Pressure is integral to nozzle performance. Reducing hydraulic pressure reduces nozzle flow rate, increases median droplet size, and typically reduces spray fan angle. Increasing pressure increases nozzle flow rate, reduces median droplet size and typically increases spray fan angle.
You can watch this Exploding Sprayer Myths video to learn how pressure, boom height and nozzle spacing interact. In extreme cases, too low a pressure can collapse the fan angle enough to reduce overlap and compromise coverage, as explained in the video at the end of this article.
Always plan to operate a nozzle in the middle of its recommended range so it can handle small changes in pressure during spraying (such as from a rate controller, or when changing PTO speeds on hilly terrain). Don’t operate an air induction nozzle below 2 bar (30 psi), even if it’s rated lower in the manufacturer’s nozzle table. Most AI nozzles perform best at >4 bar (60 psi).
Pressure can be used on-the-fly to make minor changes to flow rate while spraying. This is how rate-controllers work to compensate for changes in ground speed and maintain a constant overall rate per planted area.
However, pressure should not be used to make significant changes to flow rate. It takes a 4x change in pressure for a 2x change in flow rate, so it’s inefficient. Operating pressures at the upper or lower limit of a nozzle’s range can have undesirable impacts on nozzle wear, median droplet size and swath uniformity.
For a more in-depth discussion of the relationship between spray pressure and nozzle performance, and how rate controllers work, check out this article.
In 2015, we ran demonstrations at Ontario’s Southwest Agriculture Crop Diagnostic Days. The 20 minute sessions were designed to explain:
- The phenomenon of pressure drop,
- how to measure pressure drop,
- how to correct for pressure drop, and
- how low pressure affects coverage.
Although manufacturers of air induction nozzles often rate their performance as low as 15 psi, such a low pressure collapses the spray pattern and the resulting gaps reduce coverage. Additionally, the spray quality at such low pressures is coarser than at higher pressures, reducing the number of droplets available. This further reduces coverage potential.
This video covers the key speaking points from that demonstration.