South Derbyshire agricultural contractor Lee Gilbert reckons he is one of the first in the UK to be able to provide farmer customers with a map that shows exactly how much slurry has been applied on every part of a field. That could be increasingly important as NVZ rules tighten and farmers have to provide more paperwork to show what they’ve applied and where.
Mr Gilbert, whose business is based at Swarkestone, south of Derby, has specialised increasingly on slurry application in recent years. He now offers customers an umbilical system with a choice of three applicators – a 6m Joskin trailing shoe, a 3m Veenhuis disc injector and a 24m Tramspread splash-plate.
Three applications a year are now typical, he says, one between early February and mid March, a second just after first-cut silage and a third in July/August. Demand for his services is rising steadily, with 2200-2500hours of umbilical spreading carried out in the last year alone for a total of 30 customers.
The Krohne slurry flow meter sends pulses to a controller in the tractor cab.
Mr Gilbert can call on one of three pumps to send the slurry to the tractor and applicator, two of them tractor driven and two with dedicated engines. Doda and Bauer pumps are used according to the consistency of the slurry and he’s one of the few contractors happy to pump slurry with sand in it.
It’s the engine-driven pumps that he prefers, though, as they don’t tie up a tractor for long periods. And these skid-mounted units also boast a new wireless system from Tanlake that allows the applicator tractor driver to start the pump, switch it off, speed or slow the engine revs and divert the slurry back to the pit, all from up to 2km away.
“It works very well,” says Mr Gilbert. “The only problem was that when we first started using it someone was flying a radio-controlled plane nearby that mucked up the signal.”
But it’s the modest-looking Krohne flow-meter on the back of the Joskin trailing-shoe applicator (and the GPS receiver on top of the cab) that signifies that we’re getting to the really high-tech end of the business.
Pulses from the flow-meter flow to an LH Agro controller and then into the Deere assisted-steer system in the MF tractor cab. That converts the signals so that they are understood by the mapping software, and the result is then shown on the Greenstar screen.
In fact it was Steve Bate and Dave Small at local Deere dealer Farol who worked out how to match up the flow-meter to the software. The result is a coloured map that shows the different application rates used across the field. These can be kept by the farmer customer, transferred back to the farm office and accessed any time they’re needed.
Where other application set-ups just give a total field acreage and a bare figure for how much slurry has applied, this system will show, for example, areas where application rates have been cut back because there’s a wet hole in the centre of the field.
Wireless control allows the tractor driver to start up, shut down and alter the revs of the diesel engine-powered slurry pump from up to 2km away.
Having GPS and assisted steer has also helped cut overlaps (which were typically 10% before the changeover), thereby speeding up the job and virtually eliminating overdosing.
“It means that we now have the real evidence and farmers can use this to show due diligence,” he says. “The system means we even know exactly how long the pump has been running for.”
There’s one final benefit, too – the system can even switch to Polish, which is useful for full-time Polish employee Radoslaw Sidoruk.
Want to bone up on the fast-moving world of GPS equipment generally? Make sure you get along to the Precision Farming Event at the East Of England Showground, Peterborough on Wednesday 10 March. All the main GPS companies will be attending and there’s a demo area and seminar programme too, Cost is £7.50 in advance and £10 on the door. For more info go to www.farm-smart.co.uk/precision or ring 0845 4900 142. There’s also a chance to win a year’s free use of a Yara N-Sensor Classic.