Test version of new online AgTech Nozzle Selector set for release
A new tool to help farmers get the best nozzle performance out of their sprayers is now in the final test stage. Farmers are being invited to check out the AgTech Nozzle Selector and provide input. This Canada Sprayer Guide Special Report provides an overview of what they can expect and how to take it for a test drive.
Posted: June 16, 2009
If there's a common question producers have at spray season, it's "What's the best nozzle to use for the job?" A new online tool may help Prairie producers answer that question, and that, in turn, should be good news for sustainable cropping systems.
The AgTech Nozzle Selector is the result of 15 years of nozzle research conducted by the AgTech Centre in Lethbridge, Alberta. As part of Alberta Agriculture and Rural Development, the AgTech Centre is dedicated to agricultural technology research with a particular emphasis in recent years on economic and environmental sustainability. That research includes extensive work on crop spraying systems.
As more and more sprayer nozzles hit the market in recent years and AgTech's research grew more detailed, there was a need to have all this data at the researchers' fingertips. That was important both to analyse data as part of the ongoing research process and to answer producers' questions quickly and efficiently when the phones started ringing each spring.
Research tool adapted for farmers
"The AgTech Nozzle Selector was built as a research tool to accomplish this," says Brian Storozynsky, AgTech project manager and lead person on the project. "Once it was developed, we realized that with producers having the computer and communications technology required to use the tool, it was a logical extension to put it right into their hands. So we began the redesign to accommodate that.
"We have used a visual approach," he adds. "Our experience at trade shows, tours and demos showed the interest in seeing the nozzle and its spray droplets. Presently nozzle catalogues show a lot of colored tables indicating nozzle size and spray quality, but if you have never seen droplets from instruments it is difficult to visualize spray quality or droplet density. Density is key these days because of the different nozzle types and orientation."
Ultimately, the true test of the usefulness of this tool will be the feedback offered by producers, says Storozynsky. This Special Report is a starting point. Producers can send in their comments on the usefulness of the approach in the Nozzle Selector tool to AgTech managers.
Secondly, producers can sign up to test drive the test version of the Selector when it's launched by sending their name and email address to the AgTech Centre.
One question that will come up, says Storozynsky, is how this tool relates to other selectors in the marketplace. What if there are differences of opinion? "The simple answer is that this nozzle selector is based on AgTech's research methodologies and data and is simply another tool to help producers make decisions," he says. "The goal is to test this tool, make changes necessary and then continue to add new information as it becomes available to help keep producers on the leading edge.
"We are not so concerned with making recommendations for producers as to helping them with information that lets them decide if an approach is right or wrong for their operation."
How the Nozzle Selector tool works
The online AgTech Nozzle Selector was originally set up as a research tool where AgTech researchers who were familiar with the material and data, use the Selector to generate the reports they need. Since this level of interpretation is likely not needed by producers, not all features will likely be used by all producers.
That's not unlike buying a new computer, for example, where few people use all of the options they get, says Storozynsky. "On the other hand, some producers will want to explore all of the features of the tool and some will likely find value in that process."
Another important point is that this tool is based on the AgTech Centre research model. AgTech's nozzle research focuses on three basic outcomes: spray distribution pattern, spray coverage and spray drift. These are determined by using nozzle test facilities under controlled conditions.
Spray distribution pattern is tested using a six metre wide spray patternator that collects spray from 10 to 12 nozzles at 15 mm intervals. A sprayer test track is used to propel six nozzles across spray sensors and water sensitive cards at speeds from four to 30 km/h. A wind tunnel is used to measure the airborne spray drift cloud four metres downwind from two nozzles at wind speeds up to 45 km/h.
The spray parameters are set at typical standards for Prairie crops, which is why this tool is of most value to the production practices of Prairie producers, says Storozynsky.
When producers use the Nozzle Selector, they are using replicas of the same visual tools AgTech researchers use to determine the distribution, coverage and drift for a specific nozzle. For example, samples of the water sensitive cards used in the research are also used in the tool to express coverage on broadleaf weeds and front and back coverage on grassy weeds.
Here's a snapshot of the tool's main features and samples of what producers will see as they navigate through it.
When users click on the AgTech Nozzle Selector home page, they see links to its five features: Nozzle Tests, Reports, Nozzle Check, Calculator and Glossary. These options each offer various kinds of information, but the "Nozzle Tests" offers the Selector's most usable and producer-friendly overview of commercially-available sprayer nozzles' spray coverage, pattern and drift. The Nozzle Tests menu automatically comes up when users open the home page.
The other Selector features are designed for more specific needs:
- Reports. Geared primarily toward the AgTech research community, these offer a more comprehensive look at the Centre's 15 years of nozzle research.
- Nozzle Check. A tool to help producers calibrate their sprayers.
- Calculator. Designed to help producers find the kind of nozzle they need based on desired application rate and speed or vice versa. Producers have a specific nozzle in mind and want to find related parameters.
- Glossary. A self-explanatory reference to terms users will encounter while using the tool.
AgTech's goal with the Nozzle Test was to make it simple and visual, says Storozynsky. "We wanted to show what producers have told us they want to see: simple illustrations which clearly indicate the coverage, droplet size and drift of individual nozzles."
