Farmer Focus: Spring sprayer shopping

The longest drilling campaign the farm has ever seen is now finally over, and more importantly there are crops to be seen in vivid rows. Despite all the stale seedbeds we created in the past few months, there is a disappointing amount of blackgrass in places. But I do console myself as I drive around the county looking at the amount of blackgrass in winter wheat crops.

Some important lessons have been learned. One of which is delayed drilling actually means spring drilling on this land, unless the weather is exceptionally kind in the late autumn. Secondly, there is a difference between winter crop pigeons and spring crop pigeons. Pigeons, which prey on winter crops, are scared with a quick blast of the Lewis gun, whereas spring crop pigeons will quite happily munch away despite the background noise created by an assortment of bangers reminiscent of the opening scenes of Saving Private Ryan. Last lesson is the amount of free time you have over the winter and early spring before a wheel turns in anger.

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The problem with having a lot of spare time is that it gets you thinking, which invariably leads to dusting down the chequebook. I am now tentatively exploring the feasibility of replacing our sprayer.

Our current sprayer has seen great service and still does everything asked of it, and it appears was way ahead of its time when built, but it is showing a few signs of age. The question is what to replace it with?

The most vital criterion is that it needs to look the part, so that rules out all these monster machines you see flying around. It needs to be reliable, simple, relatively lightweight and British. This, though, does not narrow the list down much.

A new sprayer would certainly be more interesting than my latest investment in a roof of solar panels. Having spent all that money I eagerly look at the kW meter at the end of the day itching to count my revenue, only to find I have earned a paltry £20. Watching paint dry springs to mind.

Will Howe farms 384ha of medium to heavy land at Ewerby Thorpe Farm, near Sleaford, Lincolnshire, growing wheat, oilseed rape and winter beans.


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