Last Monday, our two main applicators of expensive oil-based chemical and nutrient products came under the spot light. Our Sands Sprayer had its National Sprayer Testing Scheme
MOT and our Amazone Fertiliser Spreader was tested for its efficiency when applying granular products.
These two important exercises happen each year for the sprayer, under government recommendation, and every other year for the fertiliser spreader, which is for our peace of mind and for the odd crop inspector that comes on the farm. The machines have to be kept in top working order to pass both the tests and we have to keep the records of the tests, otherwise our farm would not pass our Crop Assurance Scheme which is the standard of crop production that we must maintain in order to sell our grain to all the different food markets in the country that are open to us. (More information can be found at the CMi website www.nsf-cmi.com)
The Sprayer test is really important, as it is a full
MOT such as your car goes through. Everything is tested from road worthiness and safety to the water carrying components and the application parts of the sprayer. The trained tester has a 50 point test which he works through on arrival at the farm. He inspects the ins and outs of the sprayer but the really important part is the calibration of how much and how accurately the sprayer applies the chemical/water mix onto the crop. The tester fills the sprayer with water and runs the motor to do pressure tests on the pump, checking that it is running at the correct 3bar. He then checks a few other places along the water line to make sure the pressure is constant. If it is not constant then he will investigate the reasons: possibly dirt in the pipes or a blocked filter. However, our pressure tests were all constant.
He then does jug tests on a set number of nozzles along the sprayer boom. Our boom is 24m wide and has a spray nozzle every half metre and there are 3 types of nozzles attached to the boom for different applications. He runs the sprayer and holds a jug under a single nozzle for a minute. He then measures how much water comes out and records the amount. The amounts should be what the manufacture of the nozzle states should be delivered from that type of nozzle, at a set pressure. If the amount is not what is stated, then the nozzle is either blocked or has become worn. A nozzle is made of plastic normally, so with water and chemical particles being pushed through each of them, they do wear and the size of hole increases and therefore more chemical/water is applied to the field, which is not what we want.
Our sprayer passed with flying colours. We only had a precautionary note that one set of nozzles was starting to wear but Nick our sprayer operator was already aware of this and was going to ask if we could replace them.
The Spreader test is a pattern test for us, the farmers. Uniform nutrient application is vitally important as we need to have the small granules of fertiliser applied evenly over the whole field otherwise we will have uneven crop growth. Also, if over-application occurs, it can mean that high levels of fertiliser can leach into the watercourses causing algae blooms that have a knock-on effect on wildlife and drinking water quality. It’s also not very economical for us to buy all this expensive fertiliser and not know where it is all going. We have to be so accurate now because all granules that miss the target area on the field are wasted pound coins!