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    When it comes to getting the best value for your dollar, it’s important to buy the most appropriate fungicides, herbicides and insecticides for the job.

    But it’s equally important to maintain the equipment used to apply these products. Maintaining your sprayer may seem elementary, but it can stretch your crop protection dollar and deliver more healthy plants. A sprayer in good shape provides better coverage, and that means better disease and pest control.

    Consistent coverage

    “When applying any plant-protection product, it is always important to have the best possible coverage,” said Jim Petta, Syngenta Professional Products field technical manager. “This will ensure that you are receiving the most activity and benefit from that product.”

    Optimizing your spraying pattern is the first step. Petta suggests using water-sensitive paper or a fluorescent dye to test the droplet pattern.

    Thorough and uniform coverage is essential for contact insecticide and fungicide products. They provide protection by coating the outside surface of crop foliage, stems or root systems. For best results, these products should be sprayed with small microdroplets, reaching both the tops and undersides of leaves in a uniform pattern.

    Products with translaminar or locally systemic activity provide control from the inside out. When sprayed on the tops of leaves, they control pests or diseases underneath, so they may be more forgiving when it comes to spray coverage.

    But remember that only the leaves that receive adequate spray will be protected. So optimizing spray pressure is key to ensuring that foliage within the plant canopy is covered.

    But there’s more involved in getting consistent coverage than just the way you hold the sprayer or run the hoses to the nozzles. It’s about maintaining equipment to ensure you get every last drop of protection on your plants.

    Start at the beginning

    “Good coverage starts with a good sprayer. And a good rule of thumb is to buy new equipment each time you begin or expand your operation,” Petta said. “When you unpack that new equipment, you should always read the manual to make sure you are following the manufacturer’s recommendations.”

    Filling and priming your sprayer can differ from unit to unit.

    “Improper use of your sprayer, or neglecting it, will increase your maintenance costs and adversely affect the solution output, pressure and particle size.” said Kurt Becker, Dramm Corp. director of commercial products and marketing.