By adding a front tank, the latest mounted sprayers have the potential to offer plenty of capacity along with all the bells and whistles of a self propelled machine, yet can be purchased for a fraction of the price. Jane Carley reports.
Specifying a mounted sprayer with front and rear tanks and the latest technology has helped Scottish grower TJ Farms slash spraying hours while covering more acres.
Brothers Tommy and Jimmy Taylor farm 252 hectares (623 acres) on two units near Lanark, of which 205 hectares (507 acres) is cereals and 20 hectares (49 acres) potatoes.
Looking to replace a Vicon Rau mounted sprayer with front and rear tanks, the pair studied the options at the 2014 Lamma show.
Tommy Taylor explains: “We were considering a second hand self-propelled machine, but the Rau mounted outfit proved very reliable, so we were also interested in the latest mounted combinations.
“A new higher, horsepower tractor was also under consideration, allowing the existing tractor to be dedicated to spraying. After discussions with Vicon at the show we realised that even with the outlay for a new tractor, the cost of a mounted sprayer was half that of a second hand self-propelled.”
Tommy (left) and Jimmy Taylor have increased outputs by choosing a Vicon iXtra front tank to partner a new iXter mounted sprayer.
As a result, the decision was taken to go with Vicon’s iXter and iXtra mounted combination. It has a nominal capacity of 1,800 litres in the rear tank and 1,100 litres in the front but will actually hold some 3,200 litres, Mr Taylor comments. It also came with all the latest gadgets including automatic rinsing and priming functions.
The two tanks can be used separately holding different tank mixes, and the front tank has its own clean water tank for washing out. The valve panel on the front tank can be used for draining, agitation and cleaning and an electric pump allows mixing and cleaning independently from the rear sprayer.
Mr Taylor chose the iXtra Manual control option rather than an IsoBus system mainly to keep costs down, but this still allows the front tank to be controlled via the EasySet control panel on the iXter mounted sprayer as well as on its own control panel. The iXtra front tank also uses the main tank’s induction hopper and spray pump for simplicity.
Seven section rear fold booms with a working width of 24m were chosen to increase capacity over the previous 18m set-up, and Mr Taylor says that he has seen impressive results from this: “In 2013 the 18m sprayer put in 234 hours, while last season I was able to reduce this by 122 hours, while covering more acres.”
Control of the iXter sprayer is via the FMC FlowMate controller.
He adds that the automatic spraying controls have also been a major factor: “Vicon’s iXclean Comfort semi-automatic valve control system package uses a combination of an electrical level indicator and suction valve to give automatic filling which stops when the programmed level is reached, plus remote control of all rinsing and priming functions from the cab.
“You can focus on the chemicals when filling and not worry about the tank overfilling - we have found it to be very accurate, much easier than trying to work out volumes manually.
“The auto purge is also a real benefit when working with chemicals for both potatoes and cereals as we do. Auto priming has helped increase outputs and avoids any wastage of chemicals.”
Control is via the FMC FlowMate controller, which Mr Taylor says helps with water management – by gauging how much liquid is left in the tank he can easily adjust spray volumes rather than having to refill to finish a field.
Auto shut-off is facilitated by a Teejet Starguide GPS system, giving the option of section control and mapping.
Vicon’s new induction hopper also comes in for praise, with its triple rinse system and hand lance, and Mr Taylor comments that its design minimises the risk of contamination of the filling area.
Designed to minimises the risk of contamination of the filling area, Vicon’s new induction hopper includes a triple rinse system and hand lance.
The sprayer is mounted on an 150hp MF 6480, which Mr Taylor says handles it well, and he reckons it takes about 10 minutes to demount the sprayers using their castor wheel system, plus another 20-30 minutes to swap the tractor wheels if its horsepower is needed for other jobs.
He points out that the farm’s good experiences with the build quality of the Rau sprayer encouraged him to stick with Vicon: “Potato work can be tough on sprayers because of the rough ground but we only had to weld the boom once.”
Customer service has not disappointed either – the sprayer was needed for spring cereals as soon as it was delivered last June, and dealer Ross of Lanark had TJ Farms set up very quickly – by the time Vicon’s area manager drove into yard to check that the sprayer had arrived it was up and running.
Travelling with a front tank can be an issue with some sprayer designs, although TJ Farms has plenty of experience of moving a mounted combination between its two sites.
Mr Taylor says: “This tank is not obtrusive as it is so close coupled, and we are well used to front mounted implements now. You’d need a counter weight with a big sprayer on the rear linkage anyway so it might as well be doing something beneficial.”