Optimizing Your Sprayer: Getting the Best Performance from your Equipment

Optimizing your sprayer before beginning the spring season is an important step in maximizing your profits. Just ask anyone who has had to fix a broken or leaking sprayer in the middle of a job, with a tank full of chemicals while application windows disappear and future work becomes backlogged. Equipment downtime directly affects profits.

A cursory inspection isn’t enough. Today’s sprayers are sophisticated machines with many moving parts and complex computer controls. They deserve some careful attention, and minimal downtime will be the result.

Gary Esselink, Precision Ag Specialist for Raven, says the time spent is worth it.

“Does it take time? Yes it does. But taking that time ahead of the season, even if it takes a half a day or several hours to go through the step is a whole lot better than trying to fix problems in the middle of a job,” Esselink says. “There are estimates that machine downtime can cost $100 per hour. In my opinion that is a conservative estimate, and it doesn’t even include your stress and customers’ frustrations when jobs are delayed.”

Esselink offers detailed steps to follow to make sure your sprayer is ready to start the season.

Mechanical Inspection

• Visually inspect the sprayer. Unfold the booms, check hoses for deterioration and make sure all connections are firmly fastened.
• Check the wiring. Disconnect all wiring connections, especially on the booms, and check for corrosion on the pins. Corrosion and moisture are the two biggest issues that can impede connectivity. Use corrosion cleaner if necessary, and make sure to use dielectric grease around the seals of the electrical connectors when putting them back together. DO NOT PUT dielectric grease on the pins.
• Conduct a visual inspection of the inside of the tank. Time and temperature change can cause residue or debris to collect in the sump, leading to issues either in the mainline strainer or the strainers at the nozzles.
• Check the mainline strainer screen and all the screens at each individual nozzle body for debris, rust, or corrosion.
• Check each sprayer tip for debris or blockage.
• Check the end caps of the booms for any accumulation of dry chemicals that may have collected over time. This is important to reduce the danger of cross contamination. Once the dry material becomes wet again, it can circulate back out onto a new field.

Testing
Once visual inspections are completed, put water (NOT chemicals!) in the system and check for leaks and overall operation. Run the system in simulated field spraying mode. A simulated (self-test) speed will allow you to walk around the sprayer and conduct another visual inspection while in operation.
• Look for leaks, whether in hoses, connections, cracked fittings due to freezing, or deteriorating O-rings.
• Make sure you are seeing a rate display on your controller. A Raven flow system needs three inputs to determine and display a rate: Speed, boom sense or boom calibration, and volume, determined by a reading from the flow meter. If any of these inputs are not present, you will not see a rate displayed. If settings are correct, make sure the electrical system has a good and clean power and ground for operation.
• Make sure the controls on the spray pump are working properly.
• Try increasing or decreasing the rate to make sure the control valve is working properly.
• Make sure all section (on/off) valves can open and shut.
• If everything is functioning properly and leak free, take the time to calibrate the spray tips. Visual inspection is not enough, because tips can become worn and deliver an undesired amount of chemical. Consult spray tip charts and make sure they are working within the proper range.
• If the sprayer uses direct injection, make sure the pump is working and injecting into the mainline by adding dye to the water.

Software Optimization
• Be sure the sprayer’s field computer is updated. Find out what new features are in software updates for your particular sprayer. If they are necessary for your machine, update them.
• Clear out the hard drive on the field computer by downloading and either saving or discarding previous jobs.
• If boom height control such as the Raven AutoBoom is installed on the sprayer, make sure it is operational by placing your hand under the sensors to check for the reaction. Consult the operator’s manual on how to check for sensitivity, speed, and stability. Proper operation of this system is important, not only for consistency of spray application but also for preventing damage to the boom.
• Check for the satellites the GPS system is accessing. Go to an open area to make sure at least five or six satellites can be seen.
• If the sprayer has an automatic steering system such as the Raven RS1 system, be sure it is operating correctly by driving it at typical application speeds in an open field. If it isn’t, contact the dealer or Raven Technical Support.
• Check the automatic section shut-off. Go to a nearby field with water in the tank and run a few simulated application swaths, making sure parts of the boom enter a previously applied area. Check mapping on the field computer to make sure the booms are switching on and off at the correct time. If they aren’t, make the necessary adjustments.
• If the machine is equipped with the Raven Slingshot wireless system for transferring data from the machine, run sample jobs to and from the sprayer. •

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