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Corn+Soybean Digest

Penny-Pincher Sprayer

Bob and Pat Drake christened their homemade sprayer the "Poor Man's Spray Coupe."

The brothers built it to handle the fertilizer and herbicide applications on their Londonderry, OH, farm. The family farm also includes their father, Robert, and Bob's son, Jason.

The sprayer boom is mounted to a '76 John Deere 4230 with a three-point hitch. The Drakes used a Century boom when they built the sprayer in 1985, but recently replaced it with a 60' Bestway boom costing $5,000.

The Turbo T-Jet 4 nozzles are used for most applications. The turret bodies are equipped with three different nozzles in one unit. For post applications in soybeans requiring higher gallonage, the nozzles are rotated to Turbo T-Jet 5s. The Drakes plant corn in 20" rows and soybeans in 15" rows.

The sprayer has one 250-gallon saddle tank on each side of the tractor cab. The Drakes operate the sprayer at 25-35 psi at 9-10 mph.

Don't let the outside of the sprayer deceive you. The setup has a Raven spray controller. And in 1999, the Drakes added a Satloc light bar system with a global positioning system (GPS). They now have about $26,000 invested in the sprayer.

Using a Velo hand-held computer and FarmWorks Site Mate software, they record the first field pass on the map. After the first trip, the map is brought up on the computer. Then, lights on the bar indicate if the operator is on track. The 15"-long bar mounts on the hood of the tractor.

The Drakes had several reasons for investing $7,000 in the light bar equipped with GPS. "We wanted to record where we sprayed and how much," Bob says. The sprayer monitor "talks" to the controller. Then the Site Mate software records the gallonage and pesticides. Before, all the application records were hand-written.

Another reason for equipping the sprayer with the light bar is that the technology gives "perfect parallel swathing," Bob says.

When using a foam marker, you tend to overlap or have skips, he explains. He figures using the light bar cut their pesticides costs at least 5% by improving application accuracy.

The Drakes have sprayed at night using the light bar guidance system. "It's a real sense of security knowing where you are in the field at all times," Bob says.

The workhorse sprayer saddled with the light bar has paid off in improved pesticide application for the Drakes.

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