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Agriculture Technology Podcast Ep. 158: Nozzle Selection

16 Dec 2021

Rex Guthland, Independent Sprayer Consultant with John Deere, joins host Tony Kramer to discuss the importance of nozzle selection.

Recorded while at the North Dakota Ag Expo earlier this month, Rex and Tony discuss the latest in nozzle technology - and why Rex says it's the most exciting time in application technology.

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View the entire transcript here:

Tony Kramer: Hi. I'm Tony Kramer with RDO Equipment Company. Thanks for tuning in to another episode of the Agriculture Technology Podcast.

Welcome back to another episode of the podcast. This is episode number 158. Today we are going to be talking about sprayer nozzle selection.

I am very excited to welcome Rex Guthland, who is an independent sprayer consultant for John Deere. Thanks for joining me on the show today, Rex. To get started, let's hear a little bit more about you and your background and how you got involved in this industry.

Rex: Yes. Thank you, Tony. What I'm going to try to do is go back to the beginning of my career in application technology and that takes me back to the late '70s, where I was a crop consultant for a large company. After doing that, I realized that most of my growers were using flat fans or extended range and now and then we get ourselves in trouble when we were out there applying our crop protection chemistry. Treflan was easy. We put a raindrop on there in a disc kit and we just had to make sure we had the disc set right so we got a good surface blend.

During that time, everybody was using an 80-degree flat fan because they drifted less than 110 and we couldn't really stand that drift. We were limited, from 15 to 60 PSI was our speed range. Then right about the start of the '80s, the whole drift guard tips, and all drift tips were was a pre-orifice tip with a flat fan exit. You'd see 40 PSI at the pre-orifice, but the tip would actually only see 20 PSI. It allowed us a better range without those fine droplets.

Drift guards were taking off quite well until there was another major innovation in the industry, and that was early '80s when there was a product that was made by-- I'm going to talk about other people's tips. The Turbo Tee, which was a pre-orifice flat tip, with a slight angle to it, and what was cool about the Turbo Tee, and I recommended a lot of them as a consultant, was I could run them from 15 PSI to 40 PSI and have a non-drifting tip, but then if I wanted contact and fungicides and insecticides, I'd run them from 50 and they were labeled all the way up to 90 PSI. It gave me a great speed range.

During that time, what happened at that time, we were maybe 8 to 12 miles an hour with the coops that we were using, and so it was okay, but then all of a sudden, the machine started getting faster and quicker, and all of a sudden, we started to realize that we were exceeding the pressure of the Turbo Tees and any flat fan that was out there to match that speed that we were going and we were causing a lot of drift.

What the industry decided then, right when the Turbo Tee was taking off, a gentleman in Europe developed the AI tip, an air induction chamber, prior to a tip. My best tip at that time was an air induction chamber with a Turbo Tee on it, so I never got in trouble and it gave me larger pressure ranges and I could drive faster. The AI tips have done more to mitigate off-target trespass than any other innovation or invention in the history of spraying.

The nice thing about the fell of the developed it, Steven Graft, who I'm sorry he's passed away, he patented it, but he let the industry have it. He got no funds from his innovative patent. All air induction tips are based on Steven's patent. Now you see this proliferation of air induction tips, and about that time, all of a sudden, in the mid-80s, we started having our Roundup ready.

All the things that we had to do with all the different chemistry we were using, with the Blazer and the Basagrans and all the postemergence, the Hoelon, the Fusilade, they went out the window because we had Roundup and it killed everything. It also took away from chemical injection because Roundup kills everything, I don't need chemical injection. That progressed to where companies looked at, "We are spending less time over that target with that flat fan-type pattern," and that brought on the thicker pattern.

A lot of the new technology you see today is a thick pattern. When I say thick pattern, I mean from front to back, it's pretty doggone wide. We all went to 110 or 120-degree tips because we wanted that overlap and we wanted to get our boom closer to the ground, because the best way of controlling drift in the old days was get that boom as close to the target as you possibly could.

That's where the ultra load drift came in in the early 2000s and it took off. The other thing we saw back then is when we started using very low carrier rates in some markets, where other markets, they would do 10 they would do 10 for Roundup and then fungicides, insecticides, they'd do 15, but we started going to seven and a half and we went to five because then we got more acres per load and we had the tips that allowed us to do that because we could get the number of droplets without the drift.

The next big innovation that happened was we realized this time over target, we weren't spending enough time over that small weed because we were driving so fast. The industry came out with twin patterns. You got two patterns coming out of the same tip, both front and back. Then what Hypro did is they came out with the GuardianAir Twin, which was an air-inducted twin pattern. In the old days, to get that, back in the late '70s and '80s, I was paying $30 to $40 for the complete assembly. Now I can buy what the at tip did for less than $8.

Economically, it was fantastic and it wasn't hanging down below the boom, getting broken off, and that's where you're seeing more and more people moved away from the old long AIs because the droplets were too big, and in fact, they got so big that under low carrier volumes, they wouldn't get enough contact because they're systemic and they weren't doing the job, so they needed a different-type tip and that's where the ultra load drift came on. Then the twin patterns, using that same technology, thicker patterns, more time over the target because of the speed that we're covering.

There's still a lot of people that say you can't go more than X miles an hour and it's because of that time over target. The slower that you go, the better the tips are going to perform. In the reality, we can't do that. We've got a lot of acres to cover, we want to use the least amount of carrier volume that we can, and so we have to adjust our tips to the applications that we need.

Since the twin pattern, now we've come up with more regulations on how to put on certain chemistries, whether it's a Liberty, which requires great contact, where you need that twin pattern in smaller droplets, or it's the ultra, ultra course droplets that you have to use for your Dicamba applications. Now, at the same time, we've taken the gallons breaker up. No longer can you go out there at 10, you're all the way to 15 and 20 on these labels because we don't want those small droplets and we got to get that coverage. It's the number of droplets that are most important on how well the chemistry works, whether it's systemic or whether it's contact.

Things are changing, they continue to change. One way of overcoming not getting coverages is more water, but then more water means that I carry more carrier volumes, I can't get as many loads in a day, and I'm spending more time filling my systems up. That's been the progress. Again, there are more and more tips coming out that can seem to be confusing, but they're all based on the needs of what the North American farmer has to have in order to get the job done. That's where John Deere is continually working on how to make the best tip and get the best job and the best application with the least environmental impact for everybody.

Tony: Yes, it's no question that with your history and your career of what you've done going back to the '70s, Rex, and how you came up and your knowledge of nozzles and how it's changed. We're here right now today at the North Dakota Ag Expo, a lot of application stuff here, we see all the technology, the new stuff that's out there, and the one thing that I want to emphasis on all of this and where we're going with this conversation, nozzle selection and the importance of nozzle selection isn't just based off of a traditional pressure application with a three or a five way nozzle body, or if you're running exact apply or a hawk-eye or an in-command system, it all comes into play.

The importance of nozzle selection, like you said, Rex, it's the technology of the nozzle itself plus the chemistry we're putting on and how we're doing that. Let's just talk to our listeners a little bit about some of these new nozzles that have come out and the technology that's being utilized and where John Deere is going in the future to continue on this path of bettering our application efficacy and just getting better in the application space to adhere to EPA regulations.

Rex: Exactly. I also want to mention, Tony, this is the most exciting time in agriculture when it comes to application technology. The equipment that we have today, what it does and how it does it and how easy it is to use, once you understand, once you have that basic understanding of droplet size, of speed, of pressure, and how much time you're going to spend over the target, you can use all that knowledge that you've gained over the years and you can really pick the best possible tip for all the different environmental and climate and weather conditions that you're posed with.

There's just a lot of options out there. I'm sorry, it could be really confusing at time, but one of the best resources that I use all the time, whenever I'm talking to a grower is a John Deere ‎EquipmentPlus or ApplyPlus app. On that app, it tells me that if I'm doing 20 PSI, I'm going to put on this many gallons and my pressure's going to be this. It tells me exactly what my speed is, it tells me what my pressure is, it tells me as I start increasing speed where my pressure is, and so it lets me think about a tip. I want a pattern that I get at 40 PSI and I can look and see, "This size tip will let me go eight miles an hour," or "This size tip will let me go 12," so that John Deere app, with the code on the side that tells you what type of droplet.

One thing we didn't talk about is that all of us now are using the same standard when it comes to classifying tips, whether they're ultra coarse, which are the biggest, whether they're extremely coarse, very coarse, coarse, medium, fine, and now we've got very fine, which would be your typical hollow cone. All that data is right there on your cell phone in the John Deere ApplyPlus app and you can use that data and you can look at that size and you can take the tip that you're using, it may not be a John Deere tip, and you know exactly what spray quality has been doing the job for you, keeping your neighbors happy and keeping your chemistry where it belongs to get the best possible job.

It's a fantastic app. It's one of the best ones, and it's been out now since 2017. It keeps getting better and better and better, but not too confusing once you have a basic understanding of application technology.

Tony: That's a really a good point you bring up, Rex that, one-- a couple good points, actually, that I want to key in on. One is this is not specific to John Deere sprayer tips or nozzles. This is across the industry. You had talked about moving to an industry standard when it comes to droplet size. There's the other manufacturers, the TeeJets and the others have their nozzle selection guys, but they're using the same standard when it comes to droplet size.

The other thing you talked about is just understanding the science of application, because if you think about it, spraying a product or spraying a chemistry, the science behind it has hasn't changed. Spraying a product is spraying a product.

Rex: It's the same products we had 20 years ago.

Tony: Exactly. What has changed is the ability to key in on specific nozzles for specific applications and that's one of the things, I think, is helping growers the most in this space, is gone are the days back in the '70s and '80s of using the flat fan for everything because it was a great universal nozzle. Those days were great, but now we have more options, and again, not to make it to get confusing, but we have more options that are going to better the application of the product. It's going to increase our efficacy, it's going to reduce input costs, it's going to do all of that.

Rex: Exactly. It just gets better and better and better. Regulations, we all have to live with them, but some of them are good because they make us stop and think and reevaluate what we're doing it and why we're doing it. You got to ask yourself those questions whenever you're doing anything on the farm, why am I doing? Why did I do it? Do I really need to be doing that in the future? What changes do I need to make to be more efficient, to be more effective, to raise the best possible crop, to keep my neighbors happy and everybody else in town happy that I'm not making a mess out there and giving us all a bad name or a black eye?

Tony: Right. Absolutely. Whether it's drift mitigation or you're trying to increase the application or carrier rates are changing based on labels, there's a lot of stuff that goes into it, but if you just take the time to understand the simple science behind liquid application, it's really not that confusing once you take that time. Rex, you mentioned the nozzle selection app and the ApplyPlus app with John Deere and everything that's out there. Let's talk a little bit, what are resources that growers can use above and beyond the John Deere app and anything that's out there that growers have the ability to utilize to make the educated decision on nozzles?

Rex: Every company out there now has an app. Everybody has an app on their specific spray tips. What I'm saying, in my experience, is John Deere has the very best app, and understanding because my John Deere app will let me do conventional, it will let me do ExactApply and PWM, and it also lets me do auto select. It lets me do everything and it gives me so much information, but again, it's a lot better than going through a manual or a book and then trying to draw a line on what my pressure is and what my speed is. It tells me dead.

Any red tip is going to do the same thing at that many miles an hour and that pressure, the only difference is going to be what size droplets are they making? Droplet classification is key and we're all in the same standard, we all have the same test procedures. I can match up any tip that you have with a John Deere tip and I can take any John Deere tip and match it up with somebody else's and be very, very confident that I'm giving a good recommendation.

Tony: Yes. I agree that nozzle selection app from John Deere is amazing. Gone are the days of those flow charts and trying to line things up with speed and pressure and rate and all of that stuff.

Rex: And nozzle spacing.

Tony: Yes, nozzle spacing.

Rex: Then now with carriers. Is it liquid nitrogen? Is it water? You're specific gravity changes. It makes that calculation for you.

Tony: Yes. Definitely, there's starting to be more and more cocktails that are getting mixed and a lot more factors involved. It's nice to be able to utilize technology like the apps that are out there to be able to make that nozzle selection. Rex, I just want to thank you for taking the time here at the Northern Ag Expo to sit down with me, discuss your extensive knowledge of nozzles. It's really cool to hear the history going back to the '70s and where it came today. Thank you again for doing this.

Rex: You're welcome, Tony. Anytime.


Tony: Thanks again for tuning into another episode. If you have questions about the technology and products discussed or have ideas about future episodes, please leave them in the comments below. You can also subscribe to RDO's YouTube channel and be in the know about each episode or tune in on any streaming service. Thanks again for listening.



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