Although they’re essential on today’s commercial farms, sprayers typically rank third in importance behind seeding equipment and combines, and maybe that’s fair considering the importance of how the crop starts and how it finishes.
Still, there’s no denying that the jobs you do with your sprayer are taking on new importance. Just think herbicide-resistant weeds, new disease issues and voracious insect pests.
There’s also tons of complexity in a sprayer, including in the nozzles where the options for types, designs and configurations are vast and sometimes confusing. Should you purchase the latest, greatest innovations? How many different nozzle types do you need? How often should you purchase a new set? Is once every five years enough?
A relative newcomer to the spray application market is the Pentair Hypro 3D nozzle, known as the Syngenta/Hypro 3D nozzle in the U.K. It’s a new iteration of the Defy nozzle that was launched in Britain in 2015 to control black grass in wheat and that has been available in many countries since 2017, including Australia, New Zealand, the U.S., Canada and now Brazil, where it’s helping growers deal with Asian soybean rust.
A different process
Syngenta partnered with Pentair/Hypro after determining black grass had developed resistance to Group 2 ALS inhibitors (sulfonylureas) and Group 1 ACCase inhibitors (fops, dims and dems).
Black grass is much like an emerging wheat seedling, and the challenge for a post-emerge herbicide is to cover a small, vertical blade roughly the size of a sewing needle poking through the soil surface.
Syngenta and Pentair/Hypro studied the biology of the crop target then worked backwards on the nozzle design — a different approach in developing new technologies, according to James Thomas, application technology expert with Syngenta in the U.K. He’s been with the company since 2014 and has spent hundreds of hours testing various nozzles for efficacy and performance.
The landscape in the U.K. and Europe differs greatly from the U.S. and Canada. Chemicals there are strictly monitored and the regulatory framework has become restrictive, forcing researchers to get creative with weed management strategies, sprayer technologies and nozzle designs. The goal in droplet size for European and U.K. applications is 350 to 450 microns, i.e. removing both the smallest, high-drift droplets that have very little product in them and also larger-sized droplets.
Thomas notes this challenges growers when dealing with a weed like black grass.
If you want to solve a grower’s problem, you need to go after what the problem is to them, and that’s normally improving product efficacy, maximizing spray efficiency and minimizing environmental impact, says Thomas. “The 3D nozzle is certainly not this ‘one-size-fits-all’ product. It has specific jobs and it brings those final few percentage points of the jigsaw puzzle that give you the difference between getting good and superb efficacy.”
Engineers at Syngenta and Pentair/Hypro realized a vertical spray wasn’t effectively hitting a small, vertical target like black grass. That’s when they began looking at angled, forward-backward applications to maximize deposition of a product onto a small target. The 3D approach worked very well, with 10 to 15 per cent better control from post-emergent black grass herbicides.
“What grower wouldn’t want to get 10 to 15 per cent better control from their product?” asks Thomas.
Plenty of help
Thomas praises the development team from the Silsoe Spray Application Unit, north of London, which used a wind tunnel to measure sprayer and nozzle performance. Nearly 10,000 measurements of the nozzle design were taken, spraying artificial targets and conducting track sprayer measurements to ensure the optimum angle of trajectory, among other properties.
Another supporting group is the Syngenta Farm Spray Operators of the Year (FSOOTY), made up of growers who want to learn from one another and often serve as the sounding board for new ideas. Thomas shares newer technologies with the members of the group to test before they’re officially launched to the market.
“They have helped us develop the 3D nozzle and during that process, they started to identify for us other areas where the nozzle can be used,” Thomas says.
That kind of information has become a boon to growers with the 3D nozzle. With the help of data and research results from the U.K., the nozzle has been adapted to herbicide and fungicide applications in a variety of crops. Brian Henderson, Hypro sales specialist, is impressed with the adoption of the 3D technology, particularly as pulse-width-modulation (PWM) systems have become more popular. When John Deere came out with its new PWM solenoid ExactApply nozzle, it generated more interest in 3D technology with its flat-fan orientation, replacing air-inductioned (AI) nozzles that are incompatible with the PWM system.
“The one benefit of the 3D was the angling of the pattern — approximately 30 degrees,” says Henderson. “The growers liked that because of all the testing done in the U.K. and we were able to back that up for most growers. It’s a very opportune time to have that nozzle because of the PWM system. Right now with John Deere, it’s probably one of the most popular nozzles.”
Here at home
In the U.K., the problem that 3D helped with is with black grass. But what about the nozzle’s applications in troublesome weed species for Canadian farmers — or for use in diseases or insect pests? According to Henderson, the 3D nozzle has been well adapted to fungicide applications for traditional spray booms that don’t have PWM.
“It’s more of a contact application and the droplet size of the 3D is more of a medium- to coarse-sized droplet, so it’s excellent for fungicide applications,” he says.
In the U.K., growers have tested the 3D nozzle in a variety of crops including cereals, canola and field beans, with successful results. That’s good news for growers in Western Canada with wheat and canola in their fields and in Eastern Canada where corn and soybeans are the rule, but it’s also well suited to fungicides to manage fusarium head blight in wheat.
A tougher sell
Dr. Doug Baumann echoes much of what Thomas says on the 3D nozzle and also points out the nozzles are a small part of the spray application sector, in spite of their importance for uses as diverse as the space shuttle, automotive engineering and medical science.
“If you come at agriculture from the engineer’s view, you miss something, so the value of that 3D nozzle is that it’s been designed by the user with that end-use in mind,” says Baumann, crop protection development manager with Syngenta Canada. “If you can see the target from that nozzle’s-eye view, you have a chance to hit it because most droplets sprayed from a ground boom travel in a straight line, until gravity or wind takes over.”
With the 3D nozzle in the U.K. it isn’t about the black grass, it’s about the shape of the target and what the nozzle design allows it to “see” of that target, Baumann says.
The one thing that gets lost in many discussions concerning sprayer efficacy is boom height, he adds. Labels may state “apply at 50 cm above” and nozzles are designed to apply at 50 cm above. Yet all of the calculations for percentage overlap and spray table work are based on a paper world, where a field is completely flat.
Another consideration in the application strategy is the age of the nozzle. Baumann contends that if he were to show a grower an image of streaking in their fields, it would take until the fifth question before the grower might ask about the nozzles — and specifically whether there’s an issue with the type of nozzles or their age. Plugged nozzles are an easy fix, but asking about nozzle type or age is usually further down the list of priorities and questions.
“Few people realize that if their nozzles are five years old, maybe they’ve been hollowed out and they’re putting 20 per cent too much product on,” says Baumann. “That’s not intuitive like plugging of the nozzles but if I haven’t changed them in five years, I’m likely putting on the wrong rate. The idea of fine tuning your spray is a surprisingly rich discussion when you get into it.”