31 March 2000

Terra-Gators take strain out of spreading

Built in Europe and aimed at

the European market,

Ag-Chems Terra-Gator 2104

is described by the company

as a compact machine for

the high output contractor.

Andy Moore spoke to one

waste management company

which employs four such

machines

THE prospect of spreading up to 350,000 tonnes of organic bioproducts over three counties has proved to be big business for Cleansing Service Group. Such magnitude has required the Hants-based company to buy not one, but six, Terra-Gators.

The machines – two 8103 and four 2104 Terra-Gators – were ordered through Ag-Chem UK last May for use on a contract with Southern Water to recycle sewage bioproducts on to agricultural land.

"The Environment Agency is putting increasing pressure on large waste producers to have waste recycled in a controlled, accurate and environmentally safe manner," says company agronomist Leon Mekitarian. "Spreading organic wastes from industry on arable land is a rapidly expanding market for the company and has been opened up by more grow- ers wishing to cut fertiliser costs."

The 2104 was chosen to make up the companys prime movers be-cause of its compact design, man- oeuvrability and maximum 750t/day spreading output when used with a Tebbe muck spreader box attachment.

Working with 12t and 14t capacities, the 2104s are used to spread biodegradable products of 25% solid matter, such as sewage sludge.

"The 2104s can spread semi-solids to a very accurate width due to the design of the twin spreading discs, which can be varied in speed by adjusting their respective hydraulic motors," says Mr Mekitarian. "Rear beater machines tend to spit out material very unevenly and provide a less accurate spreading width."

Ag-Chem claims a spreading accuracy of up to 98% over a 12m width through use of four weigh cells and in-cab "BrainBox" monitor. Working in conjunction with the weigh cells, the BrainBox monitor calculates the required forward speed to maintain the pre-set application rates in relation to amount of waste left in the box.

A semi-automatic system, the monitor indicates the desired application rate which is maintained by the operator regulating the forward speed of the Terra-Gator. Application rates can be adjusted from 5t to 150t/ha and are varied to the customers soil types, current/previous cropping and strength of organic material being applied.

For spreading very fine material where it is difficult to see the previous pass, Mr Mekitarian calls on a GPS monitoring system using a series of LED lights to guide the operator to the correct position.

"The guidance system is very useful for applying fine sewage waste or more solid material at low application rates on cereal stubbles," he says. "The main advantage is being able to spread right up to the previous pass with less incidence of under or overlapping. As a result, crop establishment and yields should be more consistent."

Spreading on cereal stubbles represents 70% of the Groups entire workload from July to mid October, while the remaining spring application period runs from late February to the end of April.

"Waste application on early cereal crops in the spring is where the machines 66×43-25 floatation tyres are useful for minimising soil compaction," says Mr Mekitarian. "The tyres can be inflated to 1 bar to suit varying ground conditions and allow work in wet soils where narrow tyres would cause soil damage and rutting."

In addition to low ground pressure, he believes the machines 5.86m turning radius contributes greatly to workrates by providing rapid turn around times at field headlands. This turning radius can be reduced to 3.91m with optional crab steer – an extra the company did not consider necessary due to most of the spreading carried out on stubble ground.

On the power front, the 2104s are driven by 250hp 6-cyl John Deere engines which Mr Mekitarian believes are more fuel efficient than equivalent size tractor/ trailed combinations due to less wheelslip and tyre drag.

Another John Deere component is the machines Terra-Shift transmission – offering 11 forward and three reverse speeds. A powershift transmission, speeds are selected by nudging a single joystick from side to side, while backwards and forwards alters direction changes.

"The transmission provides a very wide working speed range which is ideal for making precise changes to spreading application rates," he adds. "Typically, gears one to five are used as working speeds, while gear 11 allows a road transport speed up to 40kph."

The Cleansing Service Group aims to acquire another four Terra-Gators to cater for an additional recycling contract – bringing the total line up to 10 machines.