Humility in the Face of History – The Vermorel Nozzle

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About Jason Deveau (Spray_Guy)

Dr. Jason Deveau (@spray_guy) 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).

It’s a rainy Friday in 2017 and I decided to deal with the articles, factsheets, manuals and other sprayer-related documents that have been piling up on my desk for a year.

My filing strategy is based on some advice I got from Dr. Bernard Panneton (Application Tech Guru) back in 2009. He said to read each document and then file them according to content, not by author or date. That way when I need something, I can search up the subject and find everything that might be relevant. More than 1,200 files later, the system works. No Dewey Decimals in my office, thank you.

What I’ve noticed as I sift through this eclectic pile of wisdom, is that many of the application methods I experiment with, or generally promote, are rarely entirely novel. Crop protection has evolved considerably (think pulse width modulation, crop sensing and remote piloted aerial application systems), but the fundamentals of spraying haven’t changed that much.

Case in point.

I just found a photocopy of a 1906 book called “Ginseng – It’s Cultivation, Harvesting, Marketing and Market Value, with a Short Account of Its History and Botany“. Great title. We obviously appreciated florid language in technical manuals 100 years ago. Here’s an excerpt that caught my eye:

When applied to plants, the finest nozzle obtainable must be used. The Vermorel is perhaps the best. Now make no mistake: this spray must be a spray, not a dribble, nor a drizzle, nor a squirt, but a mist. It must look like a little fog at the end of the hose and must reach every part of the plant, particularly the undersides of the leaves, mind, just enough so it won’t trickle off.”

Poetry. And to make my point, it’s similar to what I’d tell a ginseng grower today. Granted, I’d lead them into a lower-range-of-Medium droplet size and help them achieve the described coverage using drop arms. But what on Earth is a “Vermorel nozzle”? That’s not one I have in my motley collection.

I turned to Virginia Tech’s Museum of Pest Management. I hope they’ll forgive me for lifting their content, but it’s too wonderful not to share. They note the contributions of Charles Valentine Riley. Born in London, England in 1843. He was a multi-talented Renaissance man. He was a pioneer of entomology in the United States and is often referred to as the founder of biological control in America.

Charles Valentine Riley

Two of his greatest contributions to pest management included founding the field of biological control and the invention of the Riley spray nozzle (1889). The Riley nozzle was sold as the Vermorel nozzle. It produced a fan pattern and was the primary nozzle used in pesticide application in the United States and Europe well into the 20th century. The auspicious Mr. Riley died in a bicycle accident in 1895. A dire warning to my cycling-enthusiast colleague, Nozzle_Guy.

The Vermorel nee Riley Nozzle

It was Riley’s nozzle, and the invention of some other early European pesticide application devices, that inspired W.B. Alwood (publisher of orchard spraying techniques c.1899) to import these devices and adopt them to Virginia conditions. The rest is history.

I tell you this because of what I found beneath the book touting the Vermorel; A 2015 TeeJet brochure for their TXVK hollow cone nozzles. I’m aware that the engineering behind the TXVK molded poly body and ceramic orifice is considerable compared to the humble Vermoral. But on closer inspection the fundamental designs aren’t so different. That realization both surprised and pleased me and compelled me to write this article.

I’m not certain what my point is. I suppose it’s just good to be reminded that the next time you want to invest time, money and effort into a “new idea” you might consider a little historical research. Odds are, you’re not the first person to recognize the problem, or propose a solution. A little time in the archives also instills respect for those that were there first. Let’s not waste time repeating their efforts, but stand on their shoulders and advance what they’ve already pioneered.

And if anyone has one of Riley’s Vermorel nozzles, I’d love to add it to my collection. Drop me a line.