I know this site is for backyard growers and that’s what I love about it. But I’m up to about 130 trees and growing (still tiny by commercial orchard standards, of course). I recently bought my first electric sprayer that goes behind my tractor, but still uses a wand so that I still have to hand spray each tree. Its a huge improvement over pump sprayers, but still a good deal of work. It also clogs a lot which is a pain.
I’m started to wonder and have even done a little bit of searching into what kind of sprayers large, commercial orchard’s use. From the little research I’ve done, about all I’ve seen are “air blast” sprayers. Aside from the price- which can be from $5,000 to $30,000 they really look great. But 1) I can’t spend $5,000 for a sprayer and 2) since they basically just fog/mist the whole area, I suspect they would be quite wasteful of spray products, which can get expensive…
So I find myself wondering if there are other options? There must be other small orchards or vineyards that are a little to large to hand-spray each tree but not large enough to justify a $5k-$30k sprayer. These other small operations must have some way of applying sprays?
I’m sure they would still be expensive-I might spend $2,000 or so for a good set up if it exists. I also do have a small tractor with a PTO Drive if that helps.
So, whether there are small, cheaper air-blast sprayers I haven’t seen yet or some other spray technique I don’t know about (Seems like maybe there should be a boom system that would go horizontal to spray trees but the only booms I have seen are vertical and only a few feet off ground), I’d really appreciate any tips or links or other information for ideals about the best way to spray 150 trees (my planned max # of trees) without having to stop at each one and take a wand and slowly spray it all over.
I have the Solo version of this: https://www.stihlusa.com/products/sprayers/backpack-sprayers/sr430/
You could do about 25-30 trees or so with 4 gallons of spray. You want something that will fog the chemicals
rather than spray with a wand to cut down on cost of chemicals. This might be too small for 150 trees but I think
you could do that many in 2-3 hours with this rig. It took me maybe 15 minutes for 30 trees when I had that many.
There must be foggers like this to tow behind a tractor. I don’t have a tractor.
If the trees are not too big you could build a vertical boom attached to a 3 point 50 gallon PTO powered sprayer with a roller pump. The pump should provide at least 150 PSI and with 3 or 4 nozzles on each side the coverage should be OK.
We used something similar to spray a few acres of trellis blackberries at one point.
Here is a photo of what Rears Manufacturing calls a “trellis boom” which is similar to what I’m talking about.
I’d like to emphasize that mist blowers make the chemicals go a lot farther than any sprayer and you
get better coverage as well. However the Stihl or Solo is pretty heavy fully loaded, around 55 lbs. I can manage easily but have to stage the blower on something tall so I can back up to it to get it on my back. A fellow I know who is in his 70s thought it was too heavy for him to manage.
I’d guess your trade off is a $700 machine like the Stihl or Solo might take 2-3 hours for your 150 trees and a tractor mounted one would cost more but take much less time.
(The middle one possibly looks the best for $2500. It’s only a 50 gal sprayer, but you can still cover lots of trees with concentrate sprays. John Bean is one of the best sprayers out there.)
I’d recommend keeping an eye out on Craigslist for your area. The pump can be a pricey item on an airblast, so make sure you are able to see it run before you buy. If someone didn’t drain the pump for the winter, it’s probably broken. Another thing to look for is a poly or stainless steel tank, since chemicals will corrode common steel tanks. Ideally, fittings and piping would also be stainless or brass.
These responses have all exceeded my expectations, so thank you all for outstanding information. I have had back issues all my life so I fear I couldn’t carry the backpack ones like @anon47724557 suggested. But surely there would be a way to mount them onto small trailer instead of carrying them on my back. And the price is attractive for how it sounds like they perform.
I also am somewhat inspired by the ideas put forth by @blueberrythrill. That Rears one looked good and it doesn’t seem like it would be too hard to just stand a boom line up and down instead of horizontal, or build one. In fact, our maintenance dept at the City built a boom themselves by just drilling holes in a PVC pipe and stopping up one end. I may look into that in conjunction with one of the pumps Rick posted. I’lm also going to look into mist blowers…I didn’t know they were substantially cheaper than AB sprayers so that might be an option.
I was hoping you’d chime in, @Olpea. I figured you had an AB sprayer but wasn’t certain. I never considered a used one for some strange reason…that is a GREAT idea that I certainly will look into.
It’s hard for me to imagine spending $2,500 or so on equipment purely for a hobby that produces no income (I still have no interest in selling fruit but I guess I could go there at some point to try and recoup some of my money…but I don’t want to.) On the other hand, I have friends who spend a LOT more money on hobbies like motorcycles, bass boats, ATV hunting vehicles, and much more. So I might be willing to go to @2500 but certainly would do $1,000 or so. So Ill keep looking with all the new information I’ve just learned with everyone’s help. Thanks!
That’s just a regular pull behind wand sprayer. It looks like it has a couple nozzles mounted to mist something, but you wouldn’t be able to spray your trees with those misters. You’d have to use the wand.
A 12v electric pump won’t generate enough power to spray trees with mounted nozzles. But a lot of people use those pull behind sprayers to spray their home orchards (using the wand). I use a sprayer like that to spray my backyard trees.
