Old man winter is moving into the country, bringing colder temperatures and snow with him and making farmers push harder than ever to finish up harvest operations and ready their equipment for storage. One more job to put on your already long to-do list is to winterize your sprayer.
Being proactive now will help ensure you have a sprayer that’s in good working order next spring. Here are some quick reminders to help you complete the job.
Look at the label. It almost goes without saying that this needs to be your first step in the process. Check labels on the product or products you last used, and also take into consideration the product you plan to use first next spring.
Tackle the tank. A thorough rinsing prevents potential cross-contamination and also minimizes the chance that a product will adhere in any way to sprayer parts over the winter. Consider that you’ll probably need a tank-cleaning agent to accomplish the job. Household ammonia, chlorine bleach and commercial products are examples of such agents. The product labels should indicate which one or ones are best to use. One note of caution, don’t ever mix ammonia and chlorine bleach as that combination creates a gas that can irritate your eyes, throat and lungs.
An Extension publication from University of Missouri lists many commonly used pesticides and the specific rinsing solutions required for them. It is available online at http://extension.missouri.edu/p/G4852
Erdal Ozkan, a professor and pesticide application specialist for Ohio State University, says if the tank is relatively new and equipped with a rinsing mechanism, it’s fairly easy to get the tank clean. If not, he advises that you “either replace the tank with one that has the interior rinse nozzles, or install an interior tank rinse system in your existing tank.”
Cleaning the outside of the sprayer components deserves equal attention, Ozkan says. “Remove compacted deposits with a bristle brush. Then flush the exterior parts of the equipment with water. A high pressure washer can be used, if available. Wash the exterior of the equipment either in the field away from ditches and water sources nearby, or on a specially constructed concrete rinse pad with a sump,” he advises. For that matter, use care to dispose of all rinsate from your sprayer cleaning process in a manner that is safe to you and your environment.
Notice the nozzles. If you haven’t done your final rinse for the season, pay close attention to nozzles.
“[If] nozzles are clogged, it is extremely difficult to bring them back to their operating conditions when they were clean,” says Ozkan. “Leaving chemical residues in nozzles will usually lead to changes in their flow rates, as well as in their spray patterns resulting in uneven distribution of chemicals on the target.”
As an added precaution, Brent Pringnitz, Extension program specialist at Iowa State, says to remove nozzles, screens, and strainers and clean them separately in a bucket of cleaning agent and water.
Ways to Winterize. Ozkan gives detailed instructions on how you can winterize your sprayer to protect it from freezing temperatures. He says the pump—the “heart of the sprayer”—requires special care.
“After draining the water, add a small amount of oil, and rotate the pump four or five revolutions by hand to completely coat interior surfaces,” he advises. “Make sure that this oil is not going to damage rubber rollers in a roller pump or rubber parts in a diaphragm pump. Check the operator's manual. If oil is not recommended, pouring one tablespoon of radiator rust inhibitor in the inlet and outlet part of the pump also keeps the pump from corroding. Another alternative is to put automotive antifreeze with rust inhibitor in the pump and other sprayer parts. This also protects against corrosion and prevents freezing in case all the water is not drained. To prevent corrosion, remove nozzle tips and strainers, dry them, and store them in a dry place. Putting them in a can of light oil such as diesel fuel or kerosene is another option.”
Safe, Dry Storage. If space permits, do park your sprayer inside a barn or shed to keep it out of the elements. It that’s not possible, provide some sort of cover for the unit. Ozkan adds, “By the way, don’t forget to cover openings so that birds don’t make a nest somewhere in your sprayer, and insects, dirt, and other foreign material cannot get into the system.”