Improved outputs in the mix
Improved outputs in the mix
by Arable Farming July 2020
A spray bowser is no longer just a tank on wheels, but can help increase the efficiency of the whole spraying operation, significantly impacting output. Jane Carley finds out more.
Streamlining sprayer filling is acknowledged as a major influence on output. Specifying bowsers which can mix, rinse cans and carry equipment safely has made a significant difference to two very different spraying outfits.
Taking on additional land led to a rethink on spraying logistics for Bedfordia Farms, which swapped both its sprayer and its bowser last season.
Traditionally, cropping is two wheats and oilseed rape on 2,100 hectares of land at Milton House Farm, Bedford. In addition, there are 1,100 breeding sows on two sites supplying a finishing unit with 32,000-33,000 pigs to bacon weight each year. Pig slurry, muck and digestate from two biogas units on the farm mean 45% of nitrogen applied comes from organic sources. The sprayer is used to apply both liquid fertiliser and chemicals.
Arable and operations manager Ian Rudge explains: Until recently we had one 40-metre Bateman 5,000-litre RB55 sprayer, with a 5,000-litre Bateman spray pack fitted to a high-speed trailer acting as a mixer tanker.
When we took on some more land we initially added an extra used Bateman RB55 as back-up, but by last year we were finding it inefficient to run both, plus they had 7,000 hours on them and needed replacement.
With other Horsch machines on the farm, Mr Rudge decided upon a single sprayer, a Horsch PT 280 supplied by AT Oliver.
This has an 8,000-litre tank and 36m booms, with double variable geometry allowing for precise boom height control. Coupled with the automatic nozzle selection the aim is to improve the accuracy of chemical application and increase spray opportunities, he explains.
The next task was to source a high-speed mixer bowser to support the sprayer for chemical and fertiliser applications.
Through Graham Keen at Boston Crop Sprayers, the team viewed a Vegcraft bowser using a tank made by Watson and Brookman with the plumbing and pumps sourced through Boston Crop Sprayers.
Our priorities were an 8,000-litre tank to match the Horsch PT280. For fast filling and transfer, we settled on a 2,000 litres per minute centrifugal pump.
For ease of attachment, a swing out arm was chosen allowing for the weight of the 76mm pipes to be supported while enabling 270 degrees of pivot. To minimise pollution risks, the tank had to be fitted with direct coupling taps.
Finally, the tanker needed to be user-friendly to reduce the time requirement for each task without cutting any corners.
The high capacity induction bowl, for example, sits at the correct height and is filled though a separate 500 litres/minute pump operating at four bar. Once the
mix is complete the remainder of the tank can be switched to fast fill. The same system works when incorporating bulk trace elements, Mr Rudge explains.
From previous experiences with mixer tanks, it was clear a superior chassis for the tank to ride on was needed.
HM Trailers designed the chassis specifically for the tank, allowing it to sit low and give a reduced centre of gravity.
The axles are air suspended ensuring a smooth ride, and allow for the tank to be levelled when filling. It sits on large flotation tyres allowing the tanker to be used in a greater range of situations, such as on tramlines. HM also designed in a significant area of storage for PPE, emergency equipment and extra pipes.
Streamlining the filling process was also key to allowing Bedfordia to drop to one sprayer.
Due to poor mains water pressure a greater amount of storage was required, so a 40,000-litre tank was installed. Previously, trace elements were purchased in IBCs but are now bulk delivered and stored in 10,000-litre tanks. Storage was also improved, allowing more space for preparing mixes and Watson and Brockman built a mobile can wash and drip basin, again saving the operator time. To improve efficiency of fertiliser application, storage has also been centralised.
He says the system has worked well in the first season, although it has not had a full test as only 500ha of winter wheat has been grown instead of the usual 1,400ha, so spray windows have been less tight. This years cropping area was made up of 460ha spring barley, 150ha spring wheat, 470ha oilseed rape and 170ha beans, spreading the timeliness risks.
I am confident that it has the capacity for our usual workload as it can fill the sprayer so quickly and tows rapidly between sites behind a Fastrac. It is also safer as there is no need for separate pumps and trailing pipework, Mr Rudge says.
The Horsch has also settled in nicely, its extra capacity extending spraying windows, and offering an improved spray pattern with 25cm nozzle spacing an option.
Assistant arable manager J.J. Ibbett says: Our priority was the best quality sprayer for our requirements, then we considered the width.
The benefits of 36m then outweighed those of 40m. There is a reduction in wheelings at 40m, but this is only evident in fields with more than nine tramlines, of which we have few.
Our combines have 12m headers and our digestate contractor runs a Vredo tanker at 36m. Along with the sprayer, these are our heaviest machines, so an element of CTF is beneficial. We are not a full CTF system, but we are looking to reduce traffic and axle loads.
The PT280 is fitted with John Deere Autosteer with data fed back to MyJohnDeere. Variable rate maps can also be created in Gatekeeper and seamlessly transferred to the sprayer which. Mr Ibbett points out, is particularly helpful for field-scale trials.
Keeping contractors going
J.M. Orr sprays 10,000 hectares of peas and beans for East Coast Viners plus cereals and grassland work in a 60-mile radius of Wardmill Farm, Forfar.
Operating four mounted Scorgie 28 and 30-metre sprayers, the latest of which has a 4,600-litre capacity from front and rear tanks, timely refills are essential and the company uses three bowsers built by Vegcraft.
Gavin Orr says: The 8,000ha of peas get two applications while the 2,000ha of beans get a pre-em and five applications of fungicide to tackle aphids, bruchid beetles and chocolate spot, and we also apply liquid fertiliser to cereals and grassland.
Two of the Vegcraft ProFill bowsers have 9,000-litre mild steel tanks to carry water, but with a requirement to carry liquid fertiliser and a shortage of capacity, Mr Orr purchased a 12,000-litre ProFill for this season with Watson and Brookman stainless steel tank.
We have to get into some tight areas so did not want the unit to be too long, the result is something like a boat, he says.
The ProFill mixing unit was built around the tank by Adam MacDonald of Vegcraft, whose designs originated from his family farms requirements.
It offers an enlarged cabinet area with filling and mixing table, clothing and chemical lockers, and a 500-litre clean water tank to allow flushing out between fertiliser and water.
A Pacer pump is used to fill the sprayer with water or fertiliser at 750 litres/minute while the ProFill pump offers chemical mixing and induction flow at about 250-275 litres/minute, with a venturi bypass to fill the bowser at 600 litres/minute.
Mr Orr says it completes an efficient set-up for himself, his father and three part-time staff, with one man dedicated to the bowser at busy times.
An extending drawbar allows the bowsers to be towed behind a tractor with its sprayer in place if required or retracts to be pulled by another tractor when they are flat out with the peas and beans. All bowsers are on high speed chassis.
The older bowsers have stood the test of time one is 10 years old plus we like the fact that Vegcraft is local to us and prepared to meet our needs, he says.
The sprayers also meet this brief with three 28m, 2,700-litre machines and one 30m, 4,600 litre unit built by Angus manufacturer Scorgie.
We did consider a self-propelled sprayer when we bought the 4,600-litre model, Mr Orr says.
But we use John Deere tractors with RTK GPS, good road speeds, manoeuvrability and comfortable cabs. We have auto-section shut off and have added individual nozzle shut off.
The sprayers last 15-20 years which you cannot expect from a self-propelled and if a tractor goes down we simply swap it.