20 March 1998

Trusty Stealth is no slouch

Smithfield 1996 and Frazier

announces the launch of its

Stealth LGP sprayer.

Yorkshire farmer/contractor

David Atkinson was one of

the first to buy the machine

– Geoff Ashcroft spoke to

him about its progress

COMPARED with earlier AgriBuggy models, the cab is a more comfortable place to be, says Yorkshire farmer/contractor David Atkinson about his Frazier Stealth self-propelled sprayer.

And he speaks with some authority. Over the years, Mr Atkinson has bought the IID, 3D and 4D AgriBuggy machines for the low ground pressure spraying operation he runs from Stillingfleet House, Stillingfleet, York.

With a workload of 1416ha (3500 acres) shared between the family farm and several contract farming agreements, plus a further 3440ha (8500 acres) of general spraying work, the workload calls for a second Frazier machine – a 4D – to support the Stealth.

"When not spraying, both Frazier machines are also used for fertiliser spreading," he says. "I do not believe in putting tractors or other heavy equipment down tramlines, once crops are growing."

That approach has seen the low ground pressure spraying concept blossom at Stillingfleet, although Mr Atkinson concedes one high capacity self-propelled sprayer could possibly do the work of his two small machines.

"Both the soil type and weather patterns have dictated what kit suits our workload. There were times last year when we simply had to apply blight sprays, no matter what. Field conditions were so bad, I am sure we would have been breaking half-shafts in the 4D.

"And we skipped the 5D in favour of the Stealth for its wider cab and larger sprayer. We now have the option of 12/18/24m boom widths, instead of 12/18m."

Over the past 12 months, the Stealth has settled into a busy workload and notched up 1165 hours. But it has not all been plain sailing, as Mr Atkinson explains.

"When we first put the row crop wheels on, they fouled the front mudguards when turning. We have also had a clutch cable snap and the cab heater is not too good at keeping you warm, though having the air-conditioning unit designed into the cab is excellent."

He adds that Frazier has addressed these problems on current machines, and is in the process of having his Stealth brought up to the improved specification.

But what is a head-scratcher is the way the battery gets weaker and weaker only after about seven days of barn incarceration.

"I think there is so much electrical equipment on the sprayer, the car-type battery being used cannot handle the amount of power being dragged out of it. The alternators fine and there is no electrical drain when everything is switched off, so I think it is just too small a battery.

"When the engine is running and the alternator does its job, it must be charging so hard it is probably weakening the battery," he says.

"I would like to put a tractor-sized battery on the sprayer to see if it will cure the problem, but there is just no room for it. As with any niggling problem, we are learning to live with it until it is solved."

But asked what will replace the ageing 4D when its time is up, Mr Atkinson is in no doubt: "A second Stealth will suit us just fine." &#42

Stealth exposed – one of a long line of Frazier AgriBuggy sprayers employed at Stillingfleet.

David Atkinson does not believe in putting heavy tractors down tramlines once crops are growing.