Machinery News

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Self-propelled sprayer proves ideal for demanding role

This spring, JH Casswell & Son purchased the latest model from Tecnoma, and he is delighted with his choice

Farming just under 600ha (4,000 acres) spread between four farms with travelling distances up to 25 miles between, James Casswell of JH Casswell & Son, Bridge End, Lincolnshire, says he needs his sprayer to be totally reliable, and its supplying dealer to provide dependable back-up. This spring he purchased the latest model from Tecnoma, the FC Laser, which was the first of its type supplied in the UK and he is delighted with his choice. David Williams reports.The Tecnoma FC Laser is the first of its type supplied in the UK, and is performing well for Lincolnshire farmer JH Casswell & Son.“Farming that area of crops, we sometimes feel we are on the cusp of needing a second sprayer, particularly in a difficult season,” explained James. “Our previous self-propelled sprayer was 24m with a 3,500-litre tank and we did struggle at times to get over all the work, even with the support of our in-field mixer bowser. We hadn’t actually intended to update the sprayer this year, but having looked at the new Tecnoma when it was demonstrated by our local dealer, TRP Ltd with a branch at Sleaford, and following enthusiastic feedback from our main sprayer operator, we decided to bring forward the change date and to invest in the new machine.”TRP has been a Tecnoma dealer for approximately three years and sales representative Tony Dimmock commented that the brand is proving reliable with good back-up from the factory when needed. “Tecnoma considers its designs very much from the viewpoint of the operator which results in simple and practical features which make the sprayers reliable and easy to set up and use,” he explained.The sprayer was purchased mid-way through the season and a benefit of the boom design was the ability to operate at both 24 and 32m, the farm moving to the wider tramline spacing after the coming harvest. The sprayer is pictured with the boom folded to 24m for the current tramline system. “When we took on the franchise the company provided a very comprehensive training programme for the engineers, and whenever new products are introduced excellent hands-on training is provided. We inherited one self-propelled and one trailed sprayer within our trading area when we first took on the brand and the feedback from the owners as well as our experience looking after the products meant that when James, a long-standing and valued customer, was considering purchasing the brand new model, we had no concerns over its reliability or performance.”James said that because he relies so strongly on the farm sprayer, he was quite nervous about buying a brand new model, but that Tecnoma’s reputation as well as his relationship with the local Tecnoma dealer reassured him. “If we had not had the very good relationship with TRP, our local dealer, then we would not have made the purchase. I expect back-up for a farm sprayer to be regarded by a dealer in the same way as he would look after a combine harvester; and to be available when necessary 24 hours a day, seven days a week. We don’t call for support out of hours unless it’s absolutely essential but if we do then we need to know help is available.”Pictured (l-r) James Casswell, Tecnoma UK sales manager John Davis and TRP sales representative Tony Dimmock.The new sprayer is the largest in Tecnoma’s range with a long chassis and 5,200-litre capacity tank. James commented that when considering sprayer options he liked the idea of the long chassis, believing it would add stability and improve the ride. It is fitted with a 32m aluminium boom which was chosen for its ability to fold down to, and work at, 24m. The farm has used 24m tramline spacing for many years but from this harvest will move to 32m, and the ability of the boom to work at both widths has made the transition much easier. “Because we contract farm some land, and occasionally help other local farmers out when they are stretched, I am certain that at some point in the future the 24m function will be needed again, so it is good to have it available,” said James.The wheel-track is manually adjustable and set at 80 inches, the narrowest recommended by Tecnoma for the size of sprayer. Since its delivery rowcrop wheels have been fitted; Michelin 420-80R46 but a set of wider tyres was ordered with the sprayer for use earlier in the season. “With this weight of machine we felt it important to invest in decent tyre equipment for the sprayer,” said James, “and even with these relatively narrow tyres the size of footprint is large and it travels well even in damper conditions.”Power is provided by a Deutz 6-cylinder engine producing 245hp which operator Dan Banks says is plenty. “Most of our land is quite flat but there are some slopes, particularly on one of the farms, and the Tecnoma copes easily. On the road it has good acceleration and gets along very well.”
Cropping is wheat, oilseed rape, linseed, sugar beet on three of the farms and, for this season, some spring barley too, planted following difficult conditions last autumn. The land is mainly heavy clay-based soil but 280ha (700 acres) is lighter heath land.Sprayer operator and farm foreman Dan Banks says the sprayer is very easy to use, and particularly likes the LCD screen (far left) which indicates in which position all the control valves need to be set for the task to be carried out. James said that before buying the Tecnoma five makes of sprayer were considered, and following further research at Cereals last year, the shortlist came down to two. “Price was a consideration,” he said, “but the relationship with the supplying dealer was a more important factor. Dan started with us as an apprentice almost six years ago, and his views are important to us. He had driven all five makes in the past but as soon as he tried the Tecnoma he was impressed. I asked the opinion of a local farmer who was running an older model Tecnoma as he is quite a machinery enthusiast and he