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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Farmer Benefits from Well-Timed Spraying Applications with Apache Sprayers

John Toedte knows well the constraints and challenges that custom applicators face in meeting all customers’ spraying needs, having worked as one before taking on full-time management of his family’s Centralia, Illinois, farm. He’s also well-versed on what makes for efficient, effective applications and that’s what led him to purchase an Apache Sprayer for all his farm’s spraying needs. For him, purchasing an Apache was as much about saving time as it was saving money.

Once he took over his farm’s management, Toedte wanted to upgrade to a larger sprayer. When he did, he was left with potentially costly repairs on a previous self-propelled machine that led him to look for a more straightforward, purpose-driven machine. His search ultimately led him to Apache.

“We used to have a pull-behind sprayer on the farm, but that’s back when we had more time to do our own spraying. As we grew, I upgraded to a different self-propelled sprayer with hydrostatic drives and wasn’t happy with them at all. I had a wheel motor going bad on the hydrostat and it was going to cost $6,000 to repair. That’s what got me looking elsewhere,” Toedte said. “I thought Apache was great for the money and the direct drive system would be a very good fit for me. I was able to purchase my Apache for $50,000 less than a comparable machine.”

Toedte uses his Apache to spray his farm’s acres a minimum of three times each growing season. In addition to the maintenance savings that comes with owning an Apache, Toedte saves by buying chemical and fertilizer himself. It all adds up to a financially efficient operation, especially when he adds on the spraying he does for other area farmers.

“I do all my own spraying now, including fertilizer. I would say it’s saving me at least $10 to $12 per acre, even counting maintenance,” Toedte said. “I do some custom work for other smaller area farmers when the cooperatives can’t keep up. When a smaller farmer is a ways down their list, I go in and help out.”

Though he sees major benefits from both cost and maintenance standpoints, Toedte said the biggest pro of operating his own Apache Sprayer comes from timeliness. He considers himself one of his area’s smaller farmers and having worked as a custom applicator, Toedte knows farms of his size are not always the highest priorities for applicators with long lists of customers, many of whom are larger than him, acreage-wise. Owning and operating his own sprayer has helped him overcome this common drawback to working with a custom applicator, especially for smaller farmers.

“I get to spray when it needs to be done. My weeds aren’t as tall, and my fields are cleaner,” he said. “That’s a benefit you don’t see at first, but you soon realize how much it impacts you in the long run.”

Want to learn more about the cost benefits of owning and operating your own Apache Sprayer? Start here.

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Farmer Sought High ROI, Found It with Apache Sprayers

Time is of the essence for Tony Brown on his Lovington, Illinois, farm. That’s especially true with his spraying applications now that he’s grown his acreage to the point at which custom applications were becoming a larger line item on the cost side of his balance sheet.

The combination of increased demands on his spraying operations and the growing cost of custom applications led Brown to purchase an Apache self-propelled sprayer after years of owning a pull-behind sprayer that he said he “didn’t use enough.”

“I still had to hire a lot of spraying done and I was paying $7 per acre for those custom applications, going over 2,500 acres twice a year. That was more than enough to cover what I pay for the Apache Sprayer,” Brown said. “That’s exactly why I bought this Apache, for the return on investment. Money-wise, it just made sense. I can take care of the same spraying with my Apache for $3 per acre.”

While part of the financial equation lies in the original purchase price of the Apache Sprayer, Brown, a former pull-behind sprayer owner and operator, sees cost benefits in both what the machine allows him to do in the field and the time required to do it. That’s especially true at critical points in the growing season when time is tight, and he needs to act quick.

“Compared to my old pull-behind, this Apache has such big booms and you can spray at higher speeds with so much accuracy. It’s amazing how much you can get done,” Brown said. “That’s especially true in the spring time when planting is the most critical thing to get done. It seems like you’re always having to plant soybeans and spray corn at the same time. With this machine, I can spray a couple hundred acres quickly and get back to planting.”

