12 December 1998

SPRAYER TEST APPLAUDED

David Millar sums up sprayers unveiled at Smithfield.

JUST one season should be enough for growers with more than 20ha (50 acres) of winter wheat or 7ha (17 acres) of potatoes to get their money back on a sprayer MOT test.

Richard Schofield, of the Agricultural Engineers Association, whose members have carried out 350 tests since mid-1997, said that a 5% inaccuracy was commonly being found. Correcting that was invariably enough to quickly get back the average £145 test cost.

"In most cases, the cost of putting the sprayer right is not very great," said Mr Schofield. "And it will enhance the second-hand value of the machinery in the long term."

Both new and used sprayer tests are valid for two years after which reminders are issued. The 30 sprayer test centres – more are being sought – consistently fail 25% of the machines brought in. Worn jets are responsible for 33% of faults, with boom defects accounting for 30%, while worn hoses and water or hydraulic leaks are also common.

Earls Court saw the arrival of new spray-related machinery and production versions of prototypes already previewed at Sprays and Sprayers. Batemans RB-Trac all-wheel-drive, all-wheel-steer system tractor has undergone proving trials since June and is being built to customer specification from £60,000 with three-point linkage. The flat deck has a carrying capacity of 8-10t, making it suitable for a range of uses from spraying, through drilling and fertilising, with the category III linkage system capable of turning a six-furrow reversible plough.

Chavtrac launched a full-house version of its Chavtrac 405/3000 sprayer which managing director Richard Price terms the "Precision Farming Tractor". Using the 405 tractor unit, with all-wheel drive and steer, a turbocharged Perkins 115hp engine and Powershift gearbox, the show unit had been specified to make significant reductions in arable crop inputs possible.

A Raven high pressure chemical injection system, with the tanks and pumps mounted on the boom at the rear where they can be lowered to ground level for access, is fitted together with a Raven AMS control system for working to a pre-determined spray plan. Patchwork Pro software is used to gather and store the data needed to produce variable rate spray prescriptions.

The 405/3000 sprayer weighs in at £56,400, plus £12,500 for the injection system, £5,300 for an Omnistar GPS receiver, and £2,000 for the Patchwork software. Mr Price justifies the cost by pointing out that Chavtrac customers might be spending more than £100,000 annually on chemicals – a bill that could be reduced by 25%.

A European version of the Spra Coupe, the 4440, is available for £42,500 from Pontypool-based Chavtrac. Now built by AGCO, the new machine has a bigger 1,500-litre tank extending its range between fills, compared with the earlier 3440 which remains available. Other changes include new disc brakes, a Chavtrac boom suspension system, joystick sprayer controls and a GPS-ready Raven sprayer controller. The 4440 has a 110hp Perkins engine and Powershift transmission with standard cruise control.

Trailed sprayer launches included new models from Hardi and from Knight Farm Machinery. The Evrard Meteor being marketed by Hardi was a production version of the prototype seen at Sprays and Sprayers. It had a spring suspension axle for which a fully automatic tracking axle system is also available. Tank capacity varies from 2,500-4,100 litres, with boom widths from 24-36m with Quadjet four-nozzle spray heads. In standard format, the 24m, 2,500-litre Meteor costs £33,710, while the 4,100-litre, 36m version will set you back £44,000. Automatic steering costs another £2,950.

A new chassis design on the Knight 3000EU and 3600EU trailed sprayers allows bigger spray tanks to be fitted, and booms up to 30m in either standard or heavy duty contractor versions. A basic 3,000-litre version was priced from £27,863 with 24m booms, with £600 extra being demanded for a 3,600-litre tank.

Hardi announced new LPY and LPZ booms for its sprayer range. Main feature is a new pendulum single coil suspension system with shock absorbers. On LPY models, boom lift and folding is controlled through a single and double-acting spool valve activated from the tractors double-acting control lever. LPZ models are controlled by Hardis own double-activated hydraulic system through a double-acting spool valve, which also provides individual boom wing tilt and boom slanting.

New hydraulically-folding booms were also available for the Allman Farmer range on the 600-, 800- and 1,000-litre models, priced from £5,585. Allman also introduced its Pneujet nozzles which put air into larger droplets than are normally produced by conventional flat fan nozzles.