Whether it’s a large pull-type or one of any number of self-propelled (SP) sprayers on the market, farmers are increasingly challenged to make the right choice among myriad makes and models available, with their almost countless options.
But at the end of the day those weeds have to be killed, crops desiccated and pests eliminated. So the vast fields of western Canada are a laboratory for the different sprayer options farmers are currently using to get those jobs done.
Cost versus benefit
The big difference between a pull-type and an SP unit is cost. The latter are more expensive, with many priced over $300,000. “The rule of thumb is that 3,000 acres is the minimum to justify buying an SP sprayer,” says Kevin Lowery of Martin Equipment Ltd., a John Deere dealer near Edmonton.
Another difference between pull-type and SP sprayers is the need to dedicate a tractor to a pull-type, while an SP unit frees up the same tractor for different farm tasks.
SP sprayers come in many shapes and sizes. John Deere, Apache, AGCO RoGator, Case International Patriot and Hagie are just some of the available brands, each offering models with a variety of features and benefits and, of course, all sorts of bells and whistles.
For instance, John Deere’s largest SP sprayer, the 4930, can be fitted with a dry box for fertilizer application, extending its performance. Apache sprayers are mechanically driven, unlike the hydrostatic drives on many of the other models. Hagie sprayers require a complete “reorientation” because the spray boom is front-mounted, not rear-mounted as is traditional, so there’s no need to crank your neck from side to side — the boom tips can be seen with a less than 90 degree turn of the head. Also, all manufacturers offer many options with regard to GPS and rate controllers.
Martin Cyr farms 4,000 acres near Legal, AB. He runs a John Deere 4830 self-propelled sprayer with 100-foot boom. Cyr points to two options which he really enjoys and could not live without.
The first is the Swath Control Pro and guidance system, which shuts off sections of his boom, for instance near sloughs or on pie shaped fields. The second option is the auto boom height sensing control, which keeps his boom level across the crop canopy or ground as he whisks overfields at up to 18 mph.
Cyr’s sprayer has a 1,000-gallon tank, which is 200 gallons more than his previous sprayer. Along with its extra fuel capacity, the machine adds tremendously to his field efficiency — he says he’d never go back.
In fact, his self-propelled sprayer has changed the way he farms. For instance, his efficiency has been boosted so much that he can typically spray two quarters after 7:00 in the evening. “This sprayer has given me a lifestyle with my family that I never had before I bought it,” says Cyr.
The only downside, he says, is that the sprayer is too noisy for his liking. As well, he would not include a mixing inductor in his next purchase since a chemical handler on his truck does that job for him.
John Guelly agrees on the need for speed. He uses a pull-type sprayer with a 110-foot wheeled boom on his 1000-acre farm near Westlock, AB. That’s not a lot of acres but he points out that in western Canada, land may now have to be crossed up to five times per season, and that makes the speed of an SP sprayer very important. “In my area, some growers are banding together and buying an SP sprayer to take advantage of scale,” says Guelly.
He also stresses the value of options, citing such examples as the different tire choices: singles doubles, and triples. For instance, narrower tires can be used for in-crop applications and wider tires for spring applications. Shrouds, he points out, can be run on either type of sprayer, and sectional controls linked to GPS are also important options for both types.
Guelly adds that, in his opinion, about one-third of the decision to purchase a sprayer should be based on the supplier’s reputation for after-sales service and support: “Simply put, good training on how to run a sprayer when you buy it, and reliable service afterward, are very important.”
The challenge for farmers is to make the choice that fits their needs. In 2012, Guelly and Cyr agree, time on the sprayer will certainly be time well spent.