Another cost benefit lies in the simplicity and purpose-driven design of his Apache Sprayer. A combination of the right technology and sound mechanics makes the machine perform optimally, helping him achieve the highest possible ROI.

“It’s simple to operate, with automatic boom controls and components like that. Last fall, I had a $400,000 combine lose a $50 sensor. It was easy enough to replace, but it cost $600 to get it back up and running and it cost me half a day of time during harvest,” Brown said. “With this Apache Sprayer, once you have everything dialed in and calibrated, just about anybody can run it efficiently.”

Though he’s able to accomplish the vast majority of his spraying with his Apache Sprayer, Brown still does occasionally work with custom applicators when time is tight. But because of the flexibility that his Apache self-propelled machine provides, he’s able to better manage his spraying costs, when his fields are sprayed and who does the work.

“A lot of farmers have their own sprayers but still hire custom applicators. I usually have my employees do other jobs and I handle planting and spraying myself unless I need something applied while I’m planting,” Brown said. “By balancing my employees with custom work, I don’t get into a bind when I’m spraying at the same time as planting.”

Want to learn more about the cost benefits of owning and operating your own Apache Sprayer? Start here.

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Farmer Finds the Right Spraying Balance with Apache Sprayers

An increase in acres led Miles Adkins to purchase a self-propelled sprayer when he saw the financial benefit of ownership versus relying on custom applications and his old pull-behind sprayer.

The Ullin, Illinois, no-till farmer has a good relationship with his local cooperative that has provided his custom applications, and he still relies on it when time and resource constraints don’t allow for him to take care of his own spraying. But, the flexibility of having his own sprayer has helped him better manage his applications and lower his overall weed control costs.

“Having my own sprayer is like having a guy ready to work for me at any time. Now, we spray exactly when we need to spray. It’s handy to have,” said Adkins, adding between his acreage and the number of times he uses his sprayer, it typically covers around 12,000 acres each year. “Spraying myself definitely saves me about $3 per acre.”

Many of those acres are in hilly, irregularly shaped fields with waterways that can pose a challenge for even the most experienced, skillful operator and lead to continued weed pressures from inconsistent, spotty applications. With the precision technology in his Apache Sprayer, Adkins said that’s no longer a problem and he can do a better job spraying more efficiently in a much timelier manner.

“Before, we were having trouble killing weeds in our waterways and spraying those waterways effectively would take a lot of time. One 32-acre field took almost two hours to spray before,” Adkins said. “With the Apache Sprayer, I can do it in 20 minutes now. I can spray it like a rectangular field since every nozzle is independent and we no longer have problems killing weeds in the waterways.”

The combination of an efficient sprayer with the technology he needs and the manpower necessary to keep that machine working in the field has benefits beyond weed and pest control. Because he employs no-till on all of his acres, spraying is a big priority and having that step function smoothly means the entire no-till production process becomes more efficient.

“Because we no-till everything, we have to have weeds burned down right in front of the planter, so the operator has to stay ahead of us. That used to be a challenge, and he had to run his legs off to stay ahead of the planter,” Adkins said. “Now, he’s not having to trim around every waterway and it’s not taking him nearly as much time. He’s on easy street now.”

Adkins estimates he saves around 800 hours of operating time on his Apache Sprayer over its lifetime because it’s able to drastically cut his time in the field with applications like these. But, it also has the added benefit of helping him better maintain his farm’s labor force in times of year when doing so can be a challenge.

“I have a man who does our applications and during the summer when he’s doing a lot of them, I would just be finding other jobs for him to do if he wasn’t operating the sprayer,” Adkins said. “I’m not only cutting my spraying costs in half, but I’m giving another man a job during the summer where I’d have to lay him off otherwise. That way, he’s there to handle the spraying and do other work when I need him to. It is good for me as a manager.”

Want to learn more about the cost benefits of owning and operating your own Apache Sprayer? Start here.

