Should Backpack Sprayers be Used to Test Airblast Products? – Part 2

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About Jason Deveau (Spray Guy)

Dr. Jason Deveau has been the OMAFRA Application Technology Specialist since '08. He researches and teaches methods to improve the safe, effective and efficient application of agricultural sprays in specialty crops, field crops and controlled environments. He is the co-administrator of Sprayers101, co-author of the Airblast101 Textbook, a slow cyclist and an even slower runner.

See all posts by Jason Deveau (Spray Guy).

In Part One of this article, we showed that approximately 40% of minor use label expansions and registrant submissions rely on data from hand booms and guns. We also showed that a hydraulic backpack or knapsack will not give the same coverage as an airblast sprayer, and we concluded by suggesting that small plot researchers use spray equipment that reflects grower practices.

Unfortunately, practical logistics prevent most researchers from using a full-size airblast sprayer. They may not have access to such a sprayer, and if they do, it takes considerable time to mix and clean between treatments. Further, treatments are often only a single row, or even a single plant. It takes too much pesticide, too much time, and too much plot space to justify using a full-sized airblast sprayer, even if the relevance of the results are questionable.

Would another method of application better emulate an airblast application but retain the convenience of a hand boom or gun?

The motorized backpack mistblower

Using the same methods used to compare airblast to hand boom spray coverage in the previous article, we compared airblast sprayer coverage to that of a motorized backpack mistblower in grape, raspberry and peach (July, 2013). Once again, coverage was analyzed as overall percent coverage (see first graph) and droplet density (average droplets per square centimeter – see second graph).

Comparison of average % coverage in peach, raspberry and grape using a mistblower and air blast sprayer emitting he same volume
Comparison of droplets per square centimetre in peach, raspberry and grape using a mistblower and air blast sprayer emitting the same volume

Results and Observations

The mistblower met, or in the case of droplet density, exceeded the coverage obtained using an air blast sprayer in most crops. The results led to a few observations:

  • The significantly-higher droplet density is a function of the Finer spray quality produced by the mistblower (see water sensitive papers below). This may still represent a confound between small plot work and large scale airblast applications.
  • Drift between proximal treatments may be an issue given how far the mist was blown. This should be considered when planning plots.
  • While not shown here, spray coverage was more consistent throughout each canopy, of each crop, when using the mistblower. This is likely because the operator was able to aim the output as they swept the spray over the canopy, thereby ensuring all surfaces were hit from multiple angles.
  • While we always try to be brand-neutral, it should be noted that we’ve used multiple Solo mistblowers over the years, and all of them required significant maintenance (no matter how they were cleaned and stored). It was very difficult to find brand parts and repair expertise in Ontario. The Stihl brand currently has far more dealers, and more accessible parts, and has not caused us any difficulties (yet).
  • Always use the highest grade gasoline in two-stroke engines to avoid ethanol gumming up the carburetors!
  • Always calibrate mistblowers by volume because raising and lowering the boom will affect the flow rate.


Hand booms, and likely hand guns, are not appropriate for testing agrichemical products intended for use with an airblast sprayer. Data derived from these methods should be questioned. An airblast sprayer is the best choice for any such research, but a mistblower is a viable alternative. Transparent, standardized operating protocols for testing products intended for use in airblast sprayers should be required.

Thanks to Vaughan Agricultural Research Services Ltd. for their assistance in the research performed for this article.