Fertilizer spreaders handle a lot of bulk material, yet need to spread the fertilizer with precision. The moving parts of a fertilizer spreader have to work in unison. When that doesn’t happen you may have to off-load the fertilizer to fix the problem.
Because of the caustic nature of fertilizers, you don’t want to handle them any more than necessary, so it’s best to know what you’re doing and take good care of the machinery parts of your spreader so you don’t experience that problem. To help you identify the key parts of a spreader, here’s a brief listing of key terms associated with fertilizer or manure spreaders.
Spreader boxes, or tanksThe tank or open container in which you put the fertilizer is called the box. Boxes made of stainless steel or other non-corrosive materials are the best. You can find boxes that pull behind a vehicle or tractor, as well as truck-mounted styles.
Hydraulic systemSome models of spreaders use a hydraulic system or hydraulic push to generate the energy needed to push the fertilizer from the box. The hydraulic system also opens the gate that holds the manure or fertilizer in place until the driver reaches his destination.
Ground driveSmaller spreaders rely on the rotation of the wheels to operate the system that drags the fertilizer to the back of the box and then spreads it on the ground. Generally referred to as ground-drive spreaders, these are also common in smaller lawn-fertilizer spreaders.
Drag chainThe drag chain is what pulls the fertilizer to the back of the box for distribution. The wheels of a ground-drive spreader operate the chain mechanism or the hydraulic system. In some smaller spreaders, a flat belt replaces the drag chain.
Beaters, or spreadersThe beaters, or spreaders, are the devices that actually spread the fertilizer or manure. They come in both horizontal and vertical configuration, but horizontal is the more common of the two. As the spreader draws the fertilizer to the back of the box, the beaters pick up the fertilizer or manure and spread it.
CalibrationIt's important to get the right amount of fertilizer on the ground so it's important that you understand how to calibrate your particular spreader. There are a number of methods of doing this. Some models of spreaders do this automatically for you, while others require you to do some math. Depending on the type of spreader, once you determine your calibration you set controls or determine how fast you need to drive your spreader to achieve the desired results.
Virginia Cooperative Extension offers specific information on calibrating a spreader.