INDEPENDENT sprayer testing has come of age, with 21 centres now able to carry out tests on farm sprayers.
Such tests are statutory in several EU countries, but a voluntary approach in the UK means the test can be matched to need.
The Agricultural Engineers Association has approved a schedule covering 50 points, each checked by skilled engineers working from AEA validated forms.
Sprayers must be thoroughly decontaminated and serviced before being presented for evaluation at a test centre or on-farm. "If it isnt the test will not be carried out," points out AEA consultant John Handbury of Mid-Tech.
Good preparation also avoids time wasting during testing. For example, a new set of nozzles will mean much less time will be taken testing them.
"Checking sprayers with accurate test gear is vital if the best and most economical use is to be made of todays expensive chemicals," Mr Handbury notes.
For example, pressure gauges are evaluated against an accurate standard and flow rates of each individual nozzle monitored, since it is notoriously difficult to see different flow rates.
That ensures cross boom accuracy which can be concealed by electronic compensating or conventional systems which may give the correct rate per hectare but hide variable distribution.
Checks are made on all valves, hoses, fixings, filters, hydraulic fittings, wiring and any other part of the sprayer that is unsafe or may lead to inaccuracy.
Factors that affect even spray distribution are also tested.
Cost varies between £80-160 according to the size and complexity of the sprayer. "It is a good investment which is soon recouped in accuracy and less downtime. It also shows due diligence in the face of legal requirements and assurance schemes," comments Mr Handbury.