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How Well Do Low-Drift Nozzles Work?

July 24, 2013
sprayer soybeans
  

It's the time of year where farmers need to pay extra attention to spray drift.
 

By Erdal Ozkan, The Ohio State University Extension

This is the time of the year we need to pay extra attention to reducing spray drift because some of us are applying herbicides that could create serious problems if the herbicide drifts away from the application site and deposits on crops sensitive to that particular herbicide, such as Dicamba products or Glyphosate. One way we can reduce spray drift is through using low-drift nozzles.

When were low-drift nozzles introduced, and how much have they prevented drift incidences on non-target sensitive crops, personal property or people?

When Was It Developed?

Manufacturers have gradually changed designs of their nozzles in order to improve spray patterns and reduce the number of drift-prone droplets. In the USA, the most established sprayer nozzle manufacturer is Spraying Systems, also known as TeeJet. They started the development in their nozzles to achieve the two goals I mentioned above back in late '70s when they came up with a series called LP nozzles (LP stands for Low Pressure). However, at low pressures they noticed that the spray angle would decrease.

Then the next breakthrough came in 1985 with their XR (stands for Extended Range) nozzles which allowed users to operate their sprayers at pressure as low as 15 psi without seeing any noticeable change in the spray pattern. When operated in low pressures, these nozzles would reduce the number of drift-prone droplets noticeably. The first nozzle in what we call today "low-drift nozzles" was "DriftGuard" developed in 1992. Not many people buy these nozzles these days because "better" (more effective) low-drift nozzles were introduced about 2-3 years later. Several companies introduced what is called as "Air Induction Low-drift nozzles". Today, the most popular types of low-drift nozzles sold are this type.

Do They Really Prevent Drift?

Low drift nozzles work. They reduce the number of drift-prone droplets significantly. However, no data exists on whether these nozzles have prevented drift complaints. There are indications that these nozzles must have been reducing incidents of drift because people have been switching from the conventional nozzles to "low-drift nozzles" over the years. At least one major nozzle company says the "low-drift" nozzles have been overselling their highly popular conventional nozzles.

If these nozzles were not reducing the risk of drift damage, people would not have been paying more to buy the low-drift nozzles. Another indication that these nozzles are reducing the risk of spray drift is the recent decision BASF, a major agricultural chemical company, has made. For their product called "Status," basically a Dicamba product, BASF is supplying low-drift air induction nozzles to buyers of Status, free of charge. BASF must have credible data in their hands that there will be fewer complaints related to drift damages as long as people are using Air Induction nozzles. Otherwise, they would not be providing free nozzles (costing up to $300 per buyer, depending on the size of the sprayer boom and the number of nozzles on the boom )to each buyer of Status herbicide.
 

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