Care for sprayers that care for the land

Land management work requires specific tools, and one of those key components is a sprayer. An herbicide sprayer helps eliminate unwanted vegetation and tree growth on your property, giving food plots, native grasses and other valuable vegetation a better chance to take root.

Travis Sumner, NWTF’s Hunting Heritage Center habitat manager, explains that the type of sprayer needed varies according to the work at hand. Sprayers can range from ATV-mounted to backpack and handheld units, and up to large implements pulled behind tractors.

The first priority is ensuring the sprayer is in proper working order, Sumner said.

“Check for any leaks, stopped-up tips or anything that may be broken, and always check the filters in each tip as well as the main filter to the pump on large sprayers,” he said.

A good practice is to fill the tank halfway with water, then test spray before adding any chemicals, Sumner said.


The sprayer needed depends on the size of the job.

“Handheld or backpack sprayers are good for small jobs, such as spraying around trees in orchards, small problem areas of weeds in fields, along pond banks and in timber stands,” Sumner said. “UTV or ATV sprayers can often be used for these small jobs, too, as well as spraying small-acreage food plots.”

When you have several acres to spray, break out the heavier equipment, the pull-behind or implement size sprayers. They will save considerable time and energy.  


Since herbicides and fertilizers must be applied at specific rates to work properly, sprayer calibration is critical. The mix rates of water to chemicals can vary greatly depending on the work being accomplished. Without proper calibration, managers risk applying improper doses of chemicals or fertilizer.

For example, improper calibration for fertilizers can lead to areas not getting enough fertilizer to feed desired growth. With herbicides, improper doses can result in either not killing the unwanted weeds or grasses, or worse, killing crops or trees you wish to keep. Poorly calibrated spraying costs extra time and money — you either must respray areas or replant, depending on the damage done. Proper application rates are listed on herbicide or fertilizer labels.

Sprayer calibration varies based on the type of sprayer used, but the basic calibration principal is to find out how much water the chosen sprayer will put down over a specific acreage to identify the rate of dispersion for the chemicals to be used. 

For implement sprayers, calibration is also based on the size of the sprayer tip opening, the pressure setting on implements and the rate of speed traveled while spraying an acre of land.


“It is important to properly clean the sprayer after each use,” Sumner said. “Leaving leftover chemicals or residue in the tank will damage the sprayer, causing it to not work properly. Chemical residue left in spray tanks for long periods can also become hard and gummy, making it difficult to remove.”

Many different types of cleaners are made especially for chemical sprayers. “Neutralize” and “Clean Out” are two made to clean the tank, as well as neutralize chemical residue.

Finally, land managers should winterize their sprayers after the last spraying of the year. Make sure the sprayer is washed and cleaned thoroughly. It’s also a good idea to store the sprayer in a dry area during the offseason, Sumner said.

“If you are using a PTO-driven pump on a tractor, remove the pump after you have washed it out,” Sumner said. “Filling it with oil will keep the inside parts of the pump lubricated.”

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