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Introducing the New Apache Shop Video Series


The smart, simple design of an Apache Sprayer keeps most daily spray operations extremely easy and efficient. However, our simplicity still doesn’t make every sprayer task, topic and maintenance job a complete cakewalk. It’s especially hard to become a maintenance expert when some tasks only occur once a year! So, sometimes you may need a little help – and that’s ok! This is where our new Apache Shop video series comes into play.

We want our sprayer owners to feel comfortable with their machine. This video series will provide tutorials, how-to’s, maintenance suggestions and general sprayer information. In the upcoming months you’ll hear from various Equipment Technologies employees and sprayer experts about the Viper 4®, boom adjustments, calibration settings and more. Check out our first video below to learn more about the Apache Sprayers diagnostic app.

Have a topic that you’d like the Apache Shop experts to cover? Tell us in the comment section below or send an email to marketing@etsprayers.com.

 

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Meet Eric Friesen, Apache’s New Canadian Regional Director

Meet Eric Friesen Graphic
The love of agriculture and farm equipment has never left Eric Friesen since his upbringing on a Saskatchewan family farm. Now, he’s parlaying that love of the farm and iron that enables farmers to get their jobs done into a new position with Equipment Technologies.

Friesen is the new Equipment Technologies Regional Director for Western Canada — encompassing British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba. In his new role, he’s responsible for business development, parts and sprayer distribution and customer experience for both Apache Sprayers and
Bruin Sprayers.

The longtime farm equipment and machinery sales and service manager brings immense passion and industry experience to his position with Equipment Technologies. After his upbringing on a farm, during which he learned the basics of machinery maintenance and repair, he started working in the
construction sector during high school. That experience led to his apprenticeship as a heavy-duty machine technician and later as a truck maintenance technician.

Several maintenance certifications (diesel mechanics, ABS braking systems, air conditioning systems) later, he started his own business as a mobile repair technician and returned to the agriculture sector two years later in 2001. He later added truck inspection to his long list of mechanical services. Since then, he’s been active in managing agricultural and mechanical service businesses in southwestern Saskatchewan.

When he’s not providing mechanical services to area farmers, Friesen enjoys motorcycling, jet-skiing, camping and fishing, though “hanging out with my boys during football season” is also high on his list. The father of four also says he enjoys a warm-weather vacation during the cold Canadian winters with his wife of 21 years, Doreen, daughter Larissa and sons Jordan, Isaiah and Tyson.

Equipment Technologies CEO Matt Hays says Friesen’s combination of passion and decades in the machinery sales and service sector make him a huge asset to the company and most importantly, to its customers.

“We have known Eric for years, having watched his successful professional advancement and being impressed by his focus on taking good care of customers. He understands our products offer a very compelling value proposition and have enormous potential in Western Canada,” Hays says. “I feel lucky and am sure we could not have a better man representing us in the marketplace.”

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Ownership, Operating Costs Contribute to Machinery Return on Investment

Calculating ROI Header Graphic

Return on investment (ROI) is a way to measure the efficiency and performance of a specific asset based on its cost and value of its output. It’s an important measure of the financial performance of everything from a specific piece of machinery to an entire farm operation. Especially when economic times are tight, ROI is an important metric to watch to make sure you’re spending money wisely on any farm operation.

When calculating ROI for a piece of machinery like an Apache Sprayer, it’s essential to account for costs ranging from the fixed cost of initial purchase to variable operating costs. Then, compare those to the value of the machine and its function on the farm. The positive difference between costs and returned value represents the return on investment that’s an indicator of efficiency or overall profitability.

Costs of Ownership

A cost of ownership model is one good way to build toward a firm grasp on ROI. Ownership costs are the fixed costs that contribute to overall ROI, including interest, depreciation, taxes, insurance and machinery housing, according to former Iowa State University Extension economist William Edwards*.

How accurate of a figure you want to glean from cost analysis is dictated by the number of factors you examine in that model. With a sprayer, for example, some of the simpler ownership cost models use application acres, retail cost, length of ownership, operating costs and inputs, resale value and any potential other outsourcing costs to determine the total cost.

