MOST of the big self-propelled sprayers on UK farms have the boom at the back, but the Goff family have been using a French-style front-mounted boom on their Suffolk farms for more than 10 years.
The first front-boom sprayer on the DWP Goff companys 1215 ha (3000 acres) Park Farm, Cavenham, Bury St Edmunds was a self-propelled Evrard with a 24m version, but it was replaced four years ago when they switched to 36m tramlining and chose a French built Matrot M44D for their spraying, including all their liquid fertiliser application.
Since then the Matrot – the first of its kind to be sold in the UK – has notched up more than 2100 hours on 324ha (800 acres) of combinable crops plus 200ha (500 acres) of sugar beet.
For the last three years the sprayer operator at Park Farm has been Robert Moss, who took over the big front-boom Matrot after previously using a smaller sprayer with the usual rear-mounted boom. His first impression when he started using the Matrot was that access to the cab was awkward with the boom in the transport position.
"I bumped my head a few times at first," he says, "but thats something you soon learn to avoid. It isnt the easiest cab to climb into, but I think that also applies to some of the sprayers with rear-mounted booms. Another disadvantage with a front boom is that some of the spray comes back on to the cab and the screen as the sprayer is travelling forwards. Its not a big problem, but it can be a bit of a nuisance."
The biggest advantage of the French approach to boom positioning, according to Mr Moss, is easier visibility. This is particularly important with a big boom like the 36m version on the Matrot, as the operator can see the full width without having to look to the rear.
"Its a big advantage," he says. "I can see all the nozzles apart from the six in the middle of the boom, and that means I can very quickly see if one of them has a blockage, and it is also easier to check that the boom is at the right height. Keeping an eye on the ends of the boom is also much easier, and that means there is less risk of hitting something.
"Several of the fields I have to spray have an obstruction of some sort, and the worst field on the farm has about 10 telegraph poles going across it. It isnt a problem with a front-mounted boom, but I think it would be difficult if I was using a big sprayer with the boom at the back. A 36m boom takes a bit of handling, and it would be very easy to hit something with the end of it."
After three seasons with the Matrot, Mr Moss thinks a boom at the front of the sprayer is the logical arrangement.
"Having a good view of the boom is a big advantage, and I would not like to go back to a rear-mounted boom and have to keep looking over my shoulder all the time," he says. *