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Wintering Your Field Crop Sprayer
By Mark Madden
Diligent equipment care and good maintenance practices are key management habits for optimizing the usefulness of agricultural implements and for controlling equipment costs over time. Equipment upkeep and field-readiness are characteristic hallmarks of a good manager.
Few things are as frustrating as working on equipment when the time could otherwise be spent putting the equipment to productive use. However, all plumbing components are at risk of severe damage caused by water freezing and this possibility is eminent across the state at this time. This is especially critical for the sprayer pump since it is the most expensive part of the plumbing system. Pumps that are not freeze-protected not only risk frost damage but they can also deteriorate in storage as a result of corrosion and obviously this could lead to costly repairs. Cleaning and winterizing your sprayer now that its duties are done for the year is a simple process that can have you field-ready in the short-hour days of a busy Spring.
A few easy steps to follow include:
  1. Start with a sprayer as empty as possible and choose a location away from water sources and drainage channels.
  2. Begin the process with a thorough tank cleaning using a cleaning solution suggested by the pesticide label. Circulate the solution for 10 minutes through the various plumbing circuits. While circulating the cleaning solution, check for and repair plumbing leaks and cinch up any loose connections. Flush all lines by removing end plugs and nozzles being sure to remove all residues. Clean all nozzle screens and clean, or replace if necessary, all filters. Flush the system with clean water until the cleaning solution is removed and reinstall all nozzles and screens.
  3. Pressure wash the entire inside of the sprayer using a detergent — removing any residues that could hasten corrosion. Drain any foam marker system. Compressed air can aid with clearing the lines to the end of the booms. Clean or replace the particle filter in the bottom of the foam solution tank.
  4. Lubricate wheel bearings and all moving joints and inspect for structural integrity particularly where the tank rests on the running gear. Torque all fasteners to recommended limits and inspect tires for problems.
  5. Clean and protect electronic connections and store controllers at a suitable location. A soft brush can be used to clean the connections and a dab of electrical grease will prevent corrosion and ensure a more reliable connection next time it is used. Tether the connecting cable to the sprayer so that the connections are up off the ground.
  6. Park you sprayer out of the weather and await Spring with confidence you’re work-ready when the growing season returns.
Last but not least, with our sprayer ready for action next, let’s make sure our leftover crop protection chemicals are stored properly for the winter as some are freeze-sensitive. The pesticide label provides information on storage requirements. As we know, it’s also advisable that these materials be kept in a secure location isolated from everyday activity and vulnerable areas.