A good quality atv sprayer or 3pt model sprayer for your tractor is definitely a must have if you're serious about growing and maintaining food plots and other habitat improvements for deer and other wildlife on your property.
In my opinion, a high quality sprayer should be one of the first pieces of equipment that you purchase if you're just getting into the food plot planting madness because there is a ton of things that you can utilize a sprayer for that you might not even think of right away.
Maybe you've checked out the vast assortment of sprayers at your local Tractor Supply or similiar farm store that you have nearby and were shocked by the countless models and sizes of atv sprayers and 3pt tractor model sprayers that were available and didn't know where to start. Hopefully we can provide some insight and give you a few pointers on which type of sprayer might be best suited for your spraying application.
All sprayers are setup to either spray with a boom or without one which then calls it a boomless sprayer. A boom sprayer has multiple nozzles that are equally positioned along the length of the boom which applies a very light fan shaped mist which slightly overlaps the spray pattern of the nozzle next to it for a 100 percent coverage. The spray nozzels on a boom sprayer are pointed directly at the ground to minimize wind drift of chemicals. A boomless sprayer on the other hand may have only one or possibly two nozzles that are pointed in more of an upright fashion that actually spray the chemical up into the air behind the driver in a fanned out pattern that yields decent results in certain conditions. A boomless sprayer works much the same as holding your thumb over the end of a garden hose and fanning out the water coming out the end to cover a wider area.
So which type is right for you? In most circumstances, a boom sprayer even though a bit more complicated is going to give you the best spray coverage and most desireable end result for your spraying needs. Boom sprayers aren't nearly as affected by wind like boomless are since the nozzels are delivering the spray product directly towards the ground vs spraying it in an arched upward pattern than can cause spray drifting issues. The spray drift factor really comes into play when you are spraying around or near different types of food plot forages or around young trees and such that may be killed off from drifting spray. For instance, say you have a 1 acre plot that is divided in half with the right side planted into Roundup Ready soybeans that you are spraying with a glyphosate herbicide. The left half of the food plot is planted with a milo/sunflower mix and is not Roundup tolerant. It's windy that day and you are using your boomless sprayer and paying little attention to the spray that the wind is drifting onto your milo/sunflower plot. A few days later 1/3 of the milo/sorghum plants are dead. Wind drift can certainly occur when using a boom sprayer as well however it is much less of an issue.
Another advantage that a boom sprayer has over a boomless is the ability to use precision spraying and complete coverage. Some specialty herbicides on the market call for literally applying only a few ounces per acre of the product. This precision spraying can become an issue for boomless sprayers for many reasons however the biggest has to do with droplet size. Boomless sprayers typically spray a larger sized droplet compared to a boom type sprayer and when a large sized droplet hits a very small plant, the droplet will sometimes bounce off and not be absorbed by the plant. The last reason why I prefer a boom sprayer over a boomless comes down to the fact that a boom sprayer saves me money. When spraying, excessive overlapping is minimized with a boom sprayer since foam markers can be added to these units which will tell you exactly where your last pass was at down to a few inches. However, with a boomless sprayer you are overlapping each pass by several feet to make sure you are getting getting good coverage while at the same time wasting money on overapplying expensive chemicals.
Boomless sprayers have their advantages over a boom type sprayer as well. Such include, spraying along road ditches or on rough terrain where a boom could become damaged. Another advantage of a boomless type sprayer is the simplicity of the unit. Unlike a boom sprayer that has several spray nozzles that can become plugged and cause uneven spraying and streaking if not noticed right away, a boomless sprayer only has one or two nozzles or spray tips to watch which makes monitoring simpler. The final reason why some folks prefer boomless sprayers is for space requirements. A typical boom sprayer although even with it's ability to fold up during transport will still take up more room then a boomless unit that is typically no wider then your atv or tractor even while setup in the operating mode. These are just a few things to think about before purchasing your next spray rig for foodplots or around your acreage.