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100th Challenger sprayer

A new Challenger Rogator RG655C self-propelled sprayer was delivered to a large farm in Leicestershire in August

A new Challenger Rogator RG655C self-propelled sprayer was delivered to a large mainly arable farm in Leicestershire in August – the 100th now working in the UK. David Williams reports.

Bought to replace two smaller self-propelled sprayers, the remarkable machine was already impressing its owners when Farmers Guide visited a month after delivery.
The Rogator sprayer had its UK launch at the Cereals event in June 2010, and proved immediately popular for its build strength and design. The latest ‘C’ versions remain similar to the original range, but have gained extra features and uprated engines, and the range now includes three models with tank sizes from 3,800-6,200 litres and a choice of three power units; 175, 224 and 242hp.
The 100th Rogator has been purchased by the Beaty family which farms near Market Harborough, Leicestershire and it was purchased through local Agco main dealer Chandlers which has seven branches and looks after customers in Nottinghamshire, Leicestershire, Lincolnshire, Bedfordshire and Cambridgeshire.
The Beaty family has farmed in Leicestershire since 1963, and trades as J Beaty & Son, currently farming approximately 1,618ha (4,000 acres) which is a mix of owned, rented and contract-farmed land with cropping including wheat, barley and oilseed rape as well as maize which is used to power an AD plant, commissioned during early 2014.
The RG655C is equipped with a 6,200-litre tank and 32m booms and will spray up to 11,000ha (27,180 acres) per year for J Beaty & Son, farmers near Market Harborough. Pictured with the machine are (l-r) Tony Armstrong, Chris Hallam, Scott Walker, Sid Beaty, Clive Barber, Ben Bell, Matthew Warwick and Steve Sampson.

Previously the farm relied on two 24m, 5,000 and 3,600 litre capacity self-propelled sprayers. “We farm a large area and had considered moving to a wider sprayer but, while we were confident our fertiliser spreaders could achieve the wider spread widths with good quality ammonium nitrate, we had doubts about their ability to accurately apply urea at that width, so this dictated our tramline spacing”, explained Sid Beaty. “We use some liquid fertilisers, but only for last applications to oilseed rape at early flowering, so we do rely on the performance of our disc spreaders.”
A recent investment was a pair of Kuhn Axis 40.1 disc spreaders, and Sid explained that these have given the family greater confidence in their ability to spread wider, so from this autumn all crops will be drilled with 32m tramline spacing, allowing the use of a wider sprayer. A combination of factors, including a slight reduction in the total area farmed and a move to more mixed cropping rather than just wheat and oilseed rape grown previously, has resulted in the decision to replace two self-propelled sprayers with a single higher capacity machine.

Engineering quality
“Our planned sprayer replacement was every 10 years, but it was obvious that the demands we were making on the two machines purchased in 2008 were taking their toll, so we decided to upgrade earlier this time around,” said Sid. “Experience has given us a good idea of what features are necessary to meet our needs, and we were all in agreement that quality of the engineering was the main requirement. We have some very steep slopes which provide a good test of any machine, including one field in which all the work has to be carried out downhill in one area, with a shallower face used for upward travel. We had several sprayers on demonstration and it quickly became apparent that some wouldn’t cope with our situation, including one which almost overturned on some of the more uneven ground.

“We narrowed the choice to just two machines which both seemed to suit our needs, but eventually settled on the Rogator as it seemed superbly engineered, had excellent weight distribution and stability, and the back-up available through the local dealer and from Challenger with its manufacturer-backed warranty and service packages gave us great confidence,” he added.
Sid’s brother and farm director Richard Beaty agrees; “The demonstrations gave us a feel for the machines, but it was the quality of the engineering behind them which influenced our final decision,” he said.
The model chosen was the top of the range RG655C with a 6,200-litre tank and 32m Pommier self-leveling booms and with 710/75R34 flotation and 380/90R54 rowcrop wheels and tyres, which will provide 1.2m ground clearance for oilseed rape and maize – a significant increase over that of the previous sprayers. Section control down to 10 sections is fitted, including eight 3m and two 4m. The sprayer has full autosteer capability and the farm has RTK guidance available but, as signal issues can affect some of the undulating land, it is possible that autosteer might not be used when there are established tramlines present as these might provide greater reliability.
The total area to be sprayed by the Challenger will be approximately 11,000ha (27,180 acres) per year, including up to 7 applications to cereals and oilseed rape and 3-4 for the maize, some of which will be carried out at night. “We are doing more night spraying as this often provides better conditions for applications,” explained Sid. “Chemicals are very expensive and we try to apply them when they will provide greatest benefit and when it is best for the environment, so we try to spray only when wind speeds are under 10mph. In previous years we have desiccated all the oilseed rape at night, and with wind speeds often lower than during the day, we expect the amount of night work to increase. Because of this, one of the upgrades we chose for the Rogator was a xenon light kit, which will enable us to monitor closely the spray performance, and make operation easier for the driver, when working in the dark.”
The Beaty’s main base at Medbourne Grange Farm, near Market Harborough is almost central within the farmed area, but road travel up to 20 miles is often necessary. The large 6,200-litre tank will allow greater areas to be sprayed between refills, but an option under consideration is towing a 6,000-litre bowser containing pre-mixed chemical to the field behind the sprayer, which would provide twice the spraying capacity. “It has plenty of power and the transmission is superb,” commented Sid. “It has very capable brakes too, which are essential for the area in which we operate with the steep slopes in the fields and on some of the roads, and with the 50kph transmission, safety is always a major factor. The brakes stop the machine very quickly with just a light touch, and we are still getting used to their performance.”