provided excellent feedback for the brand.”The Tecnoma uses a Claas-manufactured cab, similar to that used on the company’s combines, and Dan said it was very spacious with excellent comfort and visibility. “The spray controls are very easy to set up and use,” he said. “The Tecnoma screen provides all the information that is needed, and is easy to see even in bright sunshine. It is easy to switch between the different steering modes, and although we never need the crab-steer facility, the self-centering of the rear wheels when we change back to two wheel steer from four wheel is positive and accurate.”The Tecnoma has a separate brake pedal which Dan commented he has never used, although it is reassuring to have it available. “Previously, the sprayers I have used have relied on the hydrostatic transmission to stop but I do like knowing that on this machine there is a proper brake there if I need it. The engine braking is very good, and it stops the sprayer quickly when I remove my foot from the accelerator, but with the all-up weight of the Tecnoma it is good to know I can stop more quickly if I ever need to.” James agrees; “Safety on the road was definitely one of our priorities in selecting this sprayer. We have to travel long distances at times and with the machine capable of 40kph having decent brakes is important.”An unusual feature of the FC Laser is that its cab height is infinitely adjustable from ground level up to its highest position. It travels up and down on vertical rails, motion provided by a pair of hydraulic rams, and the height is adjusted using a control-panel mounted rocker switch to the right of the operator’s seat. A large step area complete with a guard rail swings out from under the door as the cab nears the ground, so to enter the cab from ground level the operator has no steps to climb, but just enters the cab, and operates the height control switch, and the cab lifts to the desired working position. “The adjustable cab feature didn’t really influence our choice at all,” said James. “The new forward control position is a significant benefit but we would have been quite happy climbing up and down steps to get in and out if the cab height was fixed.”However, having been using the sprayer for a few months now, we have found the ability to vary the cab height quite useful. In its top position it is ideal for spraying tall oilseed rape and when spraying shorter crops we can drop the cab down and have a better view of how the crop is performing. We didn’t have the sprayer in time for pre-emergence spraying last autumn, but this year we think having the cab down low will give us a better idea of what is happening in the field. It can be adjusted on the move, and with its range of travel, whatever the crop being sprayed, the cab can be positioned to suit. Also, when we are getting in and out dropping the cab down to ground level is quite convenient.”Another benefit of the cab height adjustment is the extra suspension it provides, and the resulting improved ride, which is appreciated by Dan when travelling on the field as well as at higher speeds on the road. “It is probably the most comfortable agricultural vehicle I have driven on the road,” he commented. “The suspension system is good anyway, but with the extra cushioning provided through the lift rams the ride is excellent.”Dan commented that with the cab a long way forward of the front wheels, it took him a while to get used to judging where to turn in to tramlines. “I did have a tendency to turn in too early,” he said, “but it took very little time to get used to the steering characteristics. The turning circle itself is good and the sprayer very manoeuvrable.”One of the best designed features is the sprayer filling system, according to Dan; “It is the easiest sprayer I have ever used,” he explained. “You simply tell the sprayer what you want to do using a compact LCD screen next to the filler valves, and it provides a display showing how the valves should all be positioned. It saves time, and mistakes too. Filling is very rapid, and when we are using the bowser we can fill the tank completely, including the chemical, in under 10 minutes. One feature which really impresses me and which I cannot understand isn’t used by all manufacturers is the transparent pipework. It means I can see what is happening when I am filling and that is a help.”The new sprayer is the first used by the farm with automatic boom section shut-off, an Egnos signal used to provide control to 10 sections. “The automatic shut-off definitely improves accuracy,” said Dan, “and when we are working long days it is a big help and is one thing less for me to think about.” James commented that he values the increased accuracy; “We always put the correct amount of chemical into the sprayer to start with, and if it is applied correctly and accurately then there should be just the right amount to treat the planned area. I like the reassurance the system provides; I am not looking to save chemical, but to put on the correct amount to the intended area, and the automatic section shut-off helps achieve that.”Since taking delivery of the sprayer, it has applied 79 tankfuls of spray at an average application rate of 27.6ha/hr. “We have been very pleased with the FC Laser,” said James. “As would be expected there were a few very minor teething issues but nothing significant at all, and they were sorted quickly by the dealer, although, had we known where to look, they were generally things we could have done ourselves. Our output has shot up, and the work rate is where we needed it to be, and when we move to 32m tramlines then we will get even more out of the machine. There have been some long working days this season caused by the lack of suitable weather windows and we are certain that with our old sprayer we would have been quite stretched, but the new sprayer has coped well, and it has certainly been able to achieve what we hoped it would. We were keen to gain a bit of slack back into the system and the new sprayer gives us that. It’s a very good machine.”


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