With the first of the key fungicide timings imminent for winter cereals, and spring weed control across all autumn-sown combinable crops a priority for many farmers as soils dry out, many sprayers will now be coming out of the shed for the first time this year. For machines that have spent the past few months tucked away, Andy Mennell, sprayer specialist at P Tuckwell, has a few pointers to help ensure they perform precisely and reliably as they begin their spring 2021 workload. His tips begin with some mechanical basics.
“If you run a mounted or trailed machine, the easiest time to grease and check the PTO for damage is now, before it’s attached to the tractor,” Andy suggests.
“With a self-propelled machine, the obvious starting point is to ensure it fires up and runs smoothly. Doing this well before spraying begins will ensure any defects with the batteries or engine can be resolved before the busy period starts.”
Ideally, while the sprayer has been parked up, the solution system will have been serviced and the pump diaphragms replaced, the sprayer pump valve springs changed and the shaft seals renewed, says Andy.
“Too often this sort of pump maintenance is overlooked. If it is carried out properly it should ensure the pump will run without problems over the season ahead. This winter’s cold temperatures will have also meant those machines that sat without antifreeze are at potential risk of cracked manifolds, which will affect suction/pressure build-up, so check here too.”
John Deere sprayers feature a 10 bar regulation system, governed via a diaphragm and spring arrangement. This is a serviceable item, and is almost always overlooked during on-farm maintenance, Andy suggests. “This will generally last the season, so instead of it failing in the field with a full tank, replace this whilst there is no pressure on the sprayer – before there is no pressure in the sprayer…!
“With a mounted or trailed sprayer, once the machine is coupled to the tractor ensure all pipes and couplings fit as they should. Often when machines are put away for the winter with damaged components there is a plan to fix them that isn’t put into practice.” As a next stage, Andy suggests unfolding the boom, checking pivot points for wear and reinstalling boom fittings removed when draining the spray lines to avoid frost damage, or checking over the fittings if they remained in place.
“Remove the pressure and suction filters, and clean them of the sediment build-up that’s likely to have occurred over winter. Then it’s time to run the machine up, getting some water through the system and assessing whether the winter has caused any damage. Allow the system to become live, turning every valve to ensure all is working correctly. Turn on the induction bowl to ensure there is no damage to pipework and fittings. Also check the clean water tank, which is often overlooked for winterisation – water can sit in the bottom and will damage the clean water fittings.
“Run the entire machine in both recirculation and spray modes, operate the clean water washing system and the sprinkler jets in the tank. Also run the agitation to ensure this is working. Test the machine and over-pressurise the system to show any defects.”
If in any doubt about machine output, nozzles should be jug-tested, says Andy. “Ordering nozzles via a nozzle promotion through your local P Tuckwell outlet is an ideal, economic way to ensure accurate, even application, so if output is in doubt from a jug test, then replace. Don’t forget that the cost of incorrect application can be huge, and that investment in new nozzle sets will quickly be returned.”
Next he suggests greasing the boom breakbacks and checking they work correctly to the required tension. “Adjust the boom if its alignment is incorrect or has slackened over time. A solid boom will not flex incorrectly, and so will not wear prematurely. “Lastly, it’s worth going through the key points of the National Sprayer Testing Scheme checklist. Not only will this ensure your machine is fit for the season, but it will also help it pass its next NSTS test.”