I pull that sprayer behind my ZTR, so I can go around trees pretty easily and spray them with the wand, but it still takes a long time to spray the backyard trees with it. Btw, I’m not real happy with the Fimco sprayer I’ve got. Fimco uses junky pumps and junky gauges. I put a different pump on this one, as well as an oil filled gauge. I also made a 4’ wand.
That’s very true that people spend a ton of money on hobbies. People even pay thousands of dollars for a TV, or even a thousand dollars on the latest Iphone. Not against any of that, if that’s what floats a person’s boat, but I think food growing as a hobby is a little different.
The difference is that while growing food (gardening or fruit trees/bushes) as a hobby doesn’t produce any income it does save money otherwise spent on food, whereas a lot of other hobbies don’t save any money on anything.
Take sports, motorcycling, boating, etc. Those are fine hobbies, but the only return on the money spent is entertainment, whereas at least with every dollar’s worth of food you produce gardening/fruit growing is a dollar you don’t have to spend at the store.
Of course fruit growing as a hobby probably isn’t going to be a net gain on the bottom line of a household profit/loss statement, but economically speaking, one could do a lot worse with other hobbies.
Generally there’s not that many. But they are advertised from time to time. I’m equally surprised NC doesn’t have many orchard sprayers for sale since your state produces a good amount of peaches and blueberries.
Me too! I spent a lot of time looking at AB sprayers before I planted my apples and peaches. Only used sprayers I could find were 400 gallon trailer mounted which were too large for my application.
Also had to seriously consider if I was willing to spend the time and money spraying the fruit before I made the investment in the orchard, especially the high density apples on a trellis where the investment was huge.
I would not consider trying to spray my 150 peach trees with a hand wand or a vertical boom.
On the other hand, I could spray 150 high density apples with a vertical boom because the rows are only 12 feet apart.
I believe there is a picture in the Michael Phillips book of him spraying his large apple trees with a hand wand while sitting on his tractor which may be a reasonable compromise for 150 trees total.
I don’t regret spending the money on my 50 gal Rears AB. Its 100% stainless steel with mechanical agitation and electric valves. I use it for SWD on Blueberries and Blackberries as well as the Apples and Peaches. We did not have to spray the Blueberries or Blackberries for 20 years before the SWD arrived which changed everything.
Just to be clear, this is exactly what I’ve been doing since last fall and it is a HUGE step up from the old pump-and-spray backpack system!!! I have a 20 gallon tank with a built in electric pump. It sits perfectly into a little nook on the top of my bushhog, so I just turn the bushhog off, set the tank on it, and my spray hose is long enough to allow me to sit on my tractor and spray from my seat with a wand. Its actually a pretty good set up when it is working right, but it just doesn’t always work right. It cogs up every 20-30 minutes, and for reasons I haven’t figured out it often doesn’t pump when I engauge the trigger. So it has some bugs, but its still fairly time consuming when its working perfectly, and my tractor w/bushhog is far from zero turn, so its often hard for me to cover the whole tree by driving around it. In short, I’d sure love to get one of the options you guys have presented on this thread.
By the way, @Olpea , I absolutely LOVE your description/justification of spending money on fruit growing. You said just exactly what I was trying to say…which is that even if you look at fruit growing as 100% nothing but a hobby with no chance of generating income, I think we can still justify some substantial expenditures (of course the amount is relative to each person and their situation). Lots of people spend TONS of money on hobbies like the ones you and me have both mentioned here. But as you said, there is also some financial advantage that comes from saving on what you WOULD HAVE SPENT on fruit. I don’t know about everyone else, but that is a fairly large amount of money for me. Just this week I bought $20 worth of plums (I tasted one of them the night before so I knew they were good so I bought a lot). Plus, for all my assertions that I don’t want to sell fruit, I’m sure if I reach a point where I have more fruit than I can eat and give away, I’ll consider selling it. Directly across the street from me is a man who has built a nice little vegitable stand where he sells vegetables and strawberries. What is neat about his stand is that it is 100% always done on a serve-yourself, volunteer pay basis. He collects the money a few times a day but it is completely up to the customers whether they want to steal the money and/or produce. He says that in the 4 years he has had it that way, he has only had a substantial amount of produce stolen one time and only had money stole ONE TIME!!! (not the same time). AMAZING. But that kind of system interests me a lot. In fact, since people throughout the area have come to know about his stand and come to it from near and far, I’ve considered making a deal with him whereby I stock the fruit and we split the money. Since he sells no tree fruit it wouldn’t hurt his sales, and might actually benefit us both since people might come for fruit and buy veggies and vice versa. Anyway, the self-serve/trust system really appeals to me and is the only way I can imagine ever selling fruit. If anyone else has done that I’d love to hear about it.