Based on 5,000 acres of coverage by a custom applicator at a rate of $6.00/acre, the total outsourcing cost is $30,000/year. With a retail price of just under $179,000 and an ownership period of five years, the annual cost to perform the same work with a new Apache Sprayer is just under $32,000/year. But, with a resale value after those five years of $131,000 and accounting for the savings of $150,000 in outsourcing costs for that same time period, it works out to a savings of just over $70,000. Application costs are just over $3.00/acre with an owned Apache Sprayer compared to $6.00/acre when outsourced to a custom applicator.

More complex modeling takes into account those and other variables including specific crops, indirect costs like timeliness and spot spraying, financing structures and depreciation.

“You can take into account the time-value of money (TVM), interest expenses and other things that will make sense to an accountant, but may not to the average consumer. For that person, it’s more about straight cashflow,” says Equipment Technologies Director of Dealer Operations Mike Flatt. “The more you can create consistent calculations on cost of ownership, and the more variables you can take into account in that process, the more accurate the resulting data will be.”

Variable Costs to Consider

Once you’ve arrived at a cost of ownership figure, the next step in reaching the ROI figure is assigning value to a machine’s output. For a sprayer, that may mean how much the operator is saving by owning a sprayer and applying his or her own crop inputs versus having it done by a custom applicator. These types of calculations take into account variable operating costs like repairs, maintenance, fuel and operating labor tied to the machine. These variable costs all “vary directly with the amount of machine use,” Edwards says.

“Operating costs can be difficult to pinpoint sometimes. They may include fuel, maintenance, labor or whatever other costs there are to maintain and operate that machine,” Flatt says. “Though it’s common for many farmers to measure output in acres and bushels, those units don’t always correlate directly to machinery output measurements. The hard thing is comparing that to the value of the machine on the output side. It’s important to make sure you’re comparing apples to apples.”

Human Variables

Though these are the economic variables to examine to reach ROI for a specific piece of machinery, human nature dictates that “economic models don’t always work,” Flatt says, especially during bearish economic times like the crop sector over the last five years. In many cases, the ability to maintain a similar standard of work while cutting costs is a major priority, making ROI an important measure of efficiency in finding out how to best reach that end.

“If you had to buy a new TV, you wouldn’t go back to an old rear-projection model, even if you could buy one for $5. The value proposition isn’t there and you wouldn’t accept that lower standard,” Flatt says. “People are looking at how to maintain their standard of performance for their machinery, but trying to do it by spending less. That might mean a lower purchase price or lower operating costs. People are buying, but they’re sharpening their pencils on how to put more money in their pockets.”

Contact your local Apache Sprayers dealer for an ROI consultation.

* Article: “Estimating Farm Machinery Costs,” https://www.extension.iastate.edu/agdm/crops/html/a3-29.html

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5 Tips for Storing & Handling DEF

5 Tips for Storing and Handling DEF Graphic

Apache Sprayers now operate Tier 4 Final Cummins diesel engines, making them perform better while running cleaner and with a much smaller impact on the environment.

But, those engines do bring with them a new maintenance issue for operators. Though it’s one with which many will likely already be familiar, it’s important to ensure diesel exhaust fluid (DEF) – a key component of the engine system – is handled and stored correctly.

The Tier 4 engines that were incorporated into all 30-series Apache Sprayers in 2016 utilize DEF to help reduce emissions. The fluid – a mixture of water and urea – is applied to diesel exhaust immediately before expulsion from the engine to cut particulate matter and Nitrogen Oxides, resulting in a much more environmentally friendly, cleaner-burning machine. Tier 4 requirements, the culmination of a multi-step phasing-in of new regulations dating back to the early 2000s, were rolled out by the U.S. Environmental protection Agency (EPA) in 2011 as a way to cut diesel emissions. Machinery manufacturers have worked toward integrating the “advanced exhaust aftertreatment” technology into their engines over the last six years, and Apache Sprayers began adjusting engine emissions and working toward Tier 4 in 2012.

