A New, Lighter Sprayer

This week I took delivery on a new Apache AS1220 sprayer. As the first new machine on my farm since 2004, and the first new equipment deal that I’ve worked out entirely on my own, I’m excited. Actually, this new sprayer is a conservation purchase. It is replacing my 2012 model John Deere 4830. Several benefits that it offers over my previous sprayer translate into better conservation practices.

two sprayers

With a dry weight of 20,300 pounds, compared to the 4830 at 25,300#, it is 5,000# lighter. This means less compaction, less likely to create ditches, less getting stuck, and less power needed, which brings us to engine size.

The Apache uses a 215 horsepower Cummins Turbo diesel engine compared to the John Deere 4830’s 275 hp engine. At 28% of the JD’s size, one might think I got a much smaller sprayer, but it has the same width (100 foot) boom, so I will continue to drive in the exact same field tracks as in the past, and it actually has a 20% larger chemical tank capacity at 1200 gallons. Plus, the John Deere tops out at a road speed of 30 mph empty, whereas the Apache runs >35 mph.

One of the problems bogging down the John Deere sprayers is the hydrostatic drive system. It converts engine torque to hydraulic pressure which is pumped through hoses down to hydraulic wheel motors where it must be converted back into mechanical torque. There is some efficiency lost in this double conversion. Granted, John Deere had a reason to design the system this way: to gain height for driving through a tall crop. It has a clearance of 60 inches without axles. But since I don’t need to drive over tall crops, the Apache’s 50 inch clearance is plenty, and I get the added bonus of safety since it is not so top-heavy.

Some of the John Deere’s extra power may also be dedicated to it being in 4×4 all the time, whereas the Apache is only 2×4 (but it has a differential lock). Its too bad that didn’t translate into the John Deere being less likely to get stuck in the mud. I never got my previous GVM brand sprayer stuck until I got the John Deere. Not unlike other 4830 owners, we had it stuck several times in places that surprised us.

Another feature of the new Apache sprayer is 9 boom sections.  That means there are 9 switches which can be operated automatically or manually to cut off the chemical and/or fertilizer being sprayed across the spray boom in sections as I come to a headland.  This reduces overlap crop damage and wasted chemicals by an extra 21% over the John Deere.  The feature is called AccuBoom, and is 89% more efficient than controlling spray by a single on/off function on headlands.

After all those conservation benefits are considered, the Apache sprayer is easier to work on, has greater visibility of front tires to help driving between the rows, and cost $100,000 less than a new John Deere the same size!

Chemical Drift Control

This week while my employee (and cousin), Jonathan, was spraying the burn-down application on a field going into corn, I noticed that the spray was not settling to the ground properly.  There are adjuvants to fix that and I had some on hand.  We had planed on using Justified if the wind was moderate or when near sensitive areas like yards or other crops, but that day we were all alone in the middle of some big fields with a 2-4 mph calm wind.  However, since the rows were so long he was traveling 15 mph and building up 50 psi which creates very small droplets like fog that hang in the air too long.  So I decided to see if Justified would help.

The difference in spraying with and without Justified is obvious in the pictures below.  There was such little wind that day the spray would just hang out over the surface of the ground until it either fell or evaporated.  I quickly added Justified to the tank and you can see the difference.  It is possible that I will get a better kill on the area with the deposition agent.

spray drift spray no drift

Spray tip selection is also important.  Spray parts manufacturers like TeeJet have guides like this to help me know their products and select the right one for the job.  I currently have and use six different tips for different applications and conditions.  That day I was using our most common tip, an Air Induction Extended Range or AIXR.  Air induction is how that tip creates unique bubble-like droplets to reduce drift without sacrificing much in leaf coverage.  Here is an article by Cornell University on air induction tips.

List of Chemical Conservation Practices

My children in a flowering wheat field
My children in a flowering wheat field

Chemical Conservation:

  • Scouting is done regularly to identify targest pests by:
    • weekly in-season WRDVI satellite imagery and automated crop health alerts
    • drone flights across fields
    • traditional boots on the ground
  • Only chemicals which are needed based on scouting results and recent history are used.
  • Scouting until insects and weeds reach certain threshold levels before spraying is common practice.
  • Beneficial insects are respected and accounted for before deciding whether to spray.
  • Only labeled and professional agronomist recommended products and rates are used.
  • EPA regulations are followed.
  • Proper adjuvants are used as labeled to make less chemical work better.
  • Detailed records are kept of products, rates, field conditions, weather conditions
  • Digital as-applied maps are made, reviewed with SMS Advanced, and kept with exact locations, rates, conditions, and speeds as they vary across every field.
  • Drift controlling coarse droplet air-induction nozzle tips are used
  • Drift control adjuvants, like Helena’s Justified, are added to tank mixtures when there is moderate wind.
  • Wind speeds are monitored and recorded by sprayer applicator and in-field weather stations.
  • Spraying is halted when wind is above safe levels.
  • Zero overlap from pass-to-pass is maintained through GPS, RTK, auto-steer, Accuboom section control, and exact swath width settings.
  • Overlap on headlands is minimized with 11 foot section-control and manual turn compensation.
  • Crushed limestone is applied as-needed to maintain balanced pH levels to minimize the need for higher rates of chemicals.
  • We have bioligically responsible disposal of un-needed of chemicals, etc.
  • Used jugs are triple rinsed to prevent even small amounts of contamination.