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Sprayers & spreaders: Second generation sprayer builds on experience

John Deere’s first self-propelled sprayer development, the 5430i, has now been superseded by a new model offering a host of updates. Jane Carley takes a closer look and talks to a farmer who tried the prototype.


Prompted by the need to comply with ongoing emissions legislation changes supplemented by improvements both from the company’s tractor and sprayer innovations, John Deere’s new self-propelled R4040i sprayer builds on features of the outgoing 5430i model.


Redesigned from the ground up, it is powered by a new 6.8-litre John Deere PowerTech PSS engine as used in the 7R and new 6R tractors, giving 230hp (rated), boosting to 255hp by intelligent power management - slightly up on the 5430i’s output.


To clean up emissions, it uses diesel exhaust fluid (DEF), at about 20 litres AdBlue use per 900 litres of diesel, but consuming less in field tests, according to the firm’s sprayer specialist Andy Bates.


“A sprayer engine works at a more consistently intensive level than a tractor, so is more frugal on DEF,” he says.


Accommodating the new engine is an extended chassis which is 500mm (19.6in) longer in front of the front axle - retaining a 4.5-metre (14.7ft) turning circle - and putting the engine 450mm (17.7in) further forward. This cuts cab noise and it gives a 52:48 weight balance when filled.


“This sprayer had a good reputation for stability on hills anyway, but putting the engine further forward improves its performance on steep land by up to 19 per cent,” says Mr Bates.


Triple hydraulic pumps have been retained, but the third pump now has more capacity for faster boom response and hydraulic track width adjustment.


Twin drive pumps send oil to the wheel motors to give variable traction and slip control, with oil flow to a slipping wheel cut to maintain traction on the other three wheels - useful in areas with wet spots, suggests Mr Bates.


Main boom specification remains the same with parallelogram and pendulum suspension, plus standard pressure circulation on stainless steel spray lines which keep liquid moving up to the nozzles even when not spraying.


Booms can be specified from 24-36m with a range of configurations, including the BoomTrac automatic levelling system which can be upgraded to Pro specification, offering variable geometry levelling which lifts or lowers each side independently to match terrain.


“We believe this is a useful addition to any boom larger than 32m, which can be affected by even small changes in gradient,” says Mr Bates.


LED lighting can be specified to supplement the Xenon lighting package and maintain productivity during night work, while GPS section control switches boom sections on and off when entering or leaving predetermined areas.


Its Solution Command system automates filling, mixing, spraying and rinsing with functions grouped at the press of a button. A new PowrFill 50-litre induction hopper has a conical shape for more complete emptying and offers improved handling of products and packaging.


John Deere sprayer in use
The LED light


“Individual high pressure jets, rather than a ring, wash the whole surface and we have offset the rinse jet so even the biggest chemical packs can be rinsed, using 10 bar pressure.


“The wash valve in the tank lid is activated when it is closed and chemical transfer takes place at 150 litres per minute,” explains Mr Bates.


Access to the cab is improved via a wider door opening and a higher specification Grammer seat has been fitted. The sprayer features the latest dashboard and Greenstar 2630 terminal while a corner post display shows all machine and spraying functions.


The R4040i sprayer is compatible with the firm’s JD Link telemetry system which allows spray records, including weather conditions, to be wirelessly transferred to the farm office and prescription maps to be uploaded to the sprayer. Remote service monitoring can also be provided.


Retail price starts at £225,500 for a 24m version.

Tried and tested

Compton Beauchamp Estates in Faringdon, Oxfordshire, had one of the first John Deere 5430i sprayers – which has clocked up 5,500hrs, covering 70,000ha (173,000 acres) and applying 8.25 million litres in five and a half years.


When the prototype of its successor became available for evaluation, manager Richard Salmon was keen to see what it could do.


“We farm 3,400ha and have three sprayers. The 5430i has worked well for us and, although we looked at other machines, my operator was keen to have another John Deere.”


Mr Salmon says the new machine offers a number of improvements. Although he was initially wary of using an engine with a diesel exhaust fluid system – a new development for John Deere – he says it seems to offer improved fuel economy and is also frugal on the consumption of AdBlue itself.


Variable boom geometry is acknowledged as a big plus: “Some of our land is on the Downs, very hilly with sudden undulations, and boom control is much easier with this system,” he says.


The faster fill and easier cleaning of containers offered by the new induction bowl is also picked out for praise.


Mr Salmon’s views on telemetry are mixed, however, having found another brand’s system ‘expensive’, but he can says the JD Link system offers plenty of benefits for a sprayer.


“I can check the status of the sprayer on my iPhone and easily assess fuel levels, which helps with bowser duties. The ability to upload spray instructions directly to the cab would also be useful – I currently email recommendations from our agronomist to the operator’s iPad and he fills in the records on Gatekeeper, but it would be much simpler to transfer it to the Greenstar monitor.”

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