Seeking greater productivity and efficiency from sprays and liquid fertiliser applications, one Northamptonshire farm opted to double the size of its sprayer, choosing an 8,000-litre Agrifac Condor Endurance II. Geoff Ashcroft reports.
As spray tanks go, an 8,000-litre self-propelled sprayer is erring on the side of generous. For H. Collins Farms, based at Hall Farm, Kislingbury, Northamptonshire, the arrival of an 8,000-litre Agrifac Condor Endurance II has created the opportunity to be much more efficient.
Not that the farm’s previous self-propelled sprayer was tardy. According to farm foreman Dave Merrill, the outgoing John Deere R4040 could see off 240-280 hectares, albeit in a very long day without bowser support, despite a modest tank size of 4,000 litres.
Mr Merrill says: “It is surprising how much time you can lose when having to refill. Having a bigger tank now means fewer fill-ups, though we do need to be better prepared to keep fill-times to a minimum.”
Having notched up in excess of 900 hours and more than 12,000ha of application work in its first 12 months, Mr Merrill is so far pleased with the Condor’s performance and productivity.
“We have had a few teething troubles and our relationship with Agrifac got off to a rocky start,” he says.
“But they have got much better with response times and problem-solving and the sprayer has now evolved into an impressive piece of kit that has bought us time.”
The farm operates on 36-metre tramlines, but with rolling countryside the need for more power to accompany the bigger tank was a must have. The Cummins-powered Endurance II packs 405hp and is affectionately described as adequate.
It is faster on the road too, reaching 60kph and surpassing the old sprayer’s 40kph peak speed.
“Travelling back to the farm to fill-up is now much quicker and it is comfortable too,” he adds.
He says speed and power are proving beneficial on the farm’s steeper ground.
“I do have to be mindful that I do not travel too fast going up our steep slopes. It just keeps pulling and pulling.
Where the R4040 would be revving flat out to reach 10kph on a steep gradient, the Endurance travels around 75 per cent faster and at lower revs – typically 1,300-1,400rpm. Output is much more consistent and fuel burn is only marginally higher, despite the step-up in performance.
“The Agrifac burns 1.25 litres/ha against the Deere’s 0.75 litres/ha – it is a small price to pay for the extra capability.”
His initial concerns of stability from moving to a larger, heavier sprayer have been laid to rest, given the way the machine rides.
“There is no leaning or twitching from the seat, it just sits rock-steady,” says Mr Merrill.
“Overall balance is good and there is the ability to tweak wheel track widths on-the-move, from the cab. For such a big machine, it is incredibly stable.”
The issue of overall weight is managed by 650/85 R42 Michelin AxioBib 2 tyres, allowing inflation pressures of just 20psi. For row crop work, a set of 480s are used and with the help of a Sprayer Jack, safe wheel changes are contained to within two hours.
“I initially looked at a 6,000-litre Agrifac to keep weight down, but it made sense to opt for 8,000 litres – the counter-argument was that you do not always have to fill it. But the Agrifac rides so well on its 650 tyres and makes less mess than our old sprayer, so it gets filled to suit our blocks of land.
“At 100 litres/ha, a tankful will cover 80ha and it takes about two-and-a-half hours to empty, compared to 90 minutes with the R4040’s 4,000-litre tank,” says Mr Merrill.
Furthermore, its performance and capability has not yet required a very long day in the cab.
“A modest 12-hour stint will see 300ha covered easily. There is now enjoyment back in the job by not needing to constantly chase and chase to get over the acreage. And that also means better opportunities to keep an eye on what is going on with our crops.”
H. Collins Farms has recently improved its focus on block-cropping to streamline all aspects of machinery management. Field sizes extend from one up to 121ha and when it comes to liquid applications, Mr Merrill has strategic water points at multiple locations.
“We do have a bowser for outlying areas and the plan is to create an induction and can washing system to fit the bowser,” he adds.
“I would like to premix and then top-up with water to make the most of the high-performance three-inch fast-fill, which can load 8,000 litres in just five minutes.
“So when we get to complex tank mixes, having a premix capability is where we will really make up time.”
He says that complex mixes with the previous sprayer could take up to 45 minutes. Factoring in travel times to and from fields, Mr Merrill thinks an hour could have been easily lost.
“The Agrifac could cover 40ha in that time,” he adds.
For all its fire-power, the Endurance II also packs a good technological punch. H. Collins Farms wanted to future-proof its investment and increased the specification accordingly. The sprayer arrived with pulse width modulation (PWM) and a second induction hopper was installed in the top of the spray tank.
“There is a load platform behind the cab big enough to take a pallet and it makes sense to have a second fill station up there with it,” he says.
“For everything else, the standard induction hopper that sits below the cab is ideal for filling.”
His experience of PWM is proving to be a big step on from his previous sprayer’s seven-sections, with auto start-stop.
“I have noticed a slight reduction in field sizes from reducing our overlaps, though turn compensation is superb,” says Mr Merrill.
“We are now getting an improvement in crop canopies around poles and trees, where crop growth is no longer impacted from getting either too much, or too little spray.”
He says the boom’s height control and contour following is equally as capable.
“I was expecting the boom to dive towards the ground in oilseed rape and beans, but it reacts quickly and accurately to any patches or changes in crop cover.
“I also have total control of the application process from the in-cab terminal,” he says.
“It is fully customisable and a delight to use,” he adds.
“Though, the palm pad controller on the armrest needs backlit buttons to simplify control at night. And when you turn the ignition key off in a dark shed, there is no courtesy lights or go-home lighting – disappointingly, you are in the dark for the climb down from the cab. If they could sort that out, there is not a lot left that needs improving,” Mr Merrill says.