Big profits the last few years are not only driving add-on purchases of numerous and different spray tank additives; this cash is also driving investment in the machines attached to those tanks.  The market is so swamped that some companies can't fulfill self-propelled sprayer orders until fall 2013.

The self-propelled sprayer market left behind its niche-market label during the Asian soybean rust scare in the mid-2000s and has doubled sales since then.

"Things have changed so dramatically on the application side–from split rates of nutrients to more fungicide applications–growers are finding yield-saving opportunities with multiple sprayer runs through a field," says Mark Sharitz, director of marketing for application equipment at AGCO. "This has helped grower cost-justify the need, along with the big benefit of greater flexibility and control of application timing."

For large farmers, self-propelled sprayers have become one of the most utilized pieces of machinery on the farm. "Farmers want the ability to spray or spread nutrients on their terms, not put on a list to wait," says Cory Venable, market planning manager of global application products for John Deere. "And they want greater efficiency in the field, which we have witnessed by the popularity of our Load Command System that will fill a 1,200-gal. tank in about three minutes."

Hagie, who pioneered the self-propelled sprayer market, is fulfilling grower demands for even more in-season work. "We're getting more and more interest in high clearance for fungicide work, as well as our nitrogen application bar and front-mounted boom," says Jim Williams, product marketing engineer for the company. "And it's rare that a machine leaves the plant without added technology, whether it's a higher-level monitor to handle guidance and mapping, auto boom height control or full-field computers that move from planter to sprayer to combine."

The sweet spot in the market right now is the 1,000-gal. capacity, 120-ft. boom, comfortable cab rig outfitted with precision technology for optimal application efficiency. "We're seeing more focus on the economic side by farmers, looking at cost per hour or cost per acre of operation," says Mark Burns, Case IH marketing manager for application equipment. "They are using boom section control to minimize overlap and our AIM Command for consistent application over a wider range of sprayer speeds to reduce off-target application and provide consistent coverage over every acre."

New trendsin features desired by farmers include: direct injection to eliminate big tank cleanout; swap-out fertilizer box and spray tank to increase use efficiency; greater crop clearance underneath and higher boom height for at-tassel fungicide application; front tendering connection to speed refill time; telematics connection to remotely track and diagnose issues; and tighter steering for reduced end-row crop damage. All manufacturers are also in the process of meeting Tier 4 engine requirements.

Here's a look at the latest models.

Milleradds a new model for 2012, the 4333 that uses a Cummins QSC 8.3L (305-333 hp) to power one-piece hydrostatic direct drive wheel motors for more claimed power to the ground and faster road speed. Features include 6 ft. ground clearance; highly visible front boom (60-120 ft. widths) that travels from 22 in. to 118 in; 1,200-1,600 gal. tank; quiet cab on air-ride suspension; tight turning radius and many more options. http://bit.ly/GUmFkY

John Deerelaunched its new 4940 model last June with a 340 hp engine on two axles (50-in. ground clearance) with a redesigned 1,200 gal. tank for better weight distribution. It features a 120-ft. boom with 11 independent sections for Swath Control Pro efficiencies; it is direct-injection ready to hold 235 gal. of product; it can be fitted with Load Command, a dry fertilizer box, along with many more options. http://bit.ly/GVQlj1

Case IHintroduced its 1,200-gal. Patriot 4430 sprayer last August, powered by an 8.7L Case IH FPT engine (325 hp) with SCR technology that meets Tier 4A emission standards with increase fuel efficiency and reduced maintenance requirements. Other features include improved cab space and visability; AIM Command for consistent application; optimum weight distribution; along with options such as 120-ft boom with AutoFold Plus, AFS Pro 700 display and much more. http://bit.ly/GJ5t3u

GVMlaunches a new E-series Prowler line that easily swaps out the sprayer tank for a dry spreader box. The line features a new variable coil spring suspension to minimize vibration, noise and bounce for improved comfort. An all-new, roomy air-ride cab features floor-to-ceiling glass for better visibility. Three models range from 275 to 370 hp; dry box capacity increased from 9.5 to 11 tons; and spray tank capacity is now 1,800 gal. http://bit.ly/GKeet0

Hagieoffers a new sturdy but lightweight aluminum 120-ft. front boom attachment for its STS self-propelled sprayers that uses a pendulum transom to separate the movement of the machine from the boom. The STS sprayers offer high clearance for tall corn, great horsepower-to-weight ratios and compaction ratings, fast side-fill, 6-ft. ground clearance, cab comfort with excellent visibility and much more. http://bit.ly/GSJj1M

AGCOcontinues to update its TerraGator floater and RoGator sprayer lines with higher horsepower, greater fuel efficiency, greater cab comfort and reduced noise levels, greater service accessibility and more. The CVT transmission in the TerraGator means smooth travel with no clutch/shift. The RoGator's new sloped hood and redesigned cab delivers improved visibility, and the RG1300 Tier 4 interim-compliant AGGO Power 8.4L diesel features fuel efficiency and more horsepower. http://bit.ly/GUg4uV

Equipment Technologies’ Apache spray line had major model changes in 2011 with a redesigned cab for more space, comfort and less noise; a redesigned hood for better visibility and easier service; an updated fill station; improved tank; a longer wheelbase and wider frame for a smoother ride; and new 6-speed ZF Powershift transmission. New this year is the option to have either Raven or Trimble precision ag products factory installed. http://bit.ly/H8zZn6

New Hollandentered the self-propelled sprayer market in 2011 with its Guardian front- or rear-boom line, working with Miller. Top features among customers include the hydraulic independent suspension; 50/50 weight distribution on front-boom sprayer for better traction and reduced soil compaction; the front boom for better visibility and ease of adjusting boom height from 22 to 118 in.; a tight 15-ft. turning radius; 6-ft. ground clearance on the front boom models for late-season spraying; 1,000 to 1,600 gal. tanks; stainless steel boom plumbing and much more. http://bit.ly/H2xhha

Versatile continues to improve the Redball line of sprayers it purchased in 2009. Its SX275 features an advanced MaxTorque 2-wheel mechanical drive system; 275-hp Cummins engine and Allison 5-speed automatic transmission with locking torque converter; and a ProAction-Flex boom (90 to 120 ft.) with good strength-to-weight construction to minimize movement for even and precise application. http://bit.ly/GQC5Nn

If you're debating on cost of ownership versus custom application, check out a helpful spreadsheet tool called OwnSprayer developed by Kansas State University Ag Economist Kevin Dhuyvetter and colleague Terry Kastens http://bit.ly/wSvabq.