Despite all the advances in sprayer technology over the past several years, manufacturers have yet to design one that calibrates itself. Manually checking sprayer output is the only way to be sure nozzles are putting out the right volume. And with the cost of crop protection products these days, producers can’t afford to waste any.
For many farmers, checking sprayer output still involves exactly the same process it always has. Get a stop watch and a graduated container, hold the container under the nozzle and measure the amount of liquid that accumulates in a given time.
But now there is a high-tech alternative. One company, Innoquest Inc., of Woodstock, Illinois, recently introduced its low-cost, automated sprayer calibrator. The design caught the attention of the ASABE (American Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineers) judges handing out the 2010 AE50 awards.
Every year the ASABE picks an assortment of new designs that are innovative and in the judges’ opinion deserve special recognition. Innoquest’s calibrator won one of those awards this year. Their calibrator was introduced in July of 2009, and the company is just beginning its marketing campaign.
The calibrator is sold under the Spot On brand name. “It replaces the old method of placing a graduated container under the nozzles,” says Bill Hughes, president of Innoquest. “It automates that process.”
GET READINGS IN SECONDS
The hand-held calibrator is simple to use, just place it under a nozzle and hold it there until it registers a reading. “It fills pretty quickly,” adds Hughes, “You get a reading in six to 10 seconds.” That really speeds up the calibration process. In a few minutes, a producer can check every nozzle on a sprayer boom.
The Spot On calibrator uses sensors to measure the rate liquid accumulates in the tube. The digital display will then hold the reading for up to 90 seconds. The indicator can be set to read in gallons, ounces or litres per minute. To check another nozzle, just pour out the liquid and start again.
Bob Wolf, an extension specialist in application technology at Kansas State University evaluated the Spot On design. “For farmers or custom applicators running typical volumes, it should work very adequately,” he says. “The fact (that) they can just stick it under a nozzle and get a reading is an advantage. It avoids having to eyeball a line on a graduated container. It’s much more accurate.”
WHEN TO CHANGE NOZZLES
Hughes points out that nozzles with 10 per cent or more variation in output from their original specification should be changed. “Wear indicates the spray pattern isn’t uniform,” he says. “They (worn nozzles) output more liquid in the centre of the spray pattern.” That can cause uneven crop coverage.
There are two calibrators available in the Spot On line. The SC-1 is for herbicides and insecticides. It provides readouts of up to one gallon per minute (GPM). The SC-4 measures up to four GPM, and it’s designed for use with higher-volume applications like liquid fertilizer or irrigation systems.
The SC-1 retails for US$149.95, and the SC-4 costs US$219.00. In Canada, the Spot On calibrators are sold through M. K. Rittenhouse and Sons Ltd., see their website at www.rittenhouse.ca.Innoquest’s website is www.spotonproducts.com.
According to Hughes, keeping the retail price low was important. “We were conscious our competition is a stop watch and graduated container,” he says, noting farmers and applicators are more likely to use the technology if it only requires a small investment.
The Spot On models aren’t the only automated calibrators on the market. Wilger’s Quick Calibrator is also available in Canada. It’s advertised retail price is C$459, considerably more than the Spot On designs. With added cost, however, comes added features. For example, it will allow an operator to factor in ground speed and see what difference that makes to application rates, or it will save individual nozzle rates and calculate an average.
For more information on the Wilger calibrators see www.wilger.netor call 306-242-4121.
Scott Garvey is machinery editor for Grainews. He also runs a cow-calf operation at Moosomin, Sask. Email him at [email protected]