment the sole driver of sprayer purchases, especially considering the return on investment a new sprayer can offer most farm operations.

Here are a few tips from Clark McGrath, Iowa State University Extension field specialist, and Greg “Machinery Pete” Peterson that can help buyers best navigate the sprayer market in the coming months.

Develop the right attitude

By watching local machinery market conditions, sprayer supplies and grain market prices, farmers can equip themselves with the right buying attitude ahead of what could be a “major rush” for both new and used sprayers. Peterson said that’s likely to happen once the grain markets start to correct, revenues rebound and buying habits return to what was “normal” before the downturn.

“You want to be aggressive when nobody feels aggressive. That’s when you get the best deals. If you wait until everyone has money, then the prices are up on everything and you’re just another customer in line,” Peterson said. “If you’re looking to buy a sprayer now, what I would do is look for that dealer that has several of them on the lot, call him and see what you can do. Let him know you’re looking.”

Watch budgets closely

While being more aggressive as a buyer can pay dividends in today’s market, it’s more important than ever to ensure you’re sticking to your operation’s long-term budget, McGrath said. On most operations today, that means accounting for both the cost of purchasing and maintaining a sprayer as well as paying for continued custom applications, which producers who operate their own sprayers still rely upon for some of their application work.

“Make sure you can make it work with today’s crop prices and doing most of my spraying versus hiring it done,” McGrath said. “Don’t forget to take into account the costs of chemical.”

Develop realistic expectations

Owning a self-propelled sprayer enables you to take care of the bulk of your spraying operations. But, it may not take care of all applications. Don’t enter a sprayer purchase with the expectation that you can handle everything, and take labor and time into account when examining the cost of ownership and management before buying.

“I see more growers buying sprayers to take care of their post-emergence applications, but not their pre-emergence or burndown applications because they may not have the time or labor to do it, since those are busier times of the year,” McGrath said. “With today’s large, high-tech sprayers, you can spray a lot of acres in a short time period, but you still need to make sure you’re accounting for that time and the necessary labor to pull it off.”

Account for yield improvements

If you’re operating your own self-propelled sprayer for the first time, you’ll likely have more flexibility to take care of your own applications, and that can lead to crop yield improvements. It’s a good idea to set expectations for just how much yield you stand to gain through well-timed applications. Improved yields will mean improved crop revenue, and that can help offset some of the cost of the sprayer.

“When we look at budgets for operations that I work with, we account for yields that get a little better, then think about ways we can improve marketing,” McGrath said. “It’s important not to budget on the high side for yield improvements, but they do play a role in justifying the cost of adding a new sprayer.”

Buy for today and tomorrow

When starting the purchase decision-making process for a self-propelled sprayer, it’s important to think not just about immediate needs, but also look ahead through the expected life of the machine or length of time you’ll own it. Technology will likely advance during that time, and adopting that new technology will carry with it additional costs. Ultimately, it’s important to make sure you’re accounting for both those types of costs and how well the machine will meet your needs in the field.

“You need to buy what’s best for your acreage. If you have fields that will require steering guidance or self-leveling booms, you need to think about that when you’re buying,” McGrath said. “Looking a few years ahead is the biggest thing to think about when updating your sprayer or buying one for the first time.”

Are you in the market for a self-propelled sprayer, or do you want to learn more about the ROI of a new sprayer on your farm? Get in touch with our team for a sprayer quote and to learn more.

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Make Spraying Simple: Why You Should Use Direct Injection

Make Spraying Simple: Why You Should Use Direct Injection

Direct injection adds application efficiency, convenience

The process of direct injection means the primary tank contains only water, and since mixing happens in-line, there is no chemical actually entering the main tank. The result is less chemical waste, faster, more efficient mixing in the field and quicker clean-out after you’ve gotten the job done.

The ability to move from field to field and spray different chemicals with minimal time and effort between applications used to be a pipe dream for busy sprayer operators. Not anymore. For every Apache Sprayer, from the 2017 model year on, an optional direct chemical injection provides operators the ability to mix concentrated chemical in-line via an on-board 50-gallon tank.

“The direct injection system is more accurate because of the way it’s mixing in-line with a mixing chamber,” said Apache Sprayers Application Specialist Chris Smith. “It’s all about the ease of switching from one chemical to another. With a simple boom clean-out, you can go from one field to the next using different chemicals without having cross-contamination worries.”

The capability to inject in-line directly without chemical entering the primary tank has benefits beyond just convenience for the operator. With high chemical costs and issues like herbicide resistance continuing to plague chemical applicators and farmers, direct injection helps keep chemical where it needs to be going and minimizes the potential for weed resistance, on top of cross-contamination.