Nozzle Tests offer users a visual snapshot of a nozzle's spray coverage, pattern and drift based on standard speeds, application rates and spray height. Using a series of drop-down menus, the user selects the nozzle manufacturer, nozzle model, nozzle size, application rate, pressure and location (left, center, or right) of water sensitive cards. In keeping with the tool's focus on the needs of Prairie producers, nozzle spacing and nozzle height have been standardized to keep in line with rates commonly used on the Prairies, i.e. 508 mm spacing and 600 mm spray height.
"Users select the nozzle options from the list on the drop-down menu by clicking and scrolling down to the value they want to select," says Storozynsky.
An "information" button offers users a link to a visual representation of how the water-sensitive cards were aligned. A video button links to video footage of some nozzle selections in action. Thinking as producers, however, the video is somewhat difficult to see and may take a long time to load when using slower Internet connections.
Once all of the information required has been entered, the user hits "Go." The sample Nozzle Tests following are what they see for the particular nozzle entered. The information includes:
- Multiple views of the nozzle. Nozzle colours offer users a convenient and industry standardized visual indicator of nozzle size.
- Four views of spray coverage: horizontal target, target at 45 degrees, and front and back views of a vertical target.
- A graph illustrating spray distribution pattern. The nozzle's coefficient of variation (CV), or the standard deviation of successive 15 mm sections along the spray boom (eight to 10 nozzles) is expressed as a percent of the mean application rate. A CV below 10 percent indicates a very uniform pattern while a CV above 15 percent indicates inadequate uniformity for chemicals with a narrow application range.
- Another graph illustrating the spray drift. This shows characteristics of the nozzle compared to a Turbo TeeJet control.
Other Nozzle Selector features
Most of the information producers will be looking for will likely be found under Nozzle Tests, says Storozynsky. The tool's other features are designed to tackle more specific needs.
Calculator. The calculator is a tool producers can use to find the kind of nozzle they need based on desired application rate and speed. Other spraying parameters can be selected based on a nozzle of choice. In addition, the calculator can be used to calculate the amount of chemical to add per volume of water used.
Nozzle Check. Nozzle check is the sprayer calibration tool of the AgTech nozzle selector, if producers do not have this feature in their rate controller. The Nozzle Check tool allows users to compare the flow rate of individual nozzles to the manufacturer's rate as well as the average flow of all nozzles tested.
"A nozzle's flow that varies by more than five percent from the manufacturer's rated flow shows the nozzle may be plugged, worn or damaged," says Storozynsky. "When several nozzles' outputs vary or the average difference varies by more than 10 percent this is an indication that the entire set should be replaced."
Reports. Reports are specifically designed for the AgTech research community but producers may find them useful as well. They are typically more detailed than Nozzle Tests and cater to a broader variety of user needs. They are divided into four categories: nozzle spray distribution, spray deposition and spray drift summary. Dropdown tools and tables are used to help users find the information they are looking for different spacing and height as an example.
The biggest difference between the Nozzle Test and Reports, says Storozynsky, is the variety of parameters users have to choose from. While Nozzle Test values conform to today's standard height and nozzle spacing, the report interface allows users to choose from a wider variety of height and spacing based on information available in the AgTech database.
Glossary. The glossary serves two purposes. It's a simple reference of terms users will encounter as they use the tool. It's also a guide to how that terminology is used in the context of AgTech research.
Frequently Asked Questions
Here are some of the questions producers are asking about the AgTech Online Nozzle Selector.
Q. Are tests conducted in test conditions such as wind tunnels as accurate as tests done in the field?
A. Testing under controlled conditions is the AgTech Centre's chosen methodology for testing distribution pattern, coverage and drift in spray nozzles. The results of these studies are cross-referenced with the results of field studies in order to arrive at data that can be useful for producers.
Q. What happens if I get conflicting advice?
A. There are many tools available today to help producers make business decisions related to nozzle selection and we know there may be some differences between our results and those of other industry and independent interests. The bottom line is that the AgTech online nozzle selector is a tool, not the tool, for nozzle selection and we invite producers to compare our data to that of other resources that are available.
Q. What are the plans for updating the Nozzle Selector?
A. The testing of sprayer nozzles is an ongoing project of the AgTech Centre and new information will be added to the tool as results become available.
Producer feedback needed
The AgTech Centre will continue development of the online Nozzle Selector tool. Producers are invited to let AgTech know how they will use this information as a producer.
The goal of the AgTech Nozzle Selector is to provide a tool producers will use in farm spraying management decisions. Here are two ways producers can help with that.
1. Provide top of mind thoughts. Based on the overview in this Special Report, let AgTech know if this is something you would use as a producer to help visualize spray droplet characteristics for comparing and selecting nozzle types. Also, what else you would like to see and what elements are provided that you wouldn't find useful.
2. Test drive the Nozzle Selector test version online. Sign up to test drive the actual Selector online. Send AgTech your name, email address and phone number and they will send you information on how to access the Nozzle Selector test version. Try out the tool and provide comments on value and problems and how to improve the tool.
Send an email to Brian Storozynsky at or phone (403) 329-1212 (toll-free on the RITE line in Alberta) for more information.
Sponsored by: AgTech Centre