By Top Crop Manager
Reduced herbicide costs pays for upgrade in one year in this no-till system.
Inspired by another farmer who had used a double boom sprayer for six years,
Delia, Alberta farmer Barry Mason decided to make the switch in 2002. He cites
a long list of benefits with the double boom sprayer. They include cutting back
on blanket herbicide applications, better control of perennial weeds and time
savings. They all add up to cost savings of between $10,000 to $15,000 per year.
"It does a lot of things for me that I couldn't do with a single boom sprayer.
There are a lot of tricks you can do to cut herbicide costs and improve weed
control," says Mason.
In 2002 and 2003, Mason farmed about 3300 acres. For 2004, he picked up some
additional land and now has 4300 acres in canola, malt barley, winter wheat,
peas, and spring wheat. Direct seeding with a 41 foot Conserva Pak, Mason relies
on herbicides to control weeds. As a result, his Flexi-Coil 67XLT twin tank
sprayer with 84 foot double booms is a critical component in his grain production
Flexi-Coil no longer offers the twin tank and double boom option citing low
sales that did not justify keeping the option on the market. At the time, the
option cost Mason an additional $10,000 to purchase. He says the purchase was
well worth it and is disappointed the option was pulled off the market. "I
guess not enough people knew of the benefits of using double booms."
Mason's sprayer is set up with an 830 Imperial gallon main tank and a 420 Imperial
gallon second tank. With the double boom system, everything is duplicated, including
separate rate controllers, pumps, valve trees, plumbing and nozzles. Mason set
up his main boom with swivel nozzles that include Combojet 80015 and 8003 nozzles.
The second boom has triple nozzles, including 80015, 80010 and 8003.
"I maybe didn't need all those nozzles, but I wanted to make sure the
sprayer was flexible enough for all my intended uses," admits Mason. The
various nozzles are used to apply different water volumes: five, 10, or 15 gallons
Multiple rates provide cost savings
A key component in no-till seeding is a pre-seed burnoff. With the double boom
system, Mason is able to apply one of three rates while applying the pre-seed
glyphosate application. For easy-to-control annual weeds, he applies 0.5L/ac
out of the main tank. When he hits patches of quackgrass or other hard to control
weeds, he shuts off the main boom and turns on the second boom, which applies
one litre per acre. If he hits large dandelions, he uses both booms to apply
the 1.5 litre rate for better control.
"You have to keep on your toes and pay attention, but it can pay off."
In his peas, Mason uses two different rates of Odyssey herbicide to target
Spot spraying in-crop cuts herbicide costs
Big herbicide cost savings also come in the form of spot spraying patches of
weeds, in-crop. Mason scouts his fields prior to spraying and decides if the
entire field needs spraying for a particular weed like wild oats, or whether
he can spot spray with his double boom sprayer. If he feels the wild oats only
need spot spraying, he will put the broadleaf herbicide in the main tank and
a wild oats spray in his second tank, switching it on and off as needed to spray
the patches. With wild oats herbicides running in the $10 to $15 per acre range,
spot spraying only 40 percent of a quarter section saves close to $1000 (96
acres unsprayed x $10).
Canada thistle and quackgrass are other weeds that Mason spot sprays with his
double boom system. These weeds were especially bad in 2004. He uses Lontrel
to spot spray thistle while applying a broadleaf herbicide from the main tank.
"I have had better results controlling Canada thistle with Lontrel than
with a pre-harvest glyphosate application. Pre-harvest works, but I can clean
up thistle patches better when I use Lontrel to spot spray them. Lontrel gives
long-term control of thistles; that's the big difference."
One of the cautions in using the double boom sprayer is to make sure the herbicides
are compatible. If the herbicides are not registered as a tank-mix, they should
not be used in a double boom spray application as antagonism may occur, resulting
in poor weed control or crop injury. "If they aren't registered on the
label, I call the herbicide representatives to check to see if they can be used
in a double spray system."
Of course, spot spraying is not a new concept. Spraying the entire field with
a single boom sprayer, and then coming back over the field and spraying the
patches is a common strategy. Still, the extra time and inconvenience makes
this option unattractive to many farmers. And as anyone who has spot sprayed
knows, after driving around in circles spraying patches with an 80 foot sprayer,
a lot of the field is covered anyway. Mason says that using the double boom
sprayer to spot spray eliminates those frustrations.
Over the last few years, Mason has also used the double boom sprayer to spot
spray for grasshoppers. He will put insecticide in the second tank and spray
the first few rounds of a field while he is applying herbicides through the
main tank. It also allows him to jump to adjacent fields and apply the insecticide
around the first few rounds. That advantage is amplified considering that with
conventional single tank sprayers, the tank must be cleaned out when moving
from cereal crops to broadleaf crops, or vice-versa.
For example, if Mason was spraying a barley crop with a herbicide and spot
spraying the first few rounds with an insecticide for grasshoppers, he could
shut down the broadleaf herbicide and spray a couple rounds of insecticide on
an adjacent canola crop. With a single tank sprayer, that would make for a lot
of tank cleaning. "There are time savings but also time costs. I field
scout a lot to know what is in the field, but that pays off in other ways,"
Rick Taillieu, an agronomist with Alberta Reduced Tillage LINKAGES, says that
one of the perceived barriers to making the move to no-till seeding systems
is weed control. Weed shifts to difficult-to-control perennial weeds and higher
herbicide costs are often cited as reasons not to move to reduced tillage.
"Weed control under reduced tillage doesn't necessarily mean you will
have to spend any more money than under conventional systems," explains
Taillieu. "Herbicide costs are not an insurmountable barrier to reduced
tillage. I think that what Barry is doing with a double boom sprayer is an example
of how good managers can make the system work even better."
Double boom option still available
sprayer manufacturers still offer a twin tank and double boom sprayer. Brandt
Agricultural Products sells the QF2500S with an 825/415 Imperial gallon split.
The option with double booms and split tank adds about $6500 to the price of
a 100 foot sprayer. Company spokesman Don Henry says they sell very few of the
Summers Manufacturing out of Maddock, North Dakota also sells a split tank
and double boom system. The Ultimate NT Supersprayer is available with a US1000
or US1500 gallon tank along with an optional US200 gallon tank for the dual
boom system. On a 100 foot sprayer, the double boom options cost an additional
US$5106. Summers also reports very few sales of that option.
Given Mason's experience, it is hard to understand why more of the units are
not sold. On his 4300 acres, it only takes cost savings of two dollars per acre
to pay off the extra cost in one year. After the first year, the savings go
directly to the bottom line.
He admits it takes more management and planning to utilize the system to the
optimum, but says that the savings in herbicides can easily pay for the extra
cost. "It really adds up fast when you are cutting back on $15 herbicides."
The other big advantage for Mason is better weed control. He is able to target
problem patches as they arise, as well as boost rates to obtain better control
on more difficult weeds.
Mason would really like a double boom spray option on a high clearance sprayer.
The flexibility of that system would be the ultimate in weed control. Whether
that option ever materializes will likely depend if double boom ground sprayers
ever take off. He says, "If they offered a high clearance sprayer with
double booms, I could pencil out the payback on the unit a lot faster."