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Prepare for potato planting - Nematicide applicator checks

Potato seedbed preparation and planting

Accurate nematicide application is key to getting the best possible results for soil pest control to protect yields and prevent PCN population multiplying.

Furthermore, it’s a kingpin of effective stewardship that is an essential part of retaining nematicide products for the future.   

Somerset-based NSTS tester and agricultural engineer, David Morton, of Crawford Morton Contracting, offers some Top Tips for pre-season preparation of nematicide applicators.

David Morton

David pointed out that a thorough service through the farm workshop, along with the annual NSTS test, will ensure machines can work accurately and minimise costly breakdowns during the busy planting season.

“Given the value of the nematicide products being applied, and the potential consequences of inaccurate application on crop performance or pest multiplication, it’s an essential investment,” he advised.

Hopper seals

Hoppers need to be moisture proof and with well-fitting lids. Check that sealing material around hopper lids hasn’t dried out during storage, which could let moisture ingress in the field.  

Closed transfer system adapters need to be tight fitting and secure, with any gaskets required in place. Check mounting lugs will hold containers firmly for safe, dust free transfer. It is important that the lid remains connected when nematicide containers are in place. Ensure the internal valve is intact to prevent powder coming back up out the lid.


Closed transfer link

Dump hole bung

Rubber bungs for hopper cleaning holes and metering protection seals can perish over time. Bungs should fit firmly when new, but if there’s any concern a cable tie could avoid one falling off in the field. Note the hex screws securing the mechanism that need to be moveable.

Granules should be cleaned from hoppers before storage. A paint brush on a long stick is useful, but don’t wash out with water.  Check condition of rotors and clearance of shims and washers for positive and consistent metering. Cartridges are convenient and quick to change, but well-adjusted rotor systems can still work efficiently. Check the drive bar is aligned and turning freely without binding on any mechanisms. Dummy granules are used by NSTS.

Rotor wear check

Delivery hose checks

Check the condition of all pipe work, looking for cracks and splits, particularly if pipes have been removed to clear blockages. Delivery pipes can get brittle over time. Replace with correct length pipes for a smooth granule flow to fishtails and to avoid kinks.  

The positioning of fishtails should look to give even surface coverage, all aligned, and with consistent height from the soil surface. Look for signs of corrosion that could adversely affect flow or the delicate fins inside the fishtail. The NSTS test ensures outlets are delivering an even spread of granules across the machine width. Operators will still have to calibrate output settings for the nematicide being used and machine operation in the field.

Fishtail placement

Clean sensors

Clean sensors and all electrical connections. Efficient shut off of metering mechanisms is essential to switch off nematicide granule application three metres before the end of any run. Remove the cover to check and lubricate the drive chain and sprockets.

Numbering the hoppers and their specific metering mechanisms is good practice when disassembling applicators for service, and ensures everything matches up when it’s put back together. Hopper mounting points should be checked, as vibrations from bed tillers can cause fixings to work lose or crack over time.

Numbered hoppers

NSTS certification

Keep a record of the NSTS testing dates – along with any notes or advice. It is a good idea to note down dates any parts are replaced, or any comments from operators during the season that can be actioned well before machines are required for the new planting.

Further workshop guidelines are provided by the Nematicide Stewardship Programme:


NSP logo


Take the latest Nematicide Stewardship Programme e-learning modules to keep up to date with latest advice and best practice information. Click here or on the image below: 

NSP module