Cleaning the sprayer tank might not be your favourite farm chore but it is essential for the health of your crops and the longevity of your equipment.
“[Sprayer tank cleanout] is a challenge because residues can create harm in subsequent crops,” explains Tom Wolf (also known as The Nozzle Guy), a sprayer expert with Saskatoon-based Agrimetrix Research and Training and founder of the website sprayers101.com. “As we become more and more diversified, the situations where that problem can occur increases, so we have to focus on cleanout to a degree greater than ever before to prevent harm to our crops.”
Wolf shares three tips for optimal sprayer tank cleanout.
1. Avoid the problem: Improper mixing can result in poor blending or mixing of the product, resulting in a buildup of hard-to-clean sludge. Follow label directions, mix products in the right order and work slow to avoid improper mixing.
Wolf suggests paying extra attention when you use a new tank mix. “The mixability of those products may not be what you expect it to be,” he says. Start with a jar test, simulating the mixing concentration in a mason jar to ensure it’s a good mixture with minimal sediment and no filmy top layer that could make it harder to clean out the tank.
2. Dilute leftover spray: It’s common to have small amounts of leftover spray in the tank and the boom lines, Wolf explains. It needs to be diluted with a detergent cleaner to remove pesticide products from all parts of the tank. Ammonia raises the pH and removes excess products, and a detergent like All Clear, which is mixed at a label rate of 0.25 litres to 100 litres of water, can neutralize herbicides like MCPA and 2,4-D while removing excess oils. Wolf advises spraying out over and over until all of the leftover material has been diluted.
3. Clean the contact points: With water in the tank and booms, turn to the filters, boom lines, boom ends, screens, valves and other plumbing components that might contain residues. Scrubbing these areas to remove all residues is an unpleasant but essential part of the cleanout process. Residue buildup can clog the lines and nozzles, interfering with future applications.
When you’re in the market for a tank upgrade, consider stainless steel components, which are easier to clean than plastic.