Issue 14, October 30, 2019

Winterizing Your Spray Equipment

Now is the time to service and winterize your equipment. Your sprayers should be at the top of that list. The end of the season is an excellent time to conduct a deep cleaning and inspection of all your sprayer's components. This inspection will ensure that your sprayer is free of residues, properly functioning, and ready for those early in the spring applications.

Ideally, you should be thoroughly cleaning your sprayers on a regular basis, especially as you switch pesticide formulations. Regular cleaning helps to remove pesticide residues that could cause cross-contamination with other pesticides or fertilizers, possibly resulting in turf injury. Trace amounts of one pesticide can react with another or carry-over to the next spraying, causing damage, especially with herbicides. Thoroughly cleaning your sprayer at the end of the season will also help extend the lifespan of its components. Some pesticide formulations are corrosive, and even small amounts of residue can damage sprayer components, including stainless steel tips and fiberglass tanks when left for extended periods, like overwinter.

Thoroughly clean the spray tank, including all irregular surfaces, such as baffles, plumbing fixtures, and agitation units. The inside of the top of the spray tank is often forgotten and should be cleaned as well. Many applicators incorrectly focus all of their attention on cleaning the sprayer’s tank. Even after cleaning a spray tank, residues may remain in the sprayer’s screens, filters, and plumbing. Inspect all hoses for wear or tear and for residues that often accumulate in dips and low areas. Check sprayer parts that have dead ends, like the boom’s end caps.

Consult the pesticide label(s) for information on cleaning the sprayer and disposing of rinsates. Some pesticide labels will provide recommendations for specific tank cleaners and instructions for how to properly dispose of rinsates. Even though you will be dealing with a product that is very dilute, it doesn’t mean that you don’t need to use Personal Protective Equipment (PPE).

The next step in the winterization process is to remove as much water from the system as possible. This can be done by allowing the pump to push water through the lines, and then by opening all the valves and allowing the water to drain. Some sprayer’s manuals also recommend using compressed air to blow out hosing and manifolds.

Despite your best efforts, water will likely remain in various parts of the sprayer. That remaining water could freeze, expand, and damage your sprayer. The last step when winterizing is to displace and dilute the remaining water with antifreeze. There are different types of antifreeze on the market, so be sure to read the label of the antifreeze to determine if it will work. RV antifreeze, made from propylene glycol, is often recommended because it is inexpensive, works well, and is less hazardous to people, pets, and the environment. To begin, add enough antifreeze into the tank fill the volume of pluming and hoses. Turn on the sprayer and continue running until undiluted antifreeze exits the nozzles. Be sure to write down how much antifreeze it took to go through the lines so that you will know this for future winterizations.

Proper cleanouts and winterization, while time-consuming, are essential tasks for maintaining your spray equipment. Saving time by skipping steps can result in costly damage and possibly a delayed start while trying to fix all the broken or burst lines. Take the time now to winterize your sprayer properly and be ready for next season.

Maria Turner

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