02/12/2016 New RoGator may have set a new spray record
Applying sprays to 5000 acres of crops in five days may or may not have set a benchmark for a self-propelled sprayer, but it's a highly impressive achievement, nevertheless.
The machine responsible is a Challenger RoGator 645D 30-metre, 10-section model purchased in 2016 by South Yorkshire grower Nick Huddlestone and driven principally by his operator, Steve Turner. It replaced a RoGator 635A that had been employed on the farm since 2012.
Comparing the two machines, Nick states: “They've improved on everything that needed improving. We prefer the lighter boom, the angle sensors and wiring loom are much better and the cab is more user-friendly. The pump and rate control also perform better and respond faster.”
So how did they get through 5000 acres in five days? “It was a bit manic,” Nick recalls. “We were starting at 5am, with the intention of going through until 10pm, but, as the conditions were right, on two of the nights we worked straight through. On one night, though, we had about three hours of light rain, so Steve bedded down in the cab for a while.”
Based at Debdhill Farm, Misterton, Nick farms 2500 acres of owned and rented land across six farms on a variety of soils, ranging from grade 1 to grade 11, from heavy clay to light sand. The typical rotation comprises winter wheat, winter barley, oilseed rape, beans, sugar beet, potatoes and spring barley.
Running alongside the crop production is a sizeable farm haulage business, which includes taking wheat and barley straw to Brigg power station, with three units dedicated to moving grain and carting sugar beet down the A1 to the Newark factory.
Nick enjoys a close working relationship with his local AGCO machinery dealership – Peacock & Binnington, at nearby Corringham – where their sales team have been providing advice and support for a number of years. “It’s been excellent,” says Nick, “and the RoGator is the only self-propelled sprayer you can get that has a full warranty package available for five years.
“When you look at the cost of the chemicals that we apply – somewhere between £300,000 and £400,000 a year now – you need a sprayer that's not going to let you down. Sprays are now our biggest single production input – more than fertiliser, I would say, now – so we need the best machine available to ensure that they are applied in the most accurate, efficient and timely way.”
Examples of Nick's pursuit of excellence can be seen in his enthusiasm for developing new approaches and products. “We're currently doing trials for Vredestein using a new flotation tyre on the RoGator that's been developed for larger machines, such as forage harvesters and combines,” he explains, by way of an example. “The higher profile and deeper tyre walls mean more air and therefore less compaction, running at lower pressures while maintaining weight-carrying capacity and speed.”
Self-employed sprayer operator Steve is probably better placed to comment on the 645D's performance, having spent more working time in it than anyone else.
“The most noticeable difference from the 635A is the cab,” he states, “especially the auto shut-off and the autosteer. Everything is now geared towards simplicity of use and the ride is much improved. The booms are made of alloy, as opposed to steel, so there’s not nearly as much inertia.
“The new LED lighting set-up may not seem a big deal, but it makes a significant difference – particularly when you’re doing 22-hour stints and filling up in the dark. The rate control – which used to be quite complicated – is now very simple and the response is 100 times better.
“The 6-cylinder engine (instead of four) also makes a difference and the machine height adjustment certainly makes road work a lot easier.”
Nick also pays tribute to the part played by P&B – and AGCO’s on-going support – since the new acquisition arrived. “You can’t fault it,” he says.