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Stop Crop Injury; Start With a Clean Sprayer

Proper sprayer cleanout between crops and when switching herbicides will help keep your fields green and growing.

Although it may be hard to pinpoint the revenue lost to contaminated spray equipment, the damage is obvious. Whether grain prices are at a peak or in a valley, taking the time to carefully and thoroughly clean your sprayer is well worth the effort.

Increased reliance on postemergence herbicides and the proliferation of low-use-rate products have amplified the need for sound sprayer cleanout procedures when switching among herbicides and crops.1 Even miniscule amounts of an unintended herbicide can cause serious crop injury. Although crops might eventually recover, the damage is done.

Different products, tank mixes and additives require different cleanout procedures. Start by reviewing the sprayer cleaning instructions outlined on the product specimen label. Before beginning any task, it’s also important to check the label to makes sure you have the right protective clothing depending on the chemical in use. Once you’ve taken the proper safety precautions, these tips can help make cleaning your sprayer easier and can help reduce the likelihood of crop injury:

  • Try to end the day with an empty tank. Thoroughly flush the system with clean water to remove corrosive residue. If you plan to switch products or crops the next day, follow the recommended steps for comprehensive cleaning before parking the machine for the day.
  • Conduct the sprayer cleanout in a location where you can properly discard the rinsate. If a dedicated facility isn’t available, spray the rinsate according to label directions on a field or crop where the product is approved for use.
  • Pay special attention to areas or components where spray solution can accumulate or can be difficult to rinse. Frequently clean or replace strainers and screens. Replace cracked or scored hoses, which can harbor residues. Thoroughly flush sumps and pumps. Target the top of spray tanks and around baffles, plumbing fixtures and agitation units.
  • Many product specimen labels recommend specific cleaning agents, ranging from commercial detergents to ammonia or chlorine bleach solutions to fuel oil or kerosene. Several land grant universities, including Iowa State University and the University of Georgia, provide comprehensive sprayer cleanout instructions. You’ll likely find similar reference materials at your local Extension office.

You can’t afford to lose money because of misapplied crop inputs, lower yields and reduced grain quality. Plus, it’s not good product stewardship. Your Case IH dealer can walk you through the best cleanout procedures for your equipment. The extra time you spend cleaning your sprayer will pay off in higher yields.


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1Johnson B, Casady B, Peterson D, Kuhlman D. Cleaning Field Sprayers to Avoid Crop Injury. University of Missouri Extension website. Reviewed October 1999. Accessed July 6, 2016.
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