Spraying Large Areas: What Sprayer Works Best?

Whether it’s a pasture, food plot, or soccer field, spraying a large area requires the right sprayer. Too big, and you won’t be able to maneuver it or transport it. Not to mention it may be well over your budget. Too small and It will take you all day, refilling your tank and mixing your spray solution tank over and over. 

So what type of sprayer would be best when you have a large area to spray?

A pull-type boom sprayer is typically the best option for spraying a large area. However, in some scenarios, a different type of sprayer will work better. The type of sprayer that will work best depends on several factors including just the size of the area you want to cover, the terrain, the type of spraying you are doing, the level of precision required, and your budget.

There is a lot to go through so let’s take a look at all of these factors and show you how to choose the right sprayer for you.

Why It’s Important to Select the Proper Sprayer for Large Areas

If you are new to pesticide or herbicide sprayers, you might be thinking that they are all pretty similar. At first glance, the only obvious differences would be the size of the sprayer tank and the width of the spray boom.

While you are on the right track, there is way more to sprayers than just the tank size and the spray boom. These other differences, although subtle, can drastically affect the performance of your sprayer and ultimately determine how effective it is at providing you with the results you desire.

How Sprayers Differ

The primary way that sprayers differ in the volume of liquid they can disperse in a given amount of time, the maximum pressure they can achieve, and the width of the spray boom or swath they can cover. 

The application rate of the chemical solution that you need to apply will determine the size of the sprayer you need in terms of volume or output per minute. I go more into the weeds (sorry, couldn’t help myself) on the topic of sprayer rate, gallons per acre, etc. in this post on sprayer calibration formulas.

If your sprayer is too small (small in terms of pump size/output), it will not be capable of delivering the required volume of liquid to the boom to achieve the rate you want at your desired speed. Likewise, you don’t want to pay for a sprayer that is way larger than you need. 

The type of spraying you need to accomplish will determine how much pressure your sprayer needs to produce. In the case of spraying large areas you will typically be using a boom sprayer and high pressure (>100 psi) is not necessary. If you wanted to spray trees or reach isolated areas with a spray gun it would require more pressure to project the fluid a great distance or height. I cover this type of sprayer more in this article on the sprayers needed to spray tall trees

The width of the boom or swath will be determined by the terrain you want to cover and the vehicle that you have to pull the sprayer. A wider boom will help you cover ground quicker but it is harder to transport and harder to maneuver over a field that may have obstacles, trees, or rough terrain. 

The Different Sprayer Types for Spraying Large Areas

The list of different types of sprayers is vast. Sprayers can be divided up and classified in several different ways. In this guide, I did my best to lay out all of the different sprayer types and their uses. You should refer to that article if you want a detailed description of each sprayer type.

When discussing the best sprayer for a large area, we can narrow that list down a little bit. Several types will work, we just need to identify the type best for you based on your needs and scenario. 

Let’s take a look at the main types of sprayers for spraying a large area and in what scenarios they work best.

Self-Propelled, Tractor-Mounted & Tow-Behind Boom Sprayers

This is the largest sprayer type. Within this category, there is a wide range of different sizes and variations. These Sprayers can have a boom size Anywhere from 20 to 120 feet wide. They might have a small roller pump that moves about 5 gallons per minute or a large hydraulically-driven centrifugal pump that will move over 300 gallons per minute. 

When to Use: 20 acres+. The large pull-type and self-propelled versions of these sprayers are typically used only by farmers in large-scale agricultural crop production.

However, there are still non-ag scenarios where one would opt to use a pull-type or tractor-mounted sprayer. For example, spraying food plots, large open parks, pastures, or extensive sports complexes with several fields. A large pull-type boom sprayer could be beneficial for any area with more than 10 acres to cover with few obstacles to negotiate. 

When Not to Use: Obviously, these sprayers are very costly, with even moderate-sized options starting at well over 20 or 30 thousand dollars. Even a smaller pull-type or 3-point mounted sprayer can cost a few thousand dollars not to mention that you will need a tractor to operate it. So unless you have the budget and need to spray 30 or 40 acres it is probably best to look into other options. 

Mower/Lawn Tractor Boom Sprayers

The smaller cousin of the large boom sprayers pulled by tractors is the smaller and less complicated boom sprayers made to be pulled or mounted on lawnmowers or lawn tractors. These sprayers are much more approachable. While, most non-farmers don’t have a large tractor, If you are looking at spraying a large area, you likely have a lawn mower or lawn tractor.  

When to Use: Approximately 1-10 acres. These sprayers are made to cover about 7-20 feet in a pass. This is suitable for acerages, sports fields, big open yards, small pastures, and long driveways. 12-volt pumps are common on this type of sprayer. They are inexpensive and easy to use, but you will want to make sure that they can handle the application rate you want to apply. 

