Dozens of growers nationwide have had their air-blast sprayers evaluated to ensure they’re putting out the right pesticide rates and aren’t contributing to drift with improper spray patterns.
But the high-tech machines used in the evaluations are expensive and cumbersome to transport. And growers outside of the test regions may not have access to them.
Andrew Landers, a pesticide application technology specialist with Cornell University in Geneva, N.Y., has a solution. He has designed a patternator, which produces results similar to the spray pattern evaluations and only costs growers about $400 to build.
Build your own patternator
A patternator typically is a wall of catch-cups or screens that shows the pattern produced by an air-blast sprayer.
Based on the resulting pattern, the operator decides whether to turn off nozzles on the bottom or top of the sprayer or adjust nozzles that are pointing in the wrong direction.
The goal is to apply the product to the tree and not underspray or overspray the canopy, thereby reducing drift.
After seeing the high-priced models in action, Landers built one out of materials commonly available at home centers and lumber yards.
In a 2004 trial, he pitted his machine against one designed by Emilio Gil, a visiting professor from the Universital Politecnica de Catalunya, Italy, and a $4,000 Italian-built MIBO patternator. Gil’s UPC unit cost about $800 to build.
All of the machines produced similar results.
Landers reports that his unit reduced drift by up to 90 percent and pesticide use by up to 20 percent.
Since he released the original design in 2004, Landers says he knows of dozens of growers who have built their own. He also knows of at least one grower who has modified it to bring the cost down to less than $400.
To download the free plans to build Landers’ patternator, visit http://www.nysaes.cornell.edu/ent/faculty/landers/pdf/Patternator.pdf
Raising drift-prevention awareness
Jon M. Clements, a University of Massachusetts Extension Tree Fruit Specialist based in Belchertown, obtained a two-year, $63,000 grant from the Environmental Protection Agency’s Region 1 to help New England apple growers reduce spray drift.
As part of his efforts, he bought an Italian-made successor to the MIBO patternator that he admits is probably more expensive than most growers could afford.
But he says Landers recommended the unit because it is sturdy enough to haul to field days for demonstrations and to test multiple growers’ sprayers.
Landers’ home-built patternator is fine for use on an individual farm, but it may not withstand road trips and intensive use associated with field days, Clements says.