Spray that is not directed at the target is wasted spray. Many pesticide labels specifically require the operator to restrict spray to the target canopy. Spray that escapes above the canopy is a significant source of off-target drift. Foliar applications that extend below the canopy are not efficacious and represent waste and lost productivity.
Air carries spray droplets, so the first step in any adjustment should be to perform a ribbon test to ensure the air outlets are oriented correctly. This is achieved by adjusting deflectors (e.g. low profile axial), the air outlets on a tower, or the entire head on a wrap-around design with individual fan/nozzle combinations.
Spray height should always exceed the canopy height by a small degree. This compensates for the increase in wind speed with elevation, the potential loss of spray height with faster travel speeds, and uneven alleys that cause the sprayer to rock, which changes the spray angle.
It is less critical that spray align with the lower portion of the canopy. As air energy wanes, or as droplets begin to lose momentum, finer droplets will slowly fall, depositing on random surfaces. Coarser droplets will quickly fall towards the bottom of the canopy, settling primarily on upward-facing surfaces. This secondary deposition can also occur from the cumulative impact of blow-through from upwind rows.
Once the air is aligned, park the sprayer in an alley. Stand behind the sprayer and extrapolate a direct line from each nozzle to target canopy. Nozzles that point at the canopy should be left on. Nozzles that point above or below can be blocked, or turned off via valves or rotating roll-overs. Some roll-over nozzle bodies can be swiveled up or down 15 degrees to fine tune the spray angle. An alternative would be to permanently rotate the nozzle body fitting in the boom line.
When aiming nozzles using a roll-over nozzle body, be careful not to swivel them too far or the valve will partially close and compromise the spray pattern.
When extrapolating, remember that the centre of a nozzle only indicates the centre of the spray pattern. Cone and fan angles can span 60 to 110 degrees, depending on the influence of air. Therefore, even though the centre of the lower-most nozzle intersects the bottom of the target canopy, you may still be able to turn it off because the nozzle above has that portion covered.
Adjust spray distribution across the boom at the beginning and roughly mid-way through the spray season to ensure the sprayer will uniformly cover the target with the optimal volume. These adjustments should account for both canopy growth and fruit set.
For example, as the season progresses in an orchard, fruit may cause limbs to hang lower and warrant a new spray distribution. Turning on the bottom nozzle position will help, but it doesn’t account any increase in density throughout the canopy. You may need more volume distributed across the entire boom. Another example: as grape bunches begin to close, sprayer operators may direct fungicides exclusively at the fruit zone and not the entire canopy.
Remember to always check coverage using water sensitive paper. It’s not worth saving a bit of spray if you’re missing a bit of your target.