Bradford Farming is developing a new spray store at the heart of Bradford Estates, Shropshire, designed to service 2,000 hectares of arable land currently transitioning into a more sustainable system, with livestock, reduced cultivations and cover crops recently introduced.
The farmland is situated in the Shropshire Middle Severn surface water catchment and with salads, potatoes and cereals in its nine-year rotation, loss to water of crop protection products, nitrates and phosphates is of concern.
A new partnership, Bradford Farming was established after a strategic review in 2019 and has brought the management of the farming business back in-house after a period in contract farming agreements.
Operations are centred at Woodlands Farm near West on-Under-Lizard and carried out by four full-time staff, supported by harvest students.
Farms director Oliver Scott has pioneered a new machinery policy, with most of the fleet leased on short-term agreements for straightforward updating as technology advances.
However, with liquid fertiliser as well as chemicals generating a year round spraying workload, there is one notable exception.
He says: “We have bought a 6,000-litre, 36-metre boom Horsch Leeb trailed sprayer and JCB Fastrac 4220, plus an 18,000-litre Philip Watkins bowser.
“The sprayer will be stored, filled and washed down in a purpose-designed building, which will also house the chemicals.”
Funding from Severn Trent’s Steps scheme has been used to cover some of the costs of the spray store development and Mr Scott is looking at further projects to reduce the impact of the estate’s agricultural activities on the environment.
The 18×10 metre steel structure will have extensive racking for chemical packs and IBCs, with the convenient location speeding up filling and reducing risks of spills when moving products from a separate store.
A bunded concrete floor slopes to a drain at the rear, which is connected to a biofilter.
Filtered water is then pumped to a holding tank for storage until it can be irrigated onto farmland.
A covered skip is being fabricated to accommodate empty spray packs for recycling, keeping rainwater out while freeing up space in the store.
“We have earmarked land at the rear of the store for a 36m wide washdown area for use with the spray boom open, so we can carry out all sprayer washing in one place and safely collect the liquid,” he says.
Spray water is currently piped from the mains, but Mr Scott is exploring the possibility of reusing filtered washings and harvesting rainwater from the roof areas of new buildings at Woodlands Farm, which include a large machinery store.
“With a growing population in the local area, demand for mains water will increase, and it makes sense for us to recycle water where possible.
“I would be keen to tap into expertise from Severn Trent to develop the washdown area to ‘best practice’ standards and we would then happily make it available for other farmers to visit.
At the moment there is no defined standard to follow, so we are reliant on input from our construction contractors.
For example, the store building would have been better with insulation, to avoid having to drain down the sprayer ahead of freezing conditions.”
Store management is co-ordinated by arable manager Doug McCow an using web-based Muddy Boots software to give access to the team as a whole and linked to invoicing in the farm office.
All filling and mixing is carried out at the store, with the filled sprayer travelling out to the field where it is supported by the Watkins bowser.
The 18,000-litre unit, carried on a triaxle with flotation tyres, has been specified with a hydraulic jack for levelling to ensure complete emptying and has a molasses tank fitted to the front of the frame.
Large lockers accommodate chemical packs and equipment.
“In combination with the 6,000-litre sprayer, this gives plenty of capacity for a day’s work,” says Mr Scott.
“We may also add a 150-litre induction hopper so the bowser operator can pre-mix to save time in busy periods.”