Agribuggy sprayer applies a light touch to sensitive soils

Getting more throughput out of sprayers means they are getting bigger and heavier. But a Somerset operator is sticking to his low ground-pressure principles, as Nick Fone heard

When you’re covering 25,000 acres a year in an area that stretches 25 miles from your base, you’re bound to encounter a wide range of soil types. So compaction and soil damage are a key consideration for spraying specialists Rob and Colin Brown.

“As far as I can see there are only two ways to limit your footprint – either spread the weight with wider tyres, though obviously there’s a limit to that. “Alternatively you keep machine weight down – and that’s what we try to do,” explains Colin Brown.

Agribuggies-large

Two Kellands Agribuggies cover over 25,000acres a year. Sticking to low ground pressure principles means the machines can keep moving virtually all year round without causing damage to the soil.

At the suggestion of his agronomist, he converted to the principles of low ground pressure (LGP) spraying back in 1993 and invested in a Wilmot LightSpray.

“Keeping weight off the land is very important in this part of the world. We look after a lot of grassland and maize ground where compaction is critical,” says Mr Brown.

“Our customers were pleased because they could see we were making the effort to limit soil damage.”

Once the LightSpray had proved itself, the Browns then moved on to Alanco Sprayrangers but, after the third, Colin decided it was time for a change.

“We needed a new machine and I really liked the look of the new generation of Agribuggies with their new cabs.”

So in September 2002 Kellands delivered a brand-spanking Agribuggy complete with 2000-litre tank and 24m booms.

“It was like a different world – you could sit in it all day long and you still felt as fresh as a daisy.

“The ZF auto gearbox and RDS rate controller make life so easy – it really is a case of just pointing the ‘buggy in the right direction.

“We had that machine six years and we’ve just changed it for a 2500-litre version.”

Joining its smaller, less powerful sister machine – a 2006 Kellands Agribuggy 2000 – improvements include a 132hp 2.8-litre engine, electro-pneumatic controls and a boom purge system.

But why stick with Agribuggies and not more conventional self-propelled sprayers?

Weight issues aside, Mr Brown believes that, by using a similar transmission and axles to those of Land Rovers, there are no issues with reliability when it comes to covering long distances on the road.

“I worry that hydrostatics would heat up too much with the amount of travelling we do. It’s proper running gear designed to handle speeds of over 50kph and the machine feels really stable on the road.”

Running 550mm-wide tyres at just 15psi means soil damage is limited – particularly important where soil types range from the fluffy peats of the Somerset Levels to the stony brash of the Mendips, with plenty of heavy clays in between.

By sticking with the LGP principle, the Browns are able to travel virtually year round.

“We can go when tractors can’t even get near the fields.”

“So by dropping off one of the spray-packs in spring and fitting our fertiliser spreader we can get out when the crops need it most, even when ground conditions wouldn’t normally stand it.”

While one may be applying granular fertiliser, the other can continue with the spring spraying workload. And once the crops start to reach for the sky one can swap over to narrower, taller wheels for the cereals while the other remains on wider rubber for compaction-sensitive maize.

“Two machines can keep two different customers happy at once but should the weather come in we can put the two on one job to get it finished,” explains Colin, who looks after the site of Grassland UK next door.

“I’ve reseeded a lot of the ground with our heavy-duty Kockerling harrow and we’ll soon be getting out there with the spreader.’

Applying fertiliser to grassland is an easier job with GPS guidance. Both Agribuggies are equipped with TeeJet Centerline lightbars, one of which swaps across to the Massey Ferguson 6265 for drilling work.

“Having GPS has made a real difference, particularly on fresh seedbeds and on grassland,” explains Colin.

“We now know we’re not overlapping or missing which makes it a lot more straightforward for us and means our customers can have complete confidence in what we’re doing.”

“At the end of the day it’s all about taking the hassle out of the job for the farmer.”

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