Impressive performance
The main sprayer operators are employee Matthew Warwick and Sid. Both are impressed with the Rogator’s performance so far. “The previous sprayers had many similar features, but the Rogator’s are designed well and perform better,” said Matthew. “The automatic boom stability and height control are really good, especially considering the wider boom width, and tasks such as mixing the chemical and filling the sprayer are straightforward and quickly carried out as the induction bowl and controls are easy to use.”
The maximum tank filling speed of 800 litres/minute is more than adequate for the farm as, Sid explained, with chemical mixes becoming increasingly complex, it takes much longer to add these than it does to fill the tank with water.
Another feature that has impressed Matthew is the chemical container rinsing system. “It’s easy to use and the power of the jets means cans are washed thoroughly and quickly,” he added. “Flow and pressure are much better than we had available on the previous sprayers, and my only complaint is that the drip stand won’t accommodate 20-litre containers. More of the chemicals we use are supplied in them now, so it would be handy if they could be emptied as easily as the smaller cans.”
The main tank and boom rinsing system is also good, he said. “Since almost all the spraying so far has been glyphosate on stubbles, I haven’t had to use it yet but it looks easy to use, and its design is very practical so I think it will allow us to switch spray tasks quickly.
“I really like using the Rogator,” he added. “Every aspect of it is well designed, from the cab which is comfortable and spacious to the boom stability system which allows accurate application even on our sloping ground. All functions are easy to set up and use and the auto-steer is especially good. It has plenty of power and traction, even on the steeper land, but it is a big machine and it has to be treated with respect. If conditions are very challenging I slow down and let it find its own way, and I think it will help me to do my job well.”
“I am delighted that the Beatys have chosen the Rogator as I believe it will be ideal for their needs,” said Chandlers Challenger product specialist Clive Barber. “We have been dealing with the farm for approximately 12 years, since it bought its first Kuhn spreader, and since then it has also been operating Challenger crawlers supplied and looked after by us, which have performed well. Our history of working with the family means we understand their needs, and they know the quality of service we can provide. Chris Hallam, our Challenger service engineer, is well known to the farm as he looks after the crawlers, and he will also be looking after the sprayer. We know we can rely on Challenger to give us what we need to support our customers, and that helps us provide a service which professional users can depend on.”
Challenger UK sales manager Steve Sampson commented; “We have been delighted with the Rogator since its launch five years ago. It is a sprayer that appeals to larger professional farmers and contracting businesses, with features to maximise performance and efficiency. The Challenger name is popular, due to the build quality, back-up available from the manufacturer and dealers, the excellent parts availability and the whole package we help our dealers to provide. No-one else in the market offers a machine for which they are able to provide a total price for finance, servicing and warranty for up to 7,500 hours or five years from the start and having these figures enables users to accurately predict annual and hourly ownership and running costs from day one.
“We have several UK users working in excess of 2,500 hours per year, including one with a 24m machine and another with 36m booms, so the actual total spray areas vary, but we have found that our average user operates their Rogator for approximately 1,200-1,500 hours per year,” he added.
“The Rogator’s success is due to its practical design with features to appeal to professional users and ensure efficient and cost-effective operation,” continued Steve. “Its almost perfect weight distribution front and rear whether full or empty is something appreciated by users to the extent that, often at demonstrations, we have seen potential users drive the sprayer across the farm weighbridge, weighing an axle at a time to check it. This even axle loading ensures best possible traction and stability and reduces soil damage which is why it was one of the main design objectives from the start and features like this are key to its success.”

New D-series Rogators, due to be launched at Agritechnica in November have a new cab as well as many additional innovations to make operation easier, and Steve commented that for the future we can expect to see even greater tank capacities, wider spray booms and bigger engines to meet the increasing demands of users.
“The Rogator sits perfectly alongside the rubber tracked crawlers in the Challenger range, appealing to the same types of user. Not every farm can justify the Rogator,” he explained, “but the 100th machine has been sold to a typical UK user; professional, farming a large area and looking for the performance to cope with some quite demanding situations making the most of available weather windows.”

  • Written by: Farmers Guide
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