23 June 1995

SEARCHING FOR THE SAFEST OPERATOR

Increasing public interest in farming and the countryside means that the need for safe and accurate spraying has never been greater. The annual Farm Sprayer Operator of the Year Competition aims to encourage accuracy, good practice and awareness of safety. Machinery editor

Andy Collings reviews the eight finalists for this years competition and finds out where they operate, what

machinery they use and what their spraying philosophy is. The winner will be published in next weeks FARMERS WEEKLY

EMPLOYED by Sherbrooke Farms at Oxton, Southwell, Notts, Ian Smith uses a self-propelled Bateman Hi-Lo fitted with a Kyndestoft air spray system to spray the farms 800ha (2000-acre) arable area.

He is a strong advocate of the air sleeve spraying system, believing it to improve the overall efficiency of spraying operations.

Winter wheat, winter barley, rape and sugar beet count as the main crops, ensuring the sprayer is kept on the move for a large part of the year. Successful use of a sleeve boom calls for an extra degree of operator care, says Mr Smith. Too much air in thin or young crops can result in chemical being blasted out of the crop, increasing drift problems. Even so, Mr Smith believes he is coming to terms with the operation of the sprayer, commenting that there is little substitute for experience at the end of the day.

PAUL Addison is one of the few UK sprayer operators to be using a chemical injection system on his sprayer.

His trailed Chafer T2000 sprayer is equipped with an Agrifutura four-unit injection kit designed to meter concentrate directly into spray lines – avoiding the need to mix concentrate into the main tank. Employed by Thetford-based Weasenham Farms, which has 1630ha (4000 acres) under the plough, Mr Addison is responsible for about half of a spraying operation totalling 9500ha (24,000 acres)/yr.

Despite the complexity of control units necessary to operate the Agrifutura system, Mr Addison is convinced it offers several advantages over conventional systems. Not least is the ability to change chemicals rapidly without having to spend time washing out tanks. Over the course of a seasons spraying Mr Addison calculates that this factor alone is worth several days extra spraying time.

IAN Cook uses a Frazier Agribuggy 3D to spray crops on the 485ha (1200 acres) of arable land owned by the Glentworth Bulb Co at Owmby-by-Spital, Lincoln.

With crops as diverse as wheat, oilseed rape, peas, potatoes and sugar beet, there is plenty of call on the services of the sprayer – Mr Cook reckons on spraying up to 2000ha (5000 acres) each year. "It is the Fraziers light weight which I feel is its greatest attribute," he says. "Equipped with a 1000-litre Spraycare unit and 20m (66ft) boom, the machine is able to cover a reasonable amount of land in a day without making too much of a mess, even in the wettest of times." Filling operations are usually carried out at the main farm – it being reasonably central – but when spraying potatoes for blight a bowser is brought in to ensure that the whole acreage can be covered in a days spraying.

ALISTAIR REID, based at East Learmouth, Cornhill-on-Tweed, Northumberland, is this years most northerly finalist.

He is head tractor driver on 460ha (1150 acres) and uses a trailed 2000 litre (440gal) Gem sprayer equipped with a 21m (69ft) boom. With more than his share of steep hills to contend with, Mr Reid places a strong emphasis on boom stability and the ability to hydraulically tilt booms so correct spraying height is maintained.

A recent diversification into vegetables – cauliflowers, swedes, asparagus, carrots and leeks – means he has to pay particular attention to correct washing out procedures when changing chemicals. In terms of chemical storage, Mr Reid would be the first to admit that there are improvements to be made – not least to place the store closer to the filling area. But the matter is in hand with plans afoot to construct a new purpose – built store.

JOHN Spicer has been spray operator at Charborough Park, Wareham, Dorset, for the past four years.

In charge of a self-propelled Spraycare Sprint sprayer equipped with a 2000-litre tank and 20m (66ft) booms, Mr Spicer applies pesticide to 600ha (1500 acres) of arable crops. These include oilseed rape, wheat, peas, linseed and beans and require a wide range of different chemicals to be stored safely and securely. On this score, the farms recently constructed chemical store and filling area drew favourable comment from the judges. Any spillages and tank rinsings are contained in an enclosed tank.

To avoid excessive mechanical damage to crops when spraying, Mr Spicer has added crop deflectors and an under-belly sheet to his machine – a development which he claims enables late chemical applications to be made with only minimal disturbance.

RICHARD BEACHELL is a partner on his familys 250ha (620-acre) farm at Bainton, Driffield, East Yorks, where the principal crops are winter barley, winter wheat, oilseed rape and vining peas.

An 800-litre Cleanacres Airtec sprayer mounted on a Fendt 306LS tractor is used by Mr Beachell to not only spray his own fields but also a further 40ha (100 acres) on a neighbours farm. A low level induction hopper equipped with a chemical transfer system helps to ensure filling is a safe operation. He pays tribute to the sprayers Airtec system, which he believes allows him to spray at lower rates – enabling greater areas to be covered with each tankful.

Mr Beachells field recording system involves the use of a computer for which he has written his own programme. Clearly something of a "computer buff", Mr Beachell is able to produce detailed records of spray operations in past years at the touch of a button.

JIM POWELL is no stranger to success in the demanding world of farmers weekly-sponsored competitions. Awarded Tractor Driver of the Year in 1994, he hopes to double his score by becoming Farm Sprayer Operator of the Year in 1995.

An ex-Shuttleworth student, 24-year-old Mr Powell is head tractor driver for TT Matthews Farms, Fouchers Farm, Good Easter, Chelmsford, Essex, and is responsible for spraying the farms 240ha (600 acres) of arable crops. A tractor mounted 1000-litre (220gal) sprayer equipped with 16m (52ft) booms and a 600-litre (130gal) front tank forms the workhorse with fast turn-rounds between loads ensured through the use of large diameter filling pipes and an adequate reservoir of water. A chemical store with products stacked in an orderly fashion also helps to speed up filling operations.

JOHN POTTER hopes it will be third time lucky for this years competition. Based at Rotherfield Park Estate, East Tisted, Hants, this is the third year in a row he has managed finalist status.

Mr Potter uses a Wilmot Lightspray to apply both chemicals and liquid fertiliser to the farms 690ha (1700 acres) of combinable crops. With an annual work load approaching 4500ha (11,000 acres), the judges were impressed with the condition of the seven-year-old machine which has now clocked up over 4000 hours. Mr Potter clearly spends some time ensuring his machine is maintained in tip-top order. And it is attention to detail which leads him to place spray warning signs on footpaths and make efforts to inform local inhabitants of the times he is spraying.