Lamma 2011 - Large arable unit benefits from spreader’s flexibility 2011-01-07

Lamma 2011 - Large arable unit benefits from spreader’s flexibility

A Gustrower bulk fertiliser spreader, which made its debut at Lamma 2010, is winning plaudits from a leading Yorkshire carrot grower, as Jane Carley found out.

OPERATING a large arable enterprise near Goole, East Yorkshire, with carrots being the main crop for the farm, MH Poskitt acts as a major supplier to Asda. The company is gradually moving to variable rate fertiliser applications, having started with P&K using mounted spreaders three years ago.

“We have seen the opportunities to increase the accuracy of applications and make savings in fertiliser costs, but wanted to increase volume and carrying capacity,” explains farm manager Oliver Savage.

“We have used a contractor to spread fertiliser and he will still help us out at peak periods, but because we grow so many crops, we wanted to bring the operation in-house for most of the year.”

Mr Savage looked at the full range of machines on the market, but the build quality of the 8cu.m-capacity trailed Gustrower spreader, which is imported from East Germany by Ryetec Engineering, appealed the most.

“I liked the fact that the drive system is enclosed, making it more durable and resistant to corrosion. The Gustrower’s spreading mechanism is also clever – it uses a slatted floor to feed a small door, which gives increased accuracy and consistency on different materials.”

Spreading is via a pair of discs with independent hydraulic drive, designed to give constant rotation speed regardless of variations in the tractor’s engine speed.

Mr Savage admits that, as the machine is brand-new to the UK, he is something of a ‘guinea pig’ but says he already has a good relationship with Ryetec’s Mark Harrison, and that the back-up provided while he and the operators get used to the machine has been excellent.

“We asked for a demonstration of the machine and Mark let us keep it for a week to see if it met our needs.

“It was a useful process as we soon realised we would need a weigh cell on our own machine. Our land is spread around the county so we do not have easy access to a weighbridge, and the farmers’ loaders we use do not usually have weighing equipment.”

Impressive showing

But he adds that he was impressed with the performance of the spreader.

“Accuracy was very good, and the machine proved to be flexible – although we normally apply fertiliser in a 24m tramline system, we can spread on stubbles at up to 42m bouts. If it becomes windy, it is easy to narrow the spread width so that you can get the field finished. It is useful to be able to spread so wide, and that is where you really need the capacity.”

During the demonstration period, Mr Savage spread compound fertiliser and calcium lime, and he says that as the second set of discs is carried on the machine, it is a quick job to swap between the two materials.

The machine purchased was also specified with a manually-activated border spreading plate.

Mr Savage says 160hp handles the spreader easily, with the wide tyres minimising compaction from its generous load.

Variable rate fertiliser is applied to around half of the acreage currently, using application maps generated by Soyl, with further land benefiting from tailored applications from the farm’s own soil sampling regime.

The Gustrower spreader’s Muller controller plugs into the Greenstar terminal on the farm’s John Deere tractors, working alongside the Autotrac guidance system. Application maps are downloaded on to a compact flash card which is inserted into the terminal, and ‘as applied’ information can then be uploaded to Gatekeeper management software for farm records.

“We are gradually switching over to variable rate, but it will be done a step at a time and only on land that justifies it,” says Mr Savage.

“For example, where we rent land on an annual agreement, we would prefer that the landowner pays for the sampling and mapping but this is an ongoing process.”

The spreader will be used to apply 2,000 tonnes of lime and 700 tonnes of P&K fertiliser annually.

Mr Savage is also using variable rate N, currently via a pneumatic boom spreader, but says that the Gustrower may take this over in the future if the farm moves on to wider tramlines.

“We are even looking at putting poultry litter through the spreader, as the scraper chain system is versatile enough to handle such a range of products,” he says.

“The Gustrower was not the cheapest machine that we looked at, but we think it will meet our needs over the coming years.”