19 June 1998

AEA-endorsed test scheme wins good response from trade

THE Agricultural Engineers Association (AEA) reports that the biennial sprayer testing scheme it endorses has has been met favourably by sprayer manufacturers and their dealers in the 12 months it has been running.

"We have been encouraged by the response from sprayer suppliers," says Richard Schofield, AEAs service manager, who is responsible for setting up the test centres.

"More than 20 assessor sites have been set up and there are another six or so in the pipeline. The sites have so far carried out 200 tests."

Bearing in mind the high cost of sprays, the acute public awareness of the use those products and the requirements of Assured Produce Schemes, it clearly makes sense to have the sprayer in good working order.

Farmers with older sprayers, however, have not been as quick to participate, although the scheme is still in its relative infancy.

David Main, sales and technical manager for Knight Farm Machinery, which started offering its test service last year, reports that the company has tested 40 sprayers this season, 10 more than it expected to.

"The majority have been on machines from farms where maintenance standards are pretty high," says Mr Main. "But there are signs that the message is getting through because older, less well maintained sprayers are starting to come in.

"Cost seems to be the stumbling block. But at a probable maximum of £200-£250, the price of the test and a replacement set of nozzles, if needed, is a small percentage of the total chemical cost a sprayer could be expected to apply."

One of the latest companies to join the scheme is the G Reekie Group, of Stirling, Scotland, which handles Knight, Allman and Hardi franchises. The group now has approved sprayer test centres at its Cupar, Perth, Stirling and Lothian branches.

"We have been offering the service for only a month, but response has been quite good," says Brian Sangster, group service manager. "We have put five sprayers through the test and have another six firm bookings."

As in Knights experience, sprayers coming into G Reekie have been the newer well looked after sprayers. But Mr Sangster is confident that as farmers and contractors become more aware of the scheme, their test centres will see more of the older and worn five to 10-year-old machines, which will benefit most from being checked out. &#42

Sprayer testing under the AEA scheme has found favour among progressive growers. But many machines on other farms have yet to be checked.