My nephew, Randy Gustafson, is an applicator for The Equity, a farmer-owned cooperative headquartered in Effingham, Ill. Covering central Illinois and eastern Indiana, Randy is on the road and in the field a great deal these days. In fact, he tells me that crop care applications, including dry fertilizers, can start as early as mid-February and not end until mid- to late-November each year.

That’s a lot of time calibrating, maintaining and operating sprayers and dry fertilizer applicators.

Randy notes that the equipment and business have changed quite a bit over his tenure.

“I’ve been doing this for 16 years,” he says. “And I continue to learn something new every day about these very complicated machines and their electronic systems.”

According to Gustafson, The Equity uses the “yellow” brand of sprayers. AGCO RoGators, I suppose. He was particularly excited about the new machine they just received.

“It has a new system that will help reduce the amount of plugging that can happen when product accumulates in the nozzles after the sprayer is shut off,” he explains.

That system is part of the

RoGator C Series’ LiquidLogic system with FlowLogic, a recirculation system that keeps product moving through the boom, plumbing and filters to reduce chemical buildup and help eliminate plugged spray tips.

ClearFlow recovery is also part of that system. It uses air to force product from the booms or reload station back into the tank, leaving less than 2.5 gallons in systems without injection. Also, RoGator C Series offer self-priming booms that help save time and money since product flows quickly through the entire boom once the product pump and recirculation are turned on.

AGCO promotes other key features of the LiquidLogic system, including a “hold at minimum” pressure setting across the boom that helps maintain a consistent spray pattern to keep product on target at low speed and the ability to maintain a plus-or-minus 1 psi variation across the boom.

Section control for either 35 sections with 10- or 15-inch spacing or 36 sections with 20-inch spacing are standard with the AgControl rate controller. And finally, variable displacement control of the product pump manages and limits speed to 5,000 rpm to help prevent pump failure.

Precise application of chemicals has been a major driver for new spray equipment development.

To that end, John Deere recently announced that owners of the company’s 2014-18 model year 4-Series Sprayers can now gain greater accuracy and control of spray applications by installing ExactApply retrofit kits. The ExactApply nozzle control system improves the coverage and control of spray applications with John Deere exclusive Pulse Width Modulation (30 hertz pulsing) and automatic A/B nozzle switching from the sprayer cab.

Earlier this month, John Deere also introduced the R4044 Sprayer. Nine percent lighter than the R4045 Sprayer, the R4044 has a more balanced power-to-weight ratio, thanks to 325 engine horsepower from John Deere’s 9.0L PowerTech engine. This allows operators to maintain speed under load as terrain changes, giving you more accurate applications and greater productivity. Plus, it features the latest integrated technology, including ExactApply, AutoTrac Vision and 4600 CommandCenter display found on other John Deere 4 Series Sprayers.

Case IH jumped on the added accuracy bandwagon in 2017, with the introduction of its AIM Command FLEX advanced spray technology. The system uses pulse width modulation technology that controls product flow and pressure more precisely than conventional rate controllers. AIM Command FLEX operates through the sprayer’s rate controller for one-screen monitoring and adjustment of application rate, spray pressure, boom section status, product tank volume and other operating parameters.

Last year, Case IH also introduced its Trident 5550 liquid/dry combination applicator, which the company says is “the industry’s fastest converting combination applicator on a row-crop chassis.” The Trident 5550 Liquid System offers AIM Command FLEX advanced spray technology, while the dry system features the optional New Leader NL4500T G4 Edge variable rate dry nutrient applicator.

If all this sounds a bit much to take in, it can be.

“All the new products, advancements and changes in application requirements can be overwhelming,” says Gustafson. “It’s probably why so many of our customers prefer to have us apply their crop chemicals.”

Time savings is another big reason to have crop care applications done by an ag service provider.

“Growers can be working on other things while we’re doing our part,” says Gustafson. “It saves them a lot of time overall. Plus, farmers find they have less wear and tear on equipment, and they don’t have to hire additional people to operate sprayers and nurse trucks.”

All good things to consider if you’re thinking about investing in a self-propelled sprayer for your operation.

Michael Gustafson has written for and about farm equipment companies, their products and dealerships for more than 40 years, including 25 years with John Deere. He lives on a small acreage in Dennison, Ill.