Are sprayer is­sues hit­ting your pocket?

Irish Independent - Farming - - FEATURE - DEREK CASEY

IT’S AMAZ­ING how year af­ter year farm­ers pay big money for fer­tiliser and yet don’t bother set­ting up their spreader prop­erly.

Those who over­look cal­i­brat­ing their spreader face fi­nan­cial losses as costly fer­tiliser is ei­ther over-ap­plied, un­der-ap­plied (lead­ing to yield drops) or spread in un­even pat­terns (lead­ing to strip­ing).

Some farm­ers may have spec­i­fied a cal­i­bra­tion and tray kit with their spreader when they were buy­ing the ma­chine.

If you didn’t, con­sider the op­tion of ask­ing the machin­ery agent who sold you the spreader to cal­i­brate it for you.

This shouldn’t cost any more than €250 for en­try level spread­ers. It’s a good idea to have the spread pat­tern checked at least once ev­ery two sea­sons.

A tray test is sim­ple. Af­ter lay­ing the trays out across the ma­chine’s spread­ing width, a run through the trays is made with the trac­tor and spreader as it would be op­er­ated in the field.

Level ground and wind free con­di­tions are es­sen­tial. Fer­tiliser col­lected in the trays is then trans­ferred into cor­re­spond­ing test tubes and the con­tents are recorded. From this data some­thing called the Co­ef­fi­cient of Vari­a­tion (CV) is cal­cu­lated by mea­sur­ing the vari­a­tion in each tray from the av­er­age.

The lower the CV the bet­ter. A CV of 10-15pc is seen as be­ing ac­cept­able and most in­dus­try ex­perts agree will pre­vent crop strip­ing. How­ever, sur­veys in­di­cate that a lot of spread­ers in use to­day have CVs of 30pc or more lead­ing to fi­nan­cial loss and in­ef­fi­cient ap­pli­ca­tion.

Re­search has shown that im­prov­ing the CV from 30pc down to 10pc will bring a yield ben­e­fit of around 0.25t/ha in wheat, so it is a worth­while job.

If your CV is well off tar­get it could be an is­sue with worn vanes, in­cor­rect spreader height or some­times even top link set­ting. Con­sult your lo­cal machin­ery agent to fix the prob­lem.

Cor­rect spreader set­tings are ma­chine spe­cific and are based on the type of fer­tiliser be­ing spread and the bout width cho­sen.

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