Power on the Land
Design features to increase distribution accuracy as well as bigger hopper capacities to boost output are available in the latest batch of tractor-mounted and trailed fertiliser spreaders. Mike Williams reports.
Amazone has been making fertiliser spreaders for more than 100 years and its production total is now well over the 1m mark with both mounted and trailed models currently available. The range includes the ZA-TS series twin disc mounted spreaders offering hopper capacities from 1,400–4,200 litres and a 54m maximum spreading width. The list of TS features includes a weighing system with twin cells plus an inclinometer, there is an electrically operated agitation system for the hopper contents and the unique AutoTS border spreading control provides a sharply defined cut-off point.
A new development introduced last year on TS series spreaders is WindControl with an anemometer to check the wind speed and direction. The data is used to adjust the spreading action from each disc to compensate for the wind affect, and an automatic warning signal tells the operator when the wind strength is too strong for the compensation system.
The single and twin disc XT series models are made at the Teagle Machinery factory in Cornwall and are the only tractor-mounted spreaders currently made in the UK. Designed mainly for use on small to medium acreages, they are available with hopper capacities ranging from 234–1,350 litres and the maximum spread width is 12m.
Teagle also offers the Centerliner spreaders made by Tulip Industries in Holland. These include the recently introduced SXe and SXi models available with hopper capacities up to 3,650 litres and equipped with the Easytronic spread control technology. Easytronic automatically adjusts the spread rate to compensate for variations in travel speed, and the SXi models are also equipped with a pair of weigh cells that constantly check the hopper contents to maintain the correct application rate. The Easytronic options also include a border control spreading adjustment, and variable application rate control technology can be added by using GPS and an Isobus link.
The tractor-mounted Axis series twin-disc spreaders from Kuhn Farm Machinery are available with hopper capacities from 1,000 litres, and they include the recently introduced flagship 50.2 model with a 4,200-litre maximum hopper capacity and up to 50m spreading width. Special Axis features include spreading pallets with a wear resistant coating, and the fertiliser flow rate is controlled automatically by the Kuhn Electronic Mass Control or EMC feature. EMC constantly measures the drive torque to both spreading discs, and this information is used to regulate the flow rate needed to maintain the required application rate.
As well as a comprehensive range of mounted spreaders, Kuhn also offers high capacity trailed versions including three models in the AGT series with the spreading action through a full width boom. All the AGT spreaders have a 6,300-litre hopper capacity, and using boom application aims to boost distribution accuracy by minimising exposure to wind while offering even distribution across the full bout width with all types of fertiliser.
Fertiliser and lime
There are eight trailed models in the Agri-Spread range of fertiliser and lime spreaders, as well as truck-mounted self-propelled versions. Hopper capacities for the trailed models range from 3.2–14.6m3, equivalent to 4.5–20.4t when level loaded with lime. The 6 models up to 10.6m3 capacity have single axles, and the tandem axles on the top two spreaders can be equipped with a steering option. The top 6 models have a sprung drawbar and air brakes are offered as an option. All new spreaders are supplied with a user-friendly test kit including a set of 13 trays to check the spreading accuracy and the options list also includes a GPS link for variable spread rate control.
Agri-Spread is based in Ireland where the company was established in 2006, and its spreaders are available throughout the UK. As well as fertiliser and lime they can also be used for spreading a wide range of materials including composted waste and poultry litter.
Application kit supplier
Last year was the 70th anniversary of Billericay Farm Services or BFS, the Essex based company that started as a farm contracting service but grew to become an international supplier of application equipment for liquid fertiliser and crop protection chemicals. Major milestones in the development of the BFS equipment range include its first dribble bar applicator which was originally designed for use in the liquid fertiliser spreaders operated by its own contracting service. An improved version of the dribble bar with a new application rate adjustment feature won ‘Best New Product Award’ at the 2005 Lamma event.
Other BFS application equipment successes include the first air inclusion jets into the market, called Air Bubble Jets, introduced in 1990 to minimise spray drift. The current range of BFS Air Bubble Jets are offered in 10 versions covering application rates to suit any required volume. Many of the nozzles have achieved a LERAP 3-star rating.
BFS has a more recent introduction to its Low Drift range; BFS ExRay XC nozzles. Some of these achieve over 90 per cent drift reduction and were the first to be listed on the new 4* LERAP rated equipment list on the CRD website.
The company says that it is continuing to research further concepts in the ultra low drift jet market.
The BFS FlowCheck nozzle checking device, announced in 2016, is designed to simplify nozzle output measurement by replacing the traditional stopwatch and measuring jug process. A simple visual check shows if a jet is within the 10 per cent tolerance of the stated output, at 3 bar pressure.
Using organic materials including livestock manures efficiently can make a major contribution to crop nutrition, reducing or in some cases completely replacing purchased fertilisers. The Vogelsang company has a long history of developing specialised equipment for managing liquid manures from livestock units, including the original version of its elastomer coated rotary lobe pump introduced in 1970. Current versions of the pump are a popular choice on farm slurry tankers and are also used for a wide range of industrial applications. Vogelsang’s slurry equipment also includes shredders and macerators for homogenising the liquid to avoid blockages and assist even application.
