Unplugging the Self-Propelled Sprayer Market

Self-propelled sprayers have emerged as a significant asset for both farmers and commercial applicators in recent years as these machines have become a more integral part of farmers' fleets. Higher net farm income catalyzed by numerous studies highlighting the yield benefits of late-season fungicide applications on crops like corn are driving the demand for these high-value machines. Our farm has been a skeptical holdout for years, relying on a larger capacity pull-behind, and hiring out late season fungicide application, but even our conservative approach was tempted enough this past year to price a few out. This increasing rate of adoption of this pricy category across the US magnifies dealerships' blend of risk of carrying cost and reward of market share and absorption.
The appeal of these machines is evident, as the return on investment (ROI) benefits have been an easy calculation for larger farmers. 
Various research studies conducted by institutions such as Iowa State University, the University of Nebraska, and the University of Illinois have delved into the ROI for farmers concerning fungicide spraying at different stages of corn growth, with most signs pointing towards a significant positive yield boost. Late-season application, post-tasseling stage, often necessitates access to high-clearance self-propelled sprayers, reflecting just one facet of their utility in agriculture, with their significant role in cotton production also being a major use-case. 
According to our Tractor Zoom data, the supply of self-propelled sprayers on dealership lots has witnessed a notable uptick, particularly since the fall of 2022, and this momentum continued through the summer of 2023. The current landscape of the self-propelled sprayer market indicates a 17% increase in supply on dealership lots compared to the previous year. This surge follows a substantial rise from the lows experienced in 2021, aligning with similar growth trajectories observed in combines and row crop tractors.
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However, this increase in supply hasn't had a detrimental impact to values across all age segments of sprayers. Notably, low-hour sprayers, particularly those below 1500 hours, have maintained strong auction values, with a few recent sales topping what we saw in 2023. On the other hand, as sprayers age beyond 2000 hours, it appears that farmers tend to become more price-sensitive, leading to weaker average prices than what we’ve seen the last few years. 
It needs to be noted that the lower-houred sprayer segment at auction, which is seeing an increase in values, is not as much an appreciation on machines, but rather a shift in the market being infiltrated by newer, late-model sprayers. This shift is marked by the decreasing average age of sprayers at auction, dropping from 4.5 years old this time last year to 3.2 years old now in Q1 of 2024. These trends underscore the evolving dynamics within the self-propelled sprayer market, and warrant a closer look at specific makes and models to understand the nuanced variations in changing values.
Taking John Deere's R4045 as an example, analyzing Tractor Zoom Pro data reveals tight tolerance in sales, with trends going toe-to-toe with those observed last year in 2023. However, as usage hours surpass the 2000, 3000, and definitely 4000-hour mark, values are more likely to dip below last year’s trendline, indicating that softer market that I mentioned earlier. 
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For those of you interested in soaking up deeper insights into specific sprayer models such as John Deere's 410R, Case IH's Patriot 4044, or Apache's AS1020, I’ll be reviewing recent sales of these models, as well as various other category trends, in next month’s equipment update webinar. 
While the year-over-year differences between low and high-hour sprayers aren't as drastic as other equipment categories (cough… combines and row crop tractors…) the self-propelled sprayer market is equally as important to track and consider re-pricing right now given the fact that we are entering the March sales season, and the risk that this costly and seasonal machine presents.

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