30 June 1995


The 1995 Ciba Agriculture/FW Farm Sprayer Operator of the Year is Richard Beachell.

Andy Collings looks at the qualities that gave him the edge over the other finalists and focuses on another FSOOTY winner – this time in Holland

WINNER of this years prestigious Farm Sprayer Operator of the Year competition is East Yorkshire farmer Richard Beachell.

Organised by Ciba Agriculture and sponsored by FARMERS WEEKLY, this years event was the toughest yet, which was exactly what the judges intended. They recognised that the high standards displayed by the eight finalists would require a demanding set of questions to seek out the winner.

Based at Field House Farm, Bainton, Driffield, Mr Beachell farms 250ha (620 acres) in partnership with his father and uncle.

"We try to operate a six-year rotation on this mainly easy working, silty soil," he explains. "Winter barley is followed by oilseed rape and then set-aside. Two crops of winter wheat are followed by vining peas grown on contract to Birds Eye and then it is back into winter barley."

Mr Beachell uses an 800-litre, 12m Cleanacres Airtec mounted sprayer attached to a Fendt 306LS, a combination which, he claims, combines reasonably low ground pressure with acceptable outputs.

"The Airtec system allows me to work at 100 litres/ha in most cases, so at 8ha a fill I can soon get over some ground," he explains.

The sprayer is also equipped with a Martin Lishman chemical transfer system to help avoid him coming into contact with chemical when the sprayer is being filled. Water is drawn from a 20,000gal tank via a metering system which is used to regulate just how much is loaded into the tank.

"With the sprayers control system allowing chemical to be applied very accurately, it is important I dont overfill the sprayer when a small field or the last part of a big field is being sprayed. Not only does this waste chemical, it presents me with the problem of spraying out excessive amounts of unwanted chemical and creating potential problems for the environment."

It was this attention to detail which impressed the judges. But it was in the farm office Mr Beachells trump card was played. A home-built computer program produced a spraying "instruction" sheet for each field. Water and chemical requirement, air and liquid pressures, and field size were included in the printout.

A key part of the competition was for the finalists to demonstrate a high degree of safe working practice. Correct selection of chemicals – an ability to choose the safest when there are alternatives – proper storage and stock control of chemicals, the wearing of appropriate protective clothing and sensible spraying procedures.

Though all the finalists were clearly well informed of what are considered to be "text book" procedures, it was those who were actually practising them which scored with the judges.

Mr Beachell would perhaps be the first to admit that his sprayer filling area, chemical store and washing facilities lacked the "gloss" of many other farms but they were functional and, above all, safe. As indeed was his spraying technique.

Which is why, in what was a closely fought competition between eight high-class spray men, the judges were able to award him the title of Farm Sprayer Operator of the Year. Mr Beachell wins a three-day trip to the Netherlands and a trophy which, no doubt, will take pride of place in the Beachell household.

&#8226 A parallel competition held in the Netherlands to find their countrys own Sprayer Operator of the Year has been won by Henk de Bruyne, who farms 50ha (125 acres) on the Flevo Polder, 40 miles east of Amsterdam.

A large farm by Dutch standards, Mr Bruyne grows potatoes, sugar beet, onions and winter wheat. An indication of the quality of the land is to be found in knowing winter wheat yields are usually between 11 and 12t/ha.

Even more surprising is to discover that a 2400-litre trailed sprayer equipped with 30m booms is employed. Made by Cebeco, the wide boom size was chosen because its width allows an exact number of runs in each crop area.

Mr Bruyne has fitted two discs behind each of the sprayers wheels to cut a groove and allow water to drain from the tramlines, a move designed to prevent deep ruts appearing in fields during the spraying season.