Careful preparation the secret of spray success
Eight of the UKs top sprayer operators have fought
for top honours in the 2002 Farm Sprayer Operator of
the Year award, organised by Syngenta Crop Protection
and farmers weekly to promote best spraying practice.
Here we profile the champion, as announced at the
Sprays & Sprayers event earlier this week
JIM Powell, of Fulford Farm, Culworth, Oxon, is the 2002 Farm Sprayer Operator of the Year. Top quality spraying based around careful planning and precise operation on a farm that has the rivers Cherwell and Ouse flowing through it impressed the judges.
Mr Powell moved to M & * Farming last year and now applies agrochemicals and liquid fertilisers to 478ha (1180 acres) of winter wheat, oilseed rape and spring beans.
He uses a three-season-old second-hand Berthoud DPTronic tracking drawbar trailed sprayer behind an MF 3120 tractor. "The sprayer has all the necessary gadgets and safety features required at a reasonable price. And being trailed we can use the horsepower for other things when we are not spraying," says Mr Powell.
He finds reduced volume spraying speeds work rates, using conventional fan nozzles Lilac 110-025 and Blue 110-03 and a Lilac Bubble Jet-025 to match crop, product and environmental requirements when spraying at 12kph and 100 litres/ha.
Careful preparation is a cornerstone of Mr Powells spraying strategy. Before the spray day starts he adds a print-out from FWis internet weather service to his in-cab clipboard, which also carries the field recommendation sheet, labels of the products being used, water rate charts for his nozzles, LERAP field information, the IACS and work areas of the fields, previous cropping, variable seed rates and a five-year cropping plan for the farm.
A wind meter is used routinely and a farm map shows power lines, footpaths, conservation areas, waterways and yard drains.
An Emergency Contingency Plan has been developed after an NFU Risk Assessment of the farm. Personal protective equipment comes in different colours so operators can easily identify their own.
To speed sprayer turnaround, the chemical store is in a converted farm building close by the water supply. Mr Powell has streamlined the store since his arrival. It now has 110% bund capacity, a secure door, barred windows and cleanable shelves. Surplus full packs are returned to the supplier as soon as the season of use is over.
Fast filling limits downtime. "I find the Berthoud twin impeller pump very good. When I am loading chemical I run it at 170 litres/min, but once it is in it can be revved up to 400 litres/min."
That fill rate means plenty of water needs to be at hand. The bulk supply is in an insulated yard tank holding 14,000 litres supplied by the estate well. But much of the sprayer filling is done away from base to limit pollution risk, so two 6000-litre plastic tanks are ferried around in a twin-axle grain trailer.
A custom made lockable tail-gate allows chemical packs, an emergency spillage kit of sand, broom, shovel and bags and a sprayer cleaning knapsack to be carried securely. The tailgate is cut short to allow the suction hose to pass under it so chemicals can be kept secure at all times.
To speed safe chemical filling, a CTR closed chemical transfer rinse unit from the farms old sprayer was retro-fitted. "I would like Linkpak or Ecomatic but there are not enough products available," says Mr Powell.
Having emptied the pack through the CTR or into the induction hopper Mr Powell finds he can get a better pack rinse by using the induction hopper rather than the CTR rinser. Depending on the formulation, it needs at least 20 to 30 seconds accompanied by a good wiggle of the pack. Equally important is allowing time to drain the rinsings, he says.
Pollution risk is minimised by careful filling on different field areas away from vulnerable water and wildlife sites. During the occasional yard filling, rubber drain bungs are at hand in case of accidental frothing or overfill spill. As an added precaution the tank is filled to 3000 not 3200 litres. This allows for frothing and conveniently treats 30ha blocks.
In the field the benefits of team work show up. The bowser driver has packs ready for filling as soon as the sprayer pulls up and stacks rinsed packs ready to take back for later disposal by incineration.
"The two-man team is justified by the speedy turnaround when applying liquid fertilisers, as well as making the most of the limited crop spray windows we have."
The application volume is controlled by an on-board Vari-flow rate controller. That can be turned to manual when calibrating the sprayer. The judges were impressed by Mr Powells immediate recall of the formula relating flow and application rates.
After spraying, the tank cleaning is done in the field using two 300-litre batches of fresh water with Tank and Equipment Cleaner or All Clear Extra, rinsed through the tanks golf-ball rinse nozzles and sprayed out on a low dosed area of the crop.
When all spraying is done the outside of the sprayer is washed down using a knapsack and brush in the crop last treated. *
• Good planning, precise operation.
• 100 litre/ha application speeds workrates.
• Fast fill and turnaround.
• Agchems and liquid fertiliser on 478ha winter wheat, OSR and spr beans.
• Three-season Berthoud DPTronic 3200 litre tracking drawbar trailed sprayer.