Also known as arable operator, crop sprayer, pesticide sprayer, plant protection operator, sprayer operative, or farm machinery operator.
This profile highlights the skills and knowledge associated with the role. However, jobs will have varying responsibilities depending on level of the role and the size or type of the business.
As a sprayer operator, you can work on different farms that produce crops.
Crop protection products help to protect crops from attack by insects, weeds, and diseases. If any of these attacks a crop, it can impact its growth and even destroy a crop entirely. This can result in a huge financial loss for the farm.
There are three main types of crop protection products:
- Herbicides, which kill or prevent the growth of unwanted weeds
- Insecticides, which kill mites and insects
- Fungicides, which either kill or prevent fungi which can cause diseases in the crop
Sprayer operators are legally required to be fully trained in using crop protection products for farms and nurseries.
Many farms will also use a strategy known as integrated pest management (IPM), which helps to detect, prevent, and control pests, weeds, and diseases. This helps minimise the use of chemicals where possible and reduces any risk to the environment. This role plays a part in protecting the environment by using knowledge and skills for targeted/optimised chemical use.
As a sprayer operator, you would play a vital role in farming and work responsibly and professionally to ensure products are applied safely. This helps minimise any risks to wildlife, the environment, and humans.
This role may sometimes involve applying liquid fertiliser and working with an agronomist who can advise you on crop and soil health.
Sprayer operators are usually part of the crop production team and are supervised by the farm manager or owner.
You may need to have your own transport to get to work.
As a sprayer operator, your responsibilities might include:
- Operating and maintaining spraying machinery and equipment
- Ensuring chemicals are applied safely and correctly to a variety of crops
- Making sure chemicals are stored safely and correctly
- Making sure application records are accurate and up to date
- Consulting with your supervisor and crop specialists (agronomist)
- Planning your workload
- Completing risk assessments
- Managing stock levels
- Adhering to relevant health and safety standards and best practice. This includes wearing personal protective equipment
- Maintaining good environmental practice standards
To work as a sprayer operator, you should:
- Have an excellent approach to work with a flexible attitude
- Enjoy being hands-on
- Be able to spot, assess, and report issues relating to crop health
- Be able to follow guidance, especially in relation to health and safety
- Be keen to work to a high standard
- Have good attention to detail
- Be highly organised
- Be able to communicate and listen well to others
By law, anyone who uses pesticides professionally must have received adequate training to carry out their role safely and skillfully.
In some situations, you'll need an additional qualification called a Certificate of Competence. Further information can be found on the Health & Safety Executive (HSE) website. The HSE also provides a list of awarding bodies for its certificates to help you find HSE-recognised training providers.
Anyone with an appropriate certificate for the Safe Use of Pesticides must join the National Register of Sprayer Operators (NRoSO).
As part of the register, sprayer operators keep their professional development and awareness of legal requirements and best practice up to date. Many UK farm assurance schemes and supermarket protocols require sprayer operators to be members of NRoSO.
You can also gain general crop-growing experience by volunteering on a farm or smallholding.
If you live in a city or urban area, you could volunteer on a local city farm, community garden, or allotment. You can find some of these in your area on the Social Farms and Gardens website.
A sprayer operator role would suit anyone who enjoys the challenges and responsibility of helping produce crops and is interested in crop science.
An eagerness to develop knowledge in crop and soil protection, good environmental practices, and health and safety is also vital.
As a sprayer operator, you’ll have the following competencies to apply crop protection products safely using farm machinery and following health and safety standards. You will:
- Follow farm protocols to deliver good environmental practice
- Meet the relevant health and safety standards, including wearing personal protective equipment
- Follow guidance to maximise productivity and protect plant health, humans, and animals
- Manage the soil carefully to help enhance sustainability
- Follow farm protocols to spot, assess, and report risks
- Help with planning and applying crop protection products
- Use the appropriate technology, machinery, and equipment
Salaries are typically £26,000 to £40,000, depending on location and level of experience.
Full-time, part-time and contract opportunities are available.
A sprayer operator role can be exciting and rewarding, especially if you’re interested in science or the environment.
There are opportunities to further your knowledge and skills, and gaining a higher level of experience can be financially rewarding.
Sprayer operators can work on farms of all sizes, from small family-run enterprises to large estates. You could begin your career working with cereal crops before getting experience working with vegetable, salad, or fruit producers.
Career opportunities exist in related areas, such as in crop protection product sales, as a fertiliser consultant or technical specialist.
The role can provide valuable experience for anyone interested in becoming an agronomist or progressing into farm management.
Courses which can help you on this career path include:
Level 1 Diploma Land-based Studies Agriculture
Level 2 Technical Certificate in Agriculture
Level 3 Advanced Technical Certificate in Agriculture
TIAH Essential Skills
Our online Essential Skills modules can help you develop your skills and knowledge in a range of areas and are a great addition to your CV.