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Is your Sprayer test due?

Is your Sprayer test due?

The sprayer on a typical 100ha tillage farm will apply in excess of €25,000 of PPP’s in a season and so a properly functioning sprayer is vital. Sprayer testing is now a fundamental activity on any tillage farm. Ciaran Collins, Teagasc Tillage Specialist discusses testing, buffer zones & spray drift

We are heading into the busiest months for the application of plant protection products (PPP’s) on tillage farms. The sprayer on a typical 100ha tillage farm will apply in excess of €25,000 of PPP’s in a season therefore a properly functioning sprayer is vital to protect this investment and crucially to protect the environment. Sprayer testing is now a fundamental activity on any tillage farm.

Sprayer testing

Sprayer testing was introduced as part of the Sustainable Use Directive (SUD) in 2015 which sets out to regulate the use of pesticides and to put controls in place to make the use of plant protection products more sustainable.

Following the introduction of the SUD all boom sprayers > than 3m needed to be tested by 26 November 2016 and the test lasted for 5 years. The interval between inspections up to 2020 was five years but for tests after 2020 the interval is now every three years.

A farmer can find out when the sprayer test is due by looking at the sticker placed on the sprayer at the time of initial test.


Table 1 shows the dates when the next test is due for a sprayer tested between 2014 and 2022.

Table 1: Sprayer retest dates

The TAMS tillage capital scheme has been an enormous success in increasing technology available on tillage farms. As a result GPS control is now common on larger tillage farms leading to increased precision. Crops sprayed with sprayers with GPS section control have fewer overlaps and misses which saves the farmer money but crucially results in less crop damage and reduced environmental impact. It is very reassuring for an agronomist to see tiny unsprayed sections on headlands which highlights the effectiveness of this technology.  

Buffer zones   

All plant protection products are also subject to buffer zones. Buffer zones are applicable to all surface waterbodies and can range in size from 1m to 70m. Buffer zones vary for individual products therefore it is important to check the label prior to application or check the PCRD website, which is a very useful resource. It is also important to remember that if there are a number of products in the sprayer, the buffer zone applies to the product with the largest buffer zone requirement.

Buffer zones can be reduced in certain circumstances by using STRIPE – Surface water Tool for Reducing the Impact of Pesticides in the Environment. This allows farmers to reduce the mandatory buffer zones associated with pesticides, providing they use spray drift reducing nozzles.

Some products have non reducible buffer zones so it is important to refer to the PCRD website for details. Buffers zones cannot be eliminated entirely and a minimum distance of 1m always applies.

It is important to note that statutory ‘no-use’ zones (called safeguard zones) apply around all drinking water abstraction points (public and private boreholes and rivers/lakes), ranging from 5 metres to 200 metres depending on the size and extent of the supply. These “safeguard zones” cannot be reduced using STRIPE.

Spray drift

All farmers aim to minimise spray drift. There are many factors that cause spray drift; wind speed, nozzle size/type, sprayer pressure, forward speed and boom height. But one of the most important factors for reducing spray drift is to keep the boom at the optimum height of 50 cm above the crop. Small increases in boom height results in big increases in spray drift. Drift is six times greater when the boom is operated at 80 cm above the crop than at 50 cm above the crop.

Many modern sprayers are equipped with electronic, automatic boom height sensors but where this technology is not available a simple solution is to fit a cable tie to both ends of the boom 50cm below the nozzles.

 See link to the current List of DAFM Approved Equipment Inspectors here  

 Read more on Sprayers and Other Farm Machinery here

Find out more information and advice from the Teagasc Crops team here.   The Teagasc Crops Specialists issue an article on a topic of interest to tillage farmers every Thursday on Teagasc Daily.  Find your local Teagasc office here