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You have to check them individually. Inevitably, all nozzles wear out, even ceramics. Nozzle performance should be tested before and midway through the season at minimum. Testing is simple, and depending on the size of the boom, does not take long:  Temporarily install a pressure

gauge on the boom behind the nozzle being tested. If the pressure at the nozzle is different from the intended operating pressure, adjust the regulator to compensate and accurately set nozzle pressure.  Use a length of hose to direct nozzle output into a graduated container and measure the discharge of clean water over a one minute interval.  Compare the rate to the

manufacturer’s rate or compare the flow rate from the used tip to the flow rate of a new tip of the same size and shape.  Repeat the sequence on each

nozzle.

If a nozzle’s flow rate is five percent more or less than the ideal rate, remove, clean and retest the nozzle. If the rate is still five percent more or less, replace the nozzle. If two or more nozzles have a flow rate five percent or

more than the ideal rate, replace ALL the nozzles; not just the ones that appear damaged.

We use five percent because it is just outside the nozzle manufacturer’s margin of error, and because you can clearly see five percent when you test nozzle output. Some specialists recommend 10 percent, but would you rather lose five percent of your annual spray bill or 10?

You could follow all these steps, or you could consider buying the slightly cheaper stainless steel or polyacetal tips and habitually replacing them each year. The cost of renewing an entire set of nozzles is generally a fraction of the potential cost of time, product wastage and potential crop damage. So, to prolong the life of your spray equipment and improve results, maintain and clean it according to the manufacturer’s recommendations. Calibrate frequently and consider the relatively minor investment of replacing your pressure gauges and regularly renewing your nozzles.

— Jason Deveau is an application technology specialist with the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs

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