When Dave Fick used a Hardi sprayer with its Twin Air Assistance feature 18 years ago, he thought he’d never go back to a standard boom. “That was it, though; I had to have the air-assist boom,” Fick says. “Now, I use an air-assist sprayer on everything.”
The Valley Springs, South Dakota, farmer was an early adopter of air-assist sprayer technology, which did not take off in the U.S. sprayer market like it did in Europe. But, things may be changing.
“When air assist first came to the U.S., unless you had a real weed problem, you didn’t buy air assist,” Fick points out. “But, we didn’t have the same weeds back then that we have today. We need this product more now than we did then.”
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Apparently, this message has reached North American farmers. Danish company Hardi reports an uptick in interest and sales here for itsTwin Air Assistance system. It’s available on the self-propelled and trailer models. Customers want a wider application window, less drift from products such as dicamba and better coverage on difficult-to-control weeds.
Air Power. “Air assist offers a lot of advantages that nothing else in the market can offer,” says Wayne Buchberger, president and CEO, Hardi North America.
The Hardi system uses two hydraulic-driven fans, one on each boom, to push air through bags extending the length of the booms. The air pushed out of the bag forms a curtain that blocks ambient wind, resulting in uniform spray patterns and droplet placement. Product drift is reduced.
An operator can change the speed and pitch of the air curtain on the go from the cab. Air speeds run from 0 to 63 mph, and pitch of the air curtain moves 70 degrees, fore to aft, to counteract wind speed and direction. The system adjusts when the unit changes direction to accommodate a headwind or tailwind.
Because the system is able to operate in windy conditions, farmers can spray more often during a season than with a standard sprayer. For example, in spring 2015, Hardi counted only 31 days a typical sprayer could be used in one location. During that same spring, the Twin Air Assistance sprayer was used an additional 45 days, Buchberger reports.
(It is important to note using an air-assist sprayer does not exempt the user from herbicide label requirements.)
Canopy Coverage. The Hardi Twin Air Assist also can penetrate a crop canopy for better product coverage, Fick says: “The Twin Air blows down through the canopy and flutters the leaves so the backsides are just as wet as the top. The weeds that come up late under the canopy and grow fast are the problem weeds like waterhemp.”
A drawback for the air-assist system is cost. Fick, who also sells Hardi sprayers, says a Hardi Commander trailer sprayer with a 1,200-gallon tank, 90-foot boom and Twin Air Assistance costs $95,000 to $100,000. The system is also available on the Hardi Alpha self-propelled models, which is what Fick uses on his farm. MSRP: $416,193.
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