Getting sprayers winter ready: How to prevent frost damage

Getting sprayers winter ready: How to prevent frost damage

The most recent Teagasc ‘Tillage Edge’ podcast focused on how best to prevent frost damage in sprayers over the coming winter months.

The programme featured a conversation between tillage specialist, Michael Hennessy and his Teagasc machinery counterpart, Dermot Forristal.

At the outset, the general point was also made that all machinery items containing water should receive the required ‘care and attention’ where the issue of frost protection is concerned.

Storage for sprayers

Forristal initially referred to the range of storage options that are available on farms in Ireland.

“Simply putting a machine in an old hay shed with a roof cover only will not protect it from freezing temperatures,” he said.

“Storing the machine in  completely covered-in shed will help, provided the walls of the building are insulated.

“Both hay and straw bales can provide a degree of insulation during the winter months. However, if temperatures fall below freezing on a number of consecutive nights, the risk of frost damaging machinery becomes very real.

“As each night progresses, the body of the machine will become progressively cooler. Temperatures dropping to -2 to -3°C will cause damage,” he added.

Forristal added that a walled shed will give some temporary protection from frost attack, but not long-term.

“A one-off big frost will also cause damage, particularly if the machine is outside.”

Forristal went on to make the point that it is not possible to completely empty a sprayer.

“Even with all the valves open, there will still be some residual water left in the system,” he explained.

The machinery specialist pointed out that growers and contractors should use the opportunity of getting their sprayers winter ready to also check the machine out, in an overall sense, given that many will be due a further test under the sustainable use directive in the not too distant future.

He further explained: “That’s what you need for good spraying. The things to do are to look very quickly for leaks and drips from any parts of the machine, including hoses nozzles and drip valves.

“The boom should be level with the nozzles pointing in the right direction. It is also important for the output of the nozzles to be correct.

“If the nozzles are correct but the output of the sprayer on test is poor, this would be an indicator of there being a problem with the pressure gauge.

“So a good test of all of that would be extremely useful, as well as getting the machine winter ready.

“The coolant levels of older tractors should also be checked at the start of the winter. Machines with a fair bit of wear and tear on the clock may have been leaking small levels of coolant over the summer months.

“If this is the case, they could be exposed to frost damage if coolant levels are not replenished at this stage of the year,” he concluded.

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