When his ageing trailed sprayer started suffering reliability issues, farmer Ed Lankfer started his search for a replacement and considered many brands. In May last year he took delivery of the latest Vicon – the first of its type supplied in the UK. Almost a year on, David Williams called in to find out if it lives up to the manufacturer’s promises.
Ed and his father Roger farm approximately 240ha between them, trading as two separate businesses with adjoining land. Field work is shared, with each carrying out particular tasks using their own machinery, and the arrangement works well. Winter wheat, winter barley, winter oats, spring barley, spring beans, sugar beet and fodder beet are being grown this year, with oilseed rape missing from the rotation due to flea beetle attacks. There are approximately 30ha of grassland too, most for grazing the family’s herd of pedigree Simmental cattle and the rest producing hay and haylage. A 2,000-head indoor pig unit also adds to the workload.
“Our previous sprayer was bought second-hand from a dealer approximately 11 years ago,” explained Ed. “At only five years old at the time, it appeared to the dealer and to me to be in good condition, but maintenance had been neglected resulting in a long line of breakdowns just when it was needed. After many new parts had been fitted it became more reliable and was used until last year.”
Many options considered
Ed is surrounded by excellent machinery dealers offering most major sprayer brands, so there were plenty of options to consider. After the problems experienced having bought a pre-owned sprayer before, he decided its replacement would have to be new. Ed’s wife Angela is an agricultural consultant visiting many farms, and a client with experience of Vicon sprayers strongly recommended the brand. An open day by local dealer BW Mack included the recently launched iXtrack T3 3,200-litre model, which Ed had already decided could be suitable. “It was well thought-out with a practical design and appeared easy to use. What really convinced me was the boom quality. It’s made from a special high-grade steel which is strong, light and resists corrosion. That’s important to us, as all our fertiliser is applied as liquid. We agreed a deal and it arrived in May,” he added.
iXtrack T3 sprayers
Vicon’s new T3 trailed sprayers are available in 2,600- or 3,200-litre versions and with booms from 24–30m. New chassis and tank profiles keep the machine short and compact, with a low centre of gravity for excellent stability. The tank and plumbing design minimises residual fluid and the high standard specification is complemented by a range of upgrade options.
A rear steering axle is standard and available in any track width from 1.5–2.25m.
The boom is on a suspended parallelogram linkage for a smooth ride in the field and with the booms folded for transport. Transport width is just 2.55m.
Apart from minor teething issues, the new sprayer was totally reliable and impressed from the start. Whereas the previous sprayer had manual controls, the T3’s are all electronic. Settings are made on the in-cab touchscreen and operation is through the Isomatch joystick.
“It’s well designed,” explained Ed. “The Tellus GO touchscreen works well, with logical menus which get you quickly to the required functions. Having spray stop and start, and section control on the joystick is very convenient, and the whole system needs just one Isobus cable for connection.”
A second screen by the filling station sets the tank filling strategy. “Our previous sprayer had a sight gauge and manual valves whereas now I just enter the required volume on the display and filling pauses at that point. It prevents over-filling and allows time to prepare complex mixes.”
The boom suspension works well and Ed said that although the tank size and spray width are identical to the previous sprayer, faster travel speed and tank filling increases daily output. Efficiency and accuracy are also boosted by ErgoDrive headland management which allows automatic function sequences to be programmed. “It’s flexible, but I have it set so that when I switch off the spray at the headlands there is a short delay before the spray stops, the boom lifts and the rear axle steering activates. After the turn, I press the spray button; the boom lowers, the steering centralises and locks, and spraying starts. It saves time and is less tiring for the user.”
Another feature which has impressed Ed is ENFO spray-line purging and priming, which ensures the spray lines are filled from the main tank before spraying starts. “In the past, v-shaped crop patches were common where I had started spraying before the chemical mix reached all the nozzles. With ENFO I know the required treatment is being applied from the moment spraying starts, so ‘missed’ patches are no longer an issue.”
During application, liquid flow and pressure are constantly monitored by the Flow Master spray management system to maintain the required application rate.
Ed has found that as long as the correct field size is selected when filling, the tank contents match the spray area almost exactly. Rate adjustment is described as ‘impressively quick’ during travel speed changes. The T3’s tank shape and plumbing minimise residual fluid and iXclean automation ensures thorough tank and boom rinsing before leaving the field. “I just touch the screen when the tank is almost empty and the automatic rinsing process starts,” said Ed. “Using clean water, the programme washes out the tank, the pressure control, spray lines and nozzles progressively, and a count-down timer tells me how long is needed for completion.”
The T3 sprayer tows well on the road, and in the field the steering axle minimises crop damage. Ed explained that the previous sprayer’s steering drawbar allowed a slightly different route to be taken by the wheels during each headland turn running down additional crop at each spray pass, whereas the Vicon’s steering axle maintains a constant wheel position every time. Ed’s only criticism is that manoeuvring in tight field corners with rear axle steering can be tricky, so he now locks the sprayer wheels central before reversing.
The right choice
“Multiple passes applying fertiliser and pesticides means our sprayer covers approximately 2,000ha each year, and making best use of available weather windows is essential,” concluded Ed. “We are very pleased with the T3’s ease of use, performance and reliability and would definitely choose the same model again. We have full confidence in the back-up from BW Mack, and the Vicon team, and expect to keep the sprayer for at least 10 years.”