26 April 1996

Front boom benefits clear

The first Matrot M44D self-propelled sprayer arrived in the UK last year. Edward Long visits the Suffolk farmer who bought it

ROBERT Gough became the first British farmer to own a French-built Matrot M44D self-propelled sprayer with a 36m (118ft) wide boom last August.

Although yet to complete a full spraying season, it is clear its high work rate potential could help cut costs and make spraying less weather-critical. "I need a large capacity machine to get over our 2300 cropped acres," explains Mr Gough, who runs the arable unit on DWG Goughs 1200ha (3000-acre) Lackford and Cavenham Estate near Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk.

"With liquid fertiliser application, I reckon to use the machine to spray about 10,000 acres a year."

The Matrot replaced a 10-year-old self-propelled Evrard equipped with a 24m (79ft) wide front-mounted boom. Six years with the machine was sufficient to demonstrate the benefits of working with the boom at the front.

"They are popular on the Cont-inent and I cannot understand why they have not been taken up by farmers here," says Mr Gough. "It is easier to see what is going on, they can be driven right into field corners and are easier to manoeuvre around poles and other obstructions."

But when considering a replacement the main concern was not the boom position but the need to reduce overall weight. The 24m Evrard was heavy and tended to cause tramline problems. The aim was to find a sufficiently lightweight machine with a capacity for high work rates.

While on a visit to the Matrot factory, he mentioned his need for a machine with 24m booms.

"They could not understand why I needed such a small machine – they claimed not to have sold a 24m sprayer for years and insisted I should consider a 36m boom," he says.

"I visited a French farmer/contractor who had five big sprayers, the smallest of which had a 36m boom and the biggest 45m (148ft). The big one looked frightening but when I saw it working I was amazed by its stability."

Convinced, he traded in the Evrard for a 36m Matrot sprayer. The new machines aluminium boom is fitted with 72 Quad Jet nozzle units, one nozzle of each unit is dedicated to liquid fertiliser. Last autumn it was used to apply sulphur to 200ha (500 acres) of sugar beet, and autumn herbicide to 48ha (120 acres) of winter cereals. So far this year it has applied liquid fertiliser and herbicides to almost 400ha (1000 acres) of wheat and barley, and low volume herbicide sprays to all the beet.

"Although having covered only 3000 acres, it has performed well and is proving reliable and easy to use with a huge appetite for work. It must be covering at least a third more ground in the same time as the old 24m machine."

Mr Gough says the Matrot is stable and well balanced with the 142hp Deutz rear-mounted engine offsetting the weight of the front-mounted boom.

Early on there was a small design fault – the pressure gauge line was in the cab, presenting a potential hazard to the driver. This has now been resited outside.

"Although the new machine has a smaller capacity tank than the Evrard, it can cover 45 acres on a tankful when spraying at our normal volume of 200 litres/ha. Our average field size is 32 acres, so it easily copes with most fields without having to refill." &#42

&#8226 Farm size: 1200ha (3000 acres) of which 920ha (2300 acres) cropped.

&#8226 Soil type: Light sandy loam verging on Breckland sand.

&#8226 Cropping: 240ha (600 acres) winter barley, 52ha (130 acres) spring barley, 140ha (350 acres) winter wheat, 200ha (500 acres) sugar beet, 24ha (60 acres) linseed, 28ha (70 acres) forage maize. Rest set-aside, land let for growing potatoes and carrots, and parkland and ley grass for a dairy herd and pig units.

&#8226 Stock: 160 Holstein/Friesian dairy cows, 100 pedigree Landrace/Large White sows and pig fattening enterprise.

&#8226 Labour: 13 full-time staff including four stockmen.



&#8226 Self-propelled, 4-wheel drive, 36m aluminium boom.

&#8226 Engine: Air-cooled Deutz 142hp rear-mounted.

&#8226 Transmission: Driving through a Sauer hydrostatic transmission.

&#8226 Steering: Both front and rear axle steering.

&#8226 Tank capacity: 3700 litres.

&#8226 Standard specification includes electronic spray control unit.

&#8226 Price: £77,500.

This French-built Matrot M44D sprayer is fitted with a 36m wide aluminium front-mounted boom. Front-mounting gives a view of all nozzles across the boom width.