17 May 2002

Big daddy eats up

Cambs acres

With a boom wide enough

to put the wings of some

modern airliners to shame,

Matrots Maestria self-

propelled machine is a

sprayer capable of

impressive work rates.

Andy Moore heard the

views of a Cambs grower

who operates the 36m

Maestria 18 model

CAMBS growers Ian Bradshaw and Robert Sears took no prisoners when they decided to rationalise and share machinery a year ago.

Out went three tractors with 24m trailed sprayers, and in came one of the largest self-propelled models available in the UK – the Maestria 18.

Described by Mr Bradshaw as the big daddy of self-propelled sprayers, his Maestria 18 is armed with a 36m front-mounted boom and 3900 litre tank.

Supplied by Matrot UK, the job description for the machine was to spray 1500ha (3700 acres) of cereals and root crops grown near March in Cambs.

Out of this area, 810ha (2000 acres) is farmed independently by Mr Bradshaw and his son Simon, with 689ha (1700 acres) farmed by Mr Sears.

Purchasing the Maestria marked the farms first joint investment in machinery which was bought through Seashaws – their own farming company.

"We needed a high output sprayer to cover thousands of acres of root crops and cereals from repeat applications throughout the season," explains Simon Bradshaw. "The trailed machines used to tie up too many tractors and men which were needed for other important operations."

With land divided into blocks, the trailed sprayers could clock up 20 miles/day through constantly returning to base to refill, he says.

But now time spent on tarmac is a thing of the past owing to the Maestria 18s 3900 litre tank which is replenished from a 5000 litre water bowser.

"The sprayer has an amazing capacity to eat up the acres. It can see off at least 220ha/day when spraying at 200 litres/ha volumes," enthuses Mr Bradshaw. "The machine has such a high output the bowser has to be ferried back and forth as quickly as a silage trailer working for a hungry forager."

High workrates, he says, also permits the sprayer to quickly upsticks and carry out fire brigade spraying if work is delayed by bad weather.

Another advantage is having the capacity to spray crops with the correct chemicals at critical deadlines to eliminate disease and weeds.

"If there is pending wet weather the sprayer can really be pushed to the limits and cover as much as 45 acres in 40 minutes," he claims. "The machine has the capacity to cover all our ground in just three days which is essential if we get behind."

In a typical spraying programme, the Maestria spends about three days on Mr Bradshaws farm applying agri chemicals and liquid N, followed by two days on Mr Sears unit.

The other major benefit of the sprayer is deemed to be its front-mounted 36m aluminium boom – a concept that has long been alien to UK growers.

"There is no other word for the front-mounted boom apart from brilliant. Its baffling why they havent been accepted in the UK," he says. "The boom enables the driver to see all the nozzles."

Having a boom up front, he insists, also improves spray coverage in field corners and edges.

Another plus point of the boom is an ability to anticipate changes in ground contours and adjust the boom height and angle accordingly.

Fitted with a Pendular system to keep the boom parallel to the ground, the carriage frame can be hydraulically raised to 2.4m.

Suspension for each half of the boom is provided by hydraulic accumulators and the whole rig can be folded to give a 2.96m transport width in under 10secs, says Mr Bradshaw.

When travelling on the road, forward visibility from the cab is unhindered due to the open design of the boom carriage A-frame.

Mr Bradshaw also reckons the boom allows a more even 50/50 weight distribution when compared with a rear mounted version.

The boom is positioned 2m in front of the cab which is offset by the weight of the engine at the rear and 3900 litre tank at amidships.

But what about driving through spray?

"There is little risk of spray being displaced by the machine because the carriage frame can be lowered to 60cm above the ground," he says. "With rear boom sprayers, there is a risk of spray being blown back into the machine by tail winds. Nozzles can be fitted behind the front wheels of the Maestria to improve spray coverage."

To eliminate the risk of drift entering the cab, the sprayer is equipped with a three-stage filtration system with paper, carbon and media filters.

"The cab is very comfortable and modern compared with a previous Matrot sprayer we had on demonstration three years ago," he concludes. &#42

Robert Sears (left) and Simon Bradshaw, joint owners of the Maestria 18 sprayer. "We needed a high-output sprayer to cover thousands of acres," says Mr Bradshaw.

Room with a view…the cab offers a three-stage filtration system and optional air con. The front-mounted boom allows spraying into corners.

&#8226 Booms: 24-48m aluminium.

&#8226 Tank: 3000 litres or 3900 litres.

&#8226 Engine: 191hp Deutz turbo.

&#8226 Trans: four-speed Hydro-mechanical.

&#8226 Pump: 700 litres/min.

&#8226 Price: £78,000.