“Demand has picked up because of potential chemical cross-contamination for different chemicals, especially as weeds are becoming more resistant to one particular chemical or another,” Smith said.

Ensuring a direct injection system works properly is “extremely easy,” he added. In the on-board product controller, products and rates are selected and, based on ground speed, the chemical is injected into the lines and booms directly without coming into contact with the primary tank.

“All you do is enter in what you’re doing, how much you’re putting on and how fast you’re moving into the controller and it injects chemical as needed,” Smith said. “It takes a lot of the guesswork out of the process.”

Do you want to see the Apache Sprayers direct injection system at work on your farm? Sign up for a demo today.

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How To Rinse Your Sprayer Right

 

Are you getting the most from the chemicals you’re spraying? Part of the answer to that question lies in how well you maintain your sprayer between applications. Properly rinsing out your sprayer can not only help keep the machine in top operating condition, but also prevent crop damage that can cut yields and add to overall costs.

“Everybody has made mistakes when they haven’t gotten things rinsed out well enough,” said ET Works Senior Application Specialist Jeremy Hurt. “Chemicals and crop input costs right now are really expensive, so it’s not bad to be self-conscious about doing it right. I think Apache Sprayers make this process much easier to do. It’s not as time-consuming and doesn’t involve as many steps.”

1. Get acquainted with the machine

The process starts by familiarizing yourself with your sprayer’s rinsing components and by using the correct tools to do an effective job. Most Apache Sprayers are equipped with 100-gallon rinse tanks, and the amount of water used during rinsing depends on what chemical you’ll apply next, and how long it will be before the next field operation.

“If you are done spraying and want to clean out your machine and resume spraying the same chemical a short time later, but don’t want the chemical sitting in the sprayer for two or three days, rinsing with 50 gallons will be adequate to clean things out,” Hurt said. “If you’re going to go from spraying corn today to soybeans tomorrow, you’re going to want to use the full 100 gallons and rinse everything twice. You don’t want to risk applying small amounts of the wrong herbicide to the wrong crop.”

2. Take advantage of tools available

In rinsing your sprayer, make sure you’re taking advantage of all the tools and hardware on the machine to do an adequate job. Apache Sprayers, for example, feature Roto Flush nozzles inside the main tank that make better use of the onboard rinsing tank on many models.

“The nozzles mount to the top of the tank and, as you’re rinsing out, you send your rinse water through the nozzles to rinse the inside of the tank from the top down,” Hurt said, adding the Roto Flush system has been standard equipment on Apache Sprayers for the last six years.

3. Rinse everything thoroughly–and we mean everything

It’s critical to make sure you’re effectively rinsing all components that have encountered chemical. It’s a common mistake to overlook parts like the chemical inductor and some boom sections. It’s important to also open end caps so that rinse water reaches every boom section and exits the boom ends to prevent the chemical from accumulating.

“Chemical will tend to ‘clump’ if it sits. “We use a Hypro Express end cap that allows the operator to pull the cap off simply by removing a pin.”

4. Keep an eye on strainer clogging

Nozzles typically don’t cause many problems, as they “will pretty much clean themselves out” during rinsing, but strainers are a different story. With booms managed in sections, there’s a strainer for each boom section, and it’s at the strainers where clogging is sometimes more likely to occur.

“Especially when going from one crop to another, it’s a good idea to clean strainers separately in case any of them are clogged,” Hurt said. “If you have a clogged strainer, you can tell by the effects on spraying pressure. If you have one clogged nozzle, you probably won’t see that.”

5. Take your time

If you’re using the full 100 gallons from the sprayer’s onboard tank to rinse the whole system, the process should take well over an hour, Hurt said. A partial, 50-gallon rinse should take around 30 to 40 minutes. But, every operation is different, and it’s more important to do a thorough job and do so in a timely manner, all the while being attentive to handling the job safely for both the operator and the surrounding environment.

6. Rinse in the same field you sprayed in

In addition to concerns about overall crop input costs, cross-contamination of chemicals is another problem associated with insufficient sprayer rinsing. Applying even trace amounts of the wrong herbicide can damage crops and lower overall yield potential. That’s why it’s not only important to thoroughly rinse sprayer components, but also do so in the same field where the chemical was applied.

“Rinsing out a sprayer should be done in the field where you sprayed,” Hurt said. “You want to do everything to minimize the chances of chemical contamination.”

Get more tips on sprayer maintenance with the Apache Shop Series.

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