This article will help you to determine the size of pump you need for your sprayer. Once you know the pump size you need, you can then determine the sprayer nozzle size you need to get your exact rate. Determining the nozzle size requires doing some calculations, you can use these resources to quickly determine the nozzle size you need:

When Not to Use: It might seem like a no-brainer to use a boom sprayer behind your mower when you have a large yard or area to spray. However, there are several circumstances where they may not save you much time:

  • Yards with a lot of trees or other obstacles
  • Uneven, rough, hilly terrain
  • Small yards where turning around with a boom may be hard

ATV/UTV-Mounted Boom Sprayers

These sprayers are not that different from lawnmower or lawn tractor boom sprayers. The primary difference is that they are made to be mounted on the rack of an ATV or in the bed of a UTV. You can find a detailed breakdown of the different types of UTV/ATV sprayers here.

The reason I separate these sprayers is because an ATV or UTV would generally be harder on a lawn than a mower. The weight can leave tracks or tear up turf. Most people probably don’t want to drive their ATV or UTV on their lawns, but food pots, fields, roadsides, and driveways would be fine in most cases.

Since these sprayers are on all-terrain vehicles, they can access rougher terrain and remote areas. Oftentimes the sprayers will be equipped with a boomless setup. This is where a pair of nozzles replace the need for an entire boom with several evenly spaced nozzles.

These two nozzles are very large and designed to cover the same width as a conventional spray boom. They are great for areas with lots of trees or rough terrain where a conventional boom could be damaged. 

If you’re not familiar with Boomless sprayers be sure to take a look at this article where I go into detail on the difference between a boom and boomless sprayer.

Skid Sprayers/Spray Rigs

Sometimes it is not possible to spray a large area with a boom sprayer. For example, if you have a field with several trees, fence lines, ditches, orchards, or wooded areas. 

If this is the case, you still need a sprayer that can hold a large volume of liquid but you will need a spray gun and pump that can disperse a high volume of spray over a long distance. 

Skid sprayers or spray rigs, are sprayers that generally have large high-pressure pump second delivery high-volume and pressure. The spraying is done by hand with a high-volume spray gun instead of with a sprayer boom.

When to Use: These are commonly used by commercial lawn care or tree care companies. They can be used to broadcast spray large areas by hand. This is possible because of the volume and reach they produce. They have long hoses to allow the operator to park the sprayer and access areas where the truck cannot go. 

Together, two people can spray a large area such as a road ditch, median, or fence line. One person driving and one person spraying. These sprayers are great for steep hillsides and remote areas.

When Not to Use: Boom sprayers are a better option when spraying large open fields or yards. This is especially true when the product you are applying needs to be accurately and consistently applied. A boom sprayer, equipped with the right nozzles, will produce fine droplets that coat the surface area much better than the coarse droplets from a spray gun. 

Backpack Sprayers

For areas that are large but still manageable on foot, a backpack sprayer is a good choice. Especially if you don’t have the budget for a boom sprayer or you don’t have a vehicle to pull it. 

These sprayers allow for mobility and can be used for broadcast spray over a large area. They typically have a capacity of 4 gallons, which is enough for considerable ground without being overly burdensome to carry. You can see an example of using a backpack sprayer for broadcast spraying in this video:

Walk-Behind Sprayers

If you don’t have a mower to pull a boom sprayer, walk-behind or push sprayers are a unique tool that allows you to cover more ground. These are pushed like a traditional push lawn mower. They have a small boom and electric pump that allows one person to even and consistently apply their spray over a yard much quicker with a backpack sprayer or hand pump sprayer.

The key distance is that your spray pattern is consistent. With a backpack sprayer, the application rate can vary slightly because you are moving your spray wand back and forth by hand. Even if you can walk and do this fairly constantly, it won’t match a boom sprayer.

When to Use: Small yards when you want to broadcast spray but do not have a mower to pull a boom sprayer.

When Not to Use: These sprayers do take some physical work to operate. If push mowing your lawn is hard for you to do, you can expect that this would require about the same effort.

Final Thought

Finding the right sprayer for large areas is a balance of practicality, efficiency, and precision. Whether you opt for a pull-type boom sprayer, a mounted sprayer, or another type, the decision hinges on a thorough understanding of your specific needs.

It’s important to consider the size of the area, the nature of the terrain, the type of pests or weeds you’re targeting, the kind of spraying you plan to do, the required level of precision, and your budget.

Remember, a sprayer that’s too large might be cumbersome and expensive, while one that’s too small could lead to inefficient, time-consuming work. The key is to align your choice with your unique requirements, ensuring that you invest in a tool that not only suits the task at hand but also delivers value and effectiveness over time.

Hopefully, I have been able to give you a clearer idea of what to look for in a sprayer for large areas. Armed with this knowledge, you’re well-equipped to make an informed choice, ensuring that your pastures, food plots, soccer fields, or any large area receives the care and maintenance it needs with the right sprayer. 

Shane Blomendahl

I have more than a decade of experience using, building, studying, and testing sprayers in several applications. With the knowledge I have gained I want to provide straight forward and detailed answers for DIY homeowners, farmers, and commercial turf and tree care pros.

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