To Minimize Crop Injury By Properly Cleaning Your Sprayer

On July 13, 2019

To Minimize Crop Injury By Properly Cleaning Your Sprayer

What a spring – cool temperatures, rain, inaccessible fields, rain, equipment breakdowns, flooding, delayed plantings, and more rain. For most of you the crop is finally in, the plants are growing, and the planters are put away. Extension Educator Tracey Harpster reminds us that still on the task list is the pesticide applications – fungicides, insecticides, and herbicides. All have short application windows, plus we have no control over the weather. With everything you have invested in this spring – time, money, equipment maintenance/repairs, and lost sleep – it would be a shame now to lose the crop, especially to something as avoidable as herbicide damage from pesticide residues left in the sprayer. Remember, now is not the time to cut corners – herbicides can damage susceptible crops when applicators do not thoroughly clean sprayer equipment before and after spraying different crops.

A quick, post-application, in-field rinse may not be enough. Even very small amounts of herbicide residue left in tanks, hoses, screens, fittings, or booms can seriously damage crops.  Some herbicide products still call for applying pints or quarts of herbicide per acre, but many herbicides now have application rates measured in ounces per acre. Residues from products with these lower application rates can affect crops even when trace amounts are left in the application equipment.

Furthermore, adjuvants also may dislodge old herbicide residues that are embedded in tank walls or hoses, or they may help break down particles in screens. When they do, the adjuvants may cause an old, unwanted herbicide residue to mix into the spray liquid. If the next sprayer load is Roundup or Liberty herbicide, the surfactants from those products can act like a powerful tank cleaner, reacting with plant-growth regulator residues and then causing unintended crop injury. Finally, many labels require the cleaning of sprayers before and after mixing and applying. Products with a label that states that the sprayer and equipment must be clean before mixing and loading means that you thoroughly clean the spray tank and all lines and filters, following the label directions on the previously applied pesticide prior to mixing the product. Remember the label is the law. 

Below are the steps for sprayer cleanout procedure that are listed on the dicamba labels. Always read and follow all label guidelines of the specific product(s) you are applying. Also, don’t forget to wear the proper personal protective equipment (PPE) as stated on the product label!

After spraying, drain the sprayer (including boom and lines) immediately. Do not allow the spray solution to remain in the spray boom lines overnight prior to flushing. Flush tank, hoses, boom and nozzles with clean water. If equipped, open boom ends and flush. Inspect and clean all strainers, screens and filters. Prepare a cleaning solution with a commercial detergent or sprayer cleaner or ammonia according to the label directions. Take care to wash all parts of the tank, including the inside top surface. Start agitation in the sprayer and thoroughly recirculate the cleaning solution for at least 15 minutes. All visible deposits must be removed from the spraying system. Flush hoses, spray lines and nozzles for at least 1 minute with the cleaning solution. Remove nozzles, screens and strainers and clean separately in the cleaning solution after completing the above procedures. Drain pump, filter and lines. Rinse the complete spraying system with clean water. Clean and wash off the outside of the entire sprayer and boom. All rinse water must be disposed of in compliance with local, state, and federal requirements.

Whether you are applying insecticides, fungicides or herbicides, application timing is always crucial. With a long to-do list and little time to spare, please do not gamble and only partially clean sprayers in order to save time and cover more acres. Your time-saving methods may be very costly in the end. 

To Learn About Soil Health

The PA No-Till Alliance Soil Health Field days will be held on Thursday, July 25 at the Hershey Farm, 338 Sunnyburn Rd, Elizabethtown, Lancaster County and on Tuesday, July 30 at the Kellogg Farms, 545 Grove City Rd., Slippery Rock, Butler County. At the Hershey Farm visitors will see a unique “checkerboard” cover crop plot where 7 foot strips of various seed mixes have been planted in a criss-cross pattern to showcase 64 different multi-species combinations. Also farmer-owned planters set up by their owners to handle different planting situations will be displayed. 

On July 30, the “Unlock the Secrets in the Soil” Field Day will take an in-depth look at various cover crop seed mixes and their benefits and increasing Water infiltration and nutrient recycling with cover crops. These events are free if you register by July 22. To register or for more information contact Jay Howes 717-574-4510 or email:

Quote Of The Week: “Today is our day, the hopes and dreams of the entire world are with us. This is our time and our place. We will celebrate this day and what we do here forever. The risks are very high, that is the nature of our work. We have worked long hours and we have had some tough times, but, we have mastered this work and now we are going to make this work pay off. You are a great team, one I am privileged to lead. I will stand behind all decisions you will make. We came into this room as a team and we will leave as a team.” The words of Flight Director Gene Kranz to his team of flight controllers as the Apollo 11 Lunar Module carrying Astronauts Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin began its final descent to the moon’s surface. (Next week we are celebrating the 50th anniversary of Apollo 11’s landing on the moon.)