Tier 4 systems require a small DEF tank alongside the fuel tank. On a machine with a 90-gallon fuel capacity, the DEF tank is typically around five gallons. Although the fluid is a relatively simple combination of ingredients, it’s still important to handle and store it correctly. Failing to do so can damage the fluid, the engines in which it’s used and surrounding surfaces and components, according to Chris Smith, Apache Sprayers Application Specialist.

Follow these tips to ensure your DEF functions as required and preserves the life and longevity of your Apache Sprayer’s Tier 4 engine.

Keep things clean.

Because it is slightly corrosive, it’s important to clean up spills immediately and ensure any surface is free of DEF to avoid slow, long-term damage. “It can be hard on paint, so if you’re pouring it into your machine, you want to make sure you wipe off any excess to avoid discoloration or prevent it from eating the paint,” Smith says.

Adjust to Mother Nature.

Though it may be easy to throw a jug of DEF in the back of the pickup and keep it there until it’s time for a fill-up, that can erode the fluid’s quality. Direct sunlight can cause evaporation which can lead to imbalanced ingredients (DEF is 67.5% water and 32.5% urea) and as a result, lower efficacy. In addition to avoiding direct sunlight, it’s best to store DEF around 75 to 80 degrees Fahrenheit. Though temporary exposure to higher temperatures is okay, longer-term exposure can cause ingredient imbalance.

You don’t need to be as concerned with lower temperatures. Even if the DEF freezes, once it thaws, it is still usable. “Freezing doesn’t alter the ingredient percentages like heat does,” Smith says. “Evaporation changes the DEF completely when you lose water. But, when it freezes, the percentages stay the same and they thaw at the same time.”

Avoid cross-contamination.

Any additional chemical that’s present in your DEF can cause it to lose efficacy and can potentially damage engine components by introducing particulates or other liquids. To prevent this, use containers that aren’t used for other fluids, like engine oil or coolant. That includes large storage tanks and pumps, Smith says.

“Apache Sprayers have quality sensors in our DEF tanks, so if contaminants are picked up, it will trigger an error code and you have to drain the tank and put in clean DEF. It’s the machine’s way of making sure you’re using clean DEF,” he adds. “The best way to avoid that kind of contamination is to handle it separately – with separate containers – from other engine fluids.”

Store reasonable amounts.

The best way to ensure your DEF is not contaminated or damaged by environmental conditions is by keeping a reasonable amount on supply. Depending the amount of machinery you have requiring the fluid and how long that machinery is operated in the field each growing season, you may not need a huge supply on your farm. Some farmers keep as little as a few gallons on hand, while others use 400- or 500-gallon tanks. Working through the stock you have on hand in a timely manner is the best way to make sure your DEF isn’t beyond its normal shelf life.

“A lot depends on the operator and how much fuel he or she consumes in a given year,” Smith says. “More operators are installing larger tanks, but many still use 55-gallon drums. Matching your storage to consumption will ensure your DEF stays in good shape.”

Don’t let machinery tanks get too low.

Because of the combination of ingredients, when a tank runs low on DEF, it can trigger a quality sensor error code. When a tank is low and the fluid sloshes a lot, it can become cloudy and that physical change can be construed as a quality issue by the tank sensors. By keeping DEF levels from getting too low in on-board tanks, you can avoid this issue. “Fill it up and the issue will go away,” Smith says.

In general, since Tier 4 engines have been around for a few years, many farmers and operators will likely have some familiarity with DEF. Smith says it’s important to remember not just the best practices for storing and handling the fluid, but the necessary safety precautions.

“It’s recommended that when handling DEF, you should wear goggle and gloves just like with any agricultural chemical,” he says.

See more about Apache Sprayers’ Tier 4 engines and their benefits to performance and fuel efficiency.

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