Sprayer Selection

Choose from a host of equipment for your small-farm sprayer applications.

by Dani Yokhna
Solo 433 Motorized Backpack Sprayer
Solo 433 Motorized Backpack Sprayer

If you don’t have at least one sprayer in your equipment shed, you likely will soon. I have two 4-gallon backpack sprayers and several handheld sprayers plus the use of a 25-gallon UTV-mounted sprayer and a 110-gallon trailered sprayer. Each sprayer has its place on my farm.

Choosing among the many sprayer options can be confounding, and an ever-expanding offering of sprayer types, sizes and component parts is making selection more complicated every year.  Picking the right spray system for you requires that you first determine your sprayer needs.

Hobby Farms Magazine“Match the equipment to the need and the situation,” says Vaughn Hammond, extension technologist at the University of Nebraska. “A backpack is handy for landscape spraying and getting down through the vegetation to your target—whether it is a weed or a pest—however, a mounted or trailered boom sprayer may be best for controlling weed or insect pests in a field or pasture where you need to have the right pressure and droplet size to avoid drift.”

Backpack Sprayers
Backpack sprayers are ideal for small-area broadcasts, such as spot spraying a lawn or foliar application of shrubs and garden beds. You can choose from manual, motorized and battery-powered spray systems with common capacities of up to 6 gallons. Manual spray systems use lower-cost piston pumps, while diaphragm pumps common to motorized spray systems are more durable and expensive.

The rechargeable, battery-powered Dramm BP-4 produces 140 psi, while the 433 Motorized Backpack Sprayer from Solo will produce 435 psi. The Sealed Piston Backpack Sprayer from Sprayer Specialties is capable of 180 psi. The psi you want in your sprayer will depend on the application.

Sprayer Manufacturers
Find products mentioned in this article from these manufacturers: 
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Ag Shield

CropCare Equipment

H.D. Hudson Manufacturing


Sprayer Specialties
TeeJet Technologies 

If possible, try the sprayer before you buy it. Borrow the neighbor’s, fill it with water, and spray it out. You’ll quickly discover the importance of good waist and shoulder straps. Like any backpack, the weight should not ride on the shoulders, but on the hips.

My 4-gallon, non-motorized, Hudson Bak-Pak sprayer weighs in at 8 pounds empty and 40 pounds filled. With its gas engine, the Solo sprayer weighs more than 18 pounds empty. Fill it to its 5.3-gallon capacity, and you’re carrying nearly 60 pounds. By contrast, the 4-gallon Dramm sprayer weighs 11 pounds empty and less than 45 pounds filled—a nice compromise of some added weight for the convenience of no pumping. 

If you go with a manual spray system, consider one that can be pumped with either the right or left arm. I like my Hudson sprayer for just that reason. 

Quality matters. Select hoses that will stay flexible, screens that are easy to access should they clog and pumps that are easy to service. I prefer metal tips and wands for durability. Make sure replacement parts, especially seals and gaskets, are available, and follow directions when storing extras to maintain their flexibility.

Beyond Backpack Sprayers
When you move beyond the farmyard, it’s time to move beyond backpack sprayers. A trailered or mounted spray system is the natural next step. Ernie Zimmerman of CropCare Equipment advises assessing the type of spraying to be done, size of individual jobs and time available to spray. These considerations can determine optimum tank size and application method, such as wand, boom or boomless nozzles, as well as type of pump and nozzle tip to select. Adding a hose and wand option for spot spraying or selective spraying adds versatility to any mounted or trailered system. Regardless of the spray system type, size should be dictated by the size of the ATV, UTV or tractor to be used.

“Put a 25-gallon spray tank on the backend of an ATV or a 110-gallon tank on the back of a small acreage tractor without proper counterweights, and you can quickly lose control of steering,” Hammond warns.

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