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Give Your Sprayer a Midwinter Checkup

Spray windows open and close quickly. Spend some time with your spray equipment now, and it will be ready to help protect your crops.

Preplant, pre-emerge, postemerge or in-season — the application window always seems squeezed. You’ll be ready if you spend some time now servicing your spray equipment. Plus, you’ll reduce the likelihood that downtime shatters that window.

Depending on your location, the freeze risk may prohibit flushing the spray system with water and cleaning and testing strainers, pumps and spray tips. But you can get several other maintenance tasks out of the way so you’re ahead of the season once temperatures rise.

Most of today’s self-propelled sprayers, including the Case IH Patriot® series, rely heavily on hydraulics. Maintaining that system is critical. Consult the operator’s manual and check the maintenance schedule to determine whether oil and filters need to be changed. Do the same for the engine. Always use the recommended fluids and filters. You can count on top-quality genuine Case IH products regardless of your sprayer’s make or model.

When one of those unseasonably warm winter days teases spring’s arrival, start up your sprayer and move it out of the shed and into an open area. Unfold the booms and thoroughly inspect them. Pay close attention to pivot points. Check for wear. Replace worn bushings. Lubricate according to the operators manual. Next, look for structural issues, such as cracks or breaks, and repair.

Getting the jump on maintenance isn’t worth risking a frozen spray system. But you can visibly check hoses for obvious signs of trouble. Replace brittle or cracked lines now and you’ll likely avoid a blown hose in the middle of a field. Spray tips wear, which can reduce performance and consistency. That can mess with spray patterns and application rates, leading to poor performance of the product you’re applying. If it’s time for new tips, swap them out now.

Timely application is vital to protecting your crops’ yield potential. Breakdowns happen. You can help speed repairs and minimize downtime by inventorying parts and stocking up on the ones you’ll likely need, such as nozzle bodies, spray tips, hoses and clamps. Work with the parts department at your Case IH dealership to determine which parts you should have on hand.

Even if you take all of the preventive steps available and you hit the application window perfectly, you won’t achieve the desired results if your spray equipment isn’t properly calibrated. Over- or underapplication isn’t cost-efficient, and it isn’t sound product stewardship. Experts recommend calibrating your spray equipment under field conditions, not on a gravel road or in the farmyard. So you’ll want to hold off on calibration until field conditions allow. But you can research calibration methods. Your operators manual is a good place to start. Other popular methods often are available through the ag engineering department at your land grant university. And don’t forget to check the calibration of wheel or radar speed sensors. A minor change in the angle or position of the radar unit can significantly impact application rates.

Remember: Spend some time with your operators manual. The better you know your sprayer, how to efficiently operate it and how to take full advantage of its features, the more value it will bring to your operation.

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