German spray tests impress
While the Agricultural Engineers Association is trying to get sprayer testing off the ground in the UK, voluntary and obligatory schemes have been running for 30 years in Germany. John Allan reports
THIS years UK Farm Sprayer Operator of the Year, Derek Oliver from Malshanger Estate, Hants, professed himself a cynic about sprayer testing before visiting the BBA department for plant protection products and application techniques in Braunschweig as part of his prize earlier this year.
By the time he saw the three levels of testing he was a convert.
Since 1988 firms wanting to sell equipment in Germany have had to submit a detailed declaration stating that their plant protection equipment meets federal standards. If there is any doubt about the documentation, the BBA can call the equipment in for testing.
It is not just field sprayers that are involved – orchard sprayers, granule applicators, knapsack sprayers and any other pesticide applicator is covered. In addition, booms, spray regulators, nozzles and other items that may be sold individually have to be registered.
Federal guidelines on the requirements for registration are set by the BBA applications techniques division headed by Heinz Ganselmeir.
Dr Ganzelmeir says obligatory registration before sale in Germany is not against EU free trade rules. The system was approved in 1986 under harmonisation regulations, and he points out a German farmer importing a sprayer directly to his own farm need not seek registration.
Alongside the compulsory scheme, the BBA operates a voluntary approval scheme. This applies to any piece of equipment a manufacturer wishes to enter. But only a small percentage of available plant protection equipment has undergone the extensive testing required.
The approval process starts with extensive testing in custom built facilities. That enables indoor boom patternator and stability testing of booms exceeding 30m (98.4ft) in width, with the undulations of a field fully replicated. Additional facilities test nozzles, pumps, regulators, pressure gauges and other components.
After indoor testing, field performance is monitored over one or two seasons at federal state level before a final approval is given.
Farmers field crop sprayers have been subjected to testing by the federal states for 30 years. Initially this was voluntary, but since July 1, 1993, it has been obligatory. With an estimated 180,000 field sprayers in Germany and a target for testing them every two years, the challenge is big. But 82,523 were tested in 1993 as farmers strove to get ahead of the scheme.
The state of Baden Wurten-burg has 200 approved test stations. Farmers take their cleaned out sprayer half full of water there for tests formulated by BBA and carried out under state authority. Each sprayer is subjected to patternator evaluation, often using mobile scanners rather than full boom systems. Other tests check the tank, pump, nozzles, hoses, flow regulators, agitation, controls, filtration and boom suspension.
If a sprayer has twin spray lines, both have to be tested. But if a grower uses more than one set of nozzles only one set need be tested. A report with boxes to tick features the pass, minor fail and fail points.
As with the UK MOT test, points of failure have to be remedied and the sprayer retested. On passing the test a sticker – colour coded by the year – is fitted to the side of the sprayer. If the sprayer is seen working without a current sticker, enforcers can prohibit the use of the sprayer after the current load is finished and impose a fine. The sprayer then has to pass a test before it can be used again.
Having heard the background to the German testing system, Farm Sprayer Operator of the Year winner, Derek Oliver, is a convert. "I do not understand why we dont have something like this in the UK." But he comments that it has to go alongside good operator training. A fully tested machine will only work as well as its operator, he notes. *
All sprayers undergo rigorous tests in Germany. Heinz Ganselmeir of the BBA (left) explains the patternation test to (l-r) Tom Robinson of Ciba and 1996 FSOOTY winner Dererk Oliver watched by Siegfried Rietz of BBA.
• Compulsory tests on farm sprayers.
• Shortcomings listed for correction, as for UK MOT.
• Untested sprayers can be banned from work and fine imposed.
• Compulsory registration of machine and component designs.
• Voluntary certification scheme provides more detailed testing and branding for use at point of sale.
This rig tests boom stability, one of the checks behind the BBA sticker.