So, I was considering this same backpack sprayer from Ace hardware (SR 430). The guy at the store says he has never sold one before. How many people in this forum have used a blower type sprayer (a small one similar to this one). How would it work with surround or copper? Lastly, any small electric blower style sprayers you know of? I want to speed up my spray time as I have enough trees now that it’s starting to become a chore. I have a 5 gallon electric on wheels but like any wand style sprayer, it waste a lot of chemical to get even coverage. Also, I scared to do heavy copper or Surround WP in the electric sprayer. Thanks for any experiences you can share.
Last week our maintenance guys were pressure washing City Hall. AS I watched them, I had an interesting thought. I’ve been looking for an affordable air blast sprayer because they reportedly shoot such a fine mist that it saves on chemicals, among other reasons. Well, those pressure washers also blast out a super-fine mist. Obviously at close range they would damage the trees, knock off blooms and fruit and so on. However, you don’t have have to back off very far at all to shoot just a big mist/fog of overspray. Has anyone ever considered using a power washer as a sprayer for a mid level number of trees (100-150 in my case). Some have a hose attachments but some work off a tank which could hold the spray ingredients. Some are electric and some are gas operated. I could easily put a gas operated one in a little pull-behind mini-trailer and pull with a tractor.
It’s probably a crazy idea that couldn’t work, but I thought I’d run it past some of you and see what problems you see with such an unusual idea?
There was a guy on the old forum who used the setup you mention. I think he used a 55 gal. drum as a tank. He really liked it.
Some pressure washers pull out of a small internal tank, in which the garden hose feeds the little tank. Those require positive pressure to feed the little tank. Others pull water straight into the head of the pump. Those don’t require any pressure going to the pump. The head itself will pull water in. Just make sure the pump will operate without requiring positive water pressure for a feed supply.
Generally, a good quality high pressure pump will handle all kinds of chemicals. I worked in AR in the pork industry in another life and guys down there ran all kinds of harsh disinfectants and various miticides and insecticides through their pumps (yes pigs are sprayed with insecticides/miticides).
I don’t know if all pressure washers will handle oils. Like most pumps, the seals used probably vary considerably. If the seals are made of something cheap like EPDM rubber, they won’t stand up to oils very long. I have a pull behind Fimco sprayer and the pump they used wouldn’t handle oils at all. Even though I never ran hort oil through it, I still had to put new seals in it every other year. Just the oils in sticker and emulsifiable concentrates would be enough to destroy the seals. I finally got fed up with it last year and bought a new pump with Viton seals.
Another thing to consider is if the pump will handle abrasives. If you plan on spraying something like Surround (and other dry flowables) this would be something to investigate as well. The old high pressure pumps I’m familiar with had ceramic pistons. I think they would handle some degree of abrasives, but not like an ag pump with rubber cups for pistons.
I think about this at times - and then quit thinking it. ‘Know how many people there are out there spending GOBS of cash, just to chase a little white ball around a green carpet with holes in it?’
I just can’t understand it!
At least ‘fruit’ is a healthy pastime, and doesn’t cost near as much as some other ‘hobbies’ we could list. And . . . we don’t have to buy special ‘attire’ or pay club fees to show up for our hobby!
So, some of us don’t intend to sell any of our fruit . . . we make ourselves and a lot of others happy when we share what we’ve grown.
What a great idea! Worth trying, I would think! And you wouldn’t have to expose yourself to such close-range spraying, either. I have a ‘wimpy orchard’ - and don’t want to carry a lot of weight, so I got a Ryobi Lithium battery-powered (1 gal) sprayer. I love it . . . but I’m not in your league! LOL
Hi, I have a Swinehart mist sprayer PTO model I got used a long time ago for around $1000. It works well and only requires 12 hp at the PTO (most air blast sprayers need 30 or so). Air blast sprayers reduce chemical usage by over half in comparison to "drench " sprayers where most of the spray ends up on the ground, so when you are looking at that $700 bottle of Pristine, they can pay for themselves in a few years. My trees are mostly around 10’ high and 8’ wide and to spray 350 trees takes around 125 gal of spray. less than 1/2 gal per tree and the turbulence whips the leaves around providing better coverage.
I could use some help. For years I have used a 2 gallon pump sprayer for
fungicide/insecticide applications on my 5 grapes vines and assorted fruit trees
(currently 18). Most of my apples are semi-dwarf on multiple rootstock types but
kept at 15’ maximum height.
Due to age and a bad shoulder that has bothered me for 18 years, it was very
painful getting thru last year with a pump sprayer. It is time to upgrade to something easier for spraying.
I am thinking of purchasing what seems to be called an ATV sprayer with the
electric pump (12V). I have narrowed my search to either a Northern or Chapin brand for various reasons. Both make a 10 gallon model but the pump on this size claims to only put out 40PSI and sprays to 14’? I am concerned this will not
give me enough pressure to reach the tops of my taller trees.
The next size up is a 16 gallon with a pump that supposedly goes to 70 PSI and sprays to 18’.
Has anyone tried either of these brands? Anyone have suggestion on what pressure would be best? Tough for me to tell since I only have used a pump sprayer and not really sure what pressure those even get to when fully pumped up.
I also found a nice used solo backpack airblast sprayer ($200). It works good but
I am afraid the weight when full will be too much for my bad shoulder. Any advice is appreciated !