Vogelsang technology is also prominent in liquid manure application equipment, offering a range of spreaders and distributors that help to maximise crop benefits while reducing wind interference. The company was among the pioneers of dribble bar development and the equipment range also includes trailing shoe applicators, strip tillage systems and incorporation equipment that can be used with cultivators and harrows on arable land.
Low pH will compromise yield and quality
The October 2018 report on nutrient management planning and practices for the Professional Nutrient Management Group (PNMG) concluded that the use of lime could be improved, says British Sugar. The report stated that lime use has decreased steadily and in 2016/17 the amount applied was around half the estimated annual loss from soils of 4.25mt CaCO₃. In fact, the use of liming materials in Great Britain has decreased over the past two decades at an average rate of around 86,000t/year, to just over 2mt.
Furthermore, data collected via the 2017 PAAG survey showed that 53 per cent of grassland and 16 per cent of arable land soil samples tested at, or below pH 6.0.
The five year average data from the British Survey of Fertiliser Practice (BSFP) demonstrates continued low levels of liming in both arable and grassland rotations.
Launched by ALA, the Aglime Quality Standard exists to provide farmers and advisers with product quality information for participating suppliers. Be aware that not all ag-lime materials meet the required standards, points out British Sugar.
To be sure, the company says that growers should ask for more than just the neutralising value (NV) – it is vital that you know what per centage passes the 150 micron sieve, and what the reactivity performance level is. A quality lime should have at least 40 per cent passing 150 micron, with at least 70 per cent reactivity.
NV combined with fineness drives the reactivity and, with it, rate and extent of pH change and potential longevity.
According to British Sugar, LimeX offers an unrivalled minimum 85 per cent passing 150 micron sieve and 95 per cent reactivity. This delivers fast but lasting pH correction in arable and grassland rotations and may be used in organic farming systems. The integral nutrient package within LimeX contributes to maintaining soil fertility and increases available calcium. A ‘maintenance’ application of LimeX70 at 7.5/t ha will also supply a minimum of:
- 75kg P₂O₅
- 50kg MgO
- 45kg SO3
(typically worth c.£80/ha)
LimeX meets all quality criteria of the Aglime Quality Standard, and is available to order now for summer and autumn 2019.
British Sugar says that following major investment, the Cantley factory, Norfolk is pleased to offer LimeX70 from the start of the 2019/20 campaign, joining Bury St Edmunds, Newark and Wissington in the nationwide supply of over 300,000t of LimeX per annum.
Plan your switch to liquid fertilisers now
Now is the ideal time to start planning for a future with liquid fertilisers according to BFS. Fertiliser Services.
Liquid fertilisers are applied with greater precision than is possible with solids, while today’s wide booms save manpower and time – essential in short weather windows – and minimise wheel damage, it says. They are also easily transportable, and kept in tanks, meaning that switching to liquid fertiliser can release storage space for more profitable use.
Making a fundamental change in farming practice is a big decision for any farm, so it is essential to get it right, says BFS. This means choosing a supplier which can accommodate farmers’ individual demands, particularly as liquid fertiliser is usually delivered in the spring, during its period of use, when there is no room for error, it adds.
Service is key to maximising the benefits that liquid fertilisers bring and BFS products can also achieve unparalleled results, it says. Solutions are uniquely prepared and are more concentrated to allow farmers to reduce their application rates. For example, BFS NitroSulph, a nitrogen-sulphur product, is individually prepared to suit customers’ specific requirements. Common grades include 30-0-0-6, 30-0-0-10 and 24-0-0-24.
Farmers considering switching to liquid fertiliser are invited to discuss their individual requirements with BFS which operates in the south east and south west of the country.
Niche product becomes mainstream
Since their introduction more than 25 years ago the Fibrophos range of basal ash fertilisers has become increasingly popular on farms across the UK.
Needham Chalks is the main supplier in eastern England and says that what were initially regarded as niche products on farm, have now become mainstream. Record sales by the company during 2018 confirm that many farms are looking to these products as their first choice for their applications of phosphate, potash and other essential nutrients. Needham states that the reason for growth of the sales of these products is the value for money compared to the rising cost of traditional bagged products coupled with proven efficacy on farm.
Derived from sustainable sources such as incinerated poultry litter they are blended to Balanced, High K and High P analyses to suit differing soil types and crops and are applied mainly on a delivered and spread basis by approved contractors. Valuable magnesium, sulphur, calcium and trace elements supplement the PK input, so although Fibrophos is competitive on its P and K value alone, the additional elements add around £35/t worth for no extra cost.
At approximately half the unit cost of traditional straight phosphate, demand on-farm for P-Grow (23% P2O5) has been increasing. It is also highly efficient providing phosphate in an available form as the crop needs it, says Needham, enabling growers to build and maintain their P indices. Needham chalks has