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The Five Things to Know about Spraying Control Products & Plant Protectants

The Five Things to Know about Spraying Control Products & Plant Protectants

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Spraying control products and plant protectants is an important element of an effective  golf course maintenance agronomic program. Golf course spraying is also one of the bigger ticket items. Depending on the size and maintenance standard of your golf course, these applications can cost anywhere from $30k to more than $100k, annually.

For that reason—and for the long-term health of your golf course—you want to get the most value from your investment. To help you, our experts have put together a tried and true checklist with the five most important steps to ensure your turf applications get the best results.

Check the Calibration of Your Sprayer Frequently (At Least Monthly)

Getting the calibration of your sprayer correct ensures that you’re spraying the right amount of plant protectant/control product to the target area. This is critical, especially in putting greens where the margin of error is slim and over- or under-application of spraying agents can result in damaged greens, the product being ineffective or simply wasted effort (and labor costs).

First, confirm the calculations of gallons of water to application in the product directions and then double check that your sprayer is in good working order. Make sure it was properly cleaned after the last application. Look for mechanical glitches like leaks in the hoses, tanks, and fittings. Start the sprayer and engage the pump and check again for leaks when the sprayer is pressurized. Once the spray boom has been activated, check the nozzles and nozzle assemblies for leaks and note the spray pattern. Then, tag each piece of equipment or create a log and note when the maintenance check took place. In addition to helping ensure your application is properly sprayed, this will save time, trouble, and expense the next time you use the equipment.

Review Pre- and Post-Application Requirements of your Product

Different plant protectants/control products require different protocols before being applied, at the time of application, and post application. They also require different spray volumes. For example, applications that treat roots,  soil insects or other soil-based pests problems will require a higher spray volume to ensure the product reaches the issue it’s meant to tackle. Applications for foliar issues call for a lower spray volume. Check the recommendations on the product instructions and make careful note of requirements for pre- and post-application irrigation. Confirm when and if to irrigate and if so, how much so that you neither over- nor under-irrigate the application.

Check Your Water’s pH

If the pH level of your water is not compatible with the plant protectant/control product being sprayed, it can negatively impact the chemical structure of the product(s) and render it ineffective. Always measure your spray water’s pH and use buffering agents to adjust the pH level if necessary.

Know the Hardness of Your Water

Whether or not your water is hard (meaning filled with dissolved minerals such as calcium magnesium and/or sodium) or soft can impact the efficacy of your application. Hard water can specifically affect control products, especially herbicides, which are weak acids. In this instance, harder water binds with these acids, inactivating the product. Softening the water with buffering agents remedies this problem.

Do the Glass Jar Test and Mix the Products in the Correct Order

Chances are when you spraying, you’re putting down more than one type of plant protectant/control product. If that’s the case, make sure they’re compatible—do the glass jar test. Put a small amount of your buffered sprayer water in a lidded glass jar, mix in the products, wait 15 minutes and watch for interactions.

Stir and shake the jar and look for trouble signs like clumping, foam, scum, precipitates and other unusual reactions. If the mixture remains smooth and free of any issues, then it’s probably fine to mix these applications. Next, feel the jar and if it feels warm, wait 15 minutes and check again. Temperature changes indicate a chemical reaction that may cause a change in the chemical structure of the application. Once you’re done with the test, thoroughly rinse the jar and dispose of it properly. Do not re-use the jar.

After determining product compatibility, ensure you mix the products in the correct order when adding them to the spray tank.  Plant protectants/control products are formulated differently and the order in which they are added can impact their compatibility.

For more information on the order in which to mix certain applications, take a look at the table below:

Mixing Order Product/Formulation Type
1 pH buffers
2 Water Conditioners (Ammonium Sulfate – 21-0-0)
3 Wettable Powders (WP), Dry Flowables (DF), Water Dispersible Granules (WDG)
4 Suspension Concentrates (SC), Liquids (L), Micro-Emulsions (MEC)
5 Water Soluble Fertilizers
6 Liquid Fertilizers
7 Emulsifiables (EC or EW)
8 Soluble Liquids (SL) or Soluble (S)
9 Surfactants (NIS, COC, MSO), Wetting Agents, Etc
10 Spray Dyes or Pigments

Better Turf Application Results, Better Investment

By following the above steps, you’ll help eliminate issues such as improperly sprayed applications, incompatible application mixtures, costly mechanical issues like clogged nozzles, and inefficient and expensive use of labor. So, consider making these five steps mandatory in your application spraying routine and you can be sure that the health of your golf course—and your budget—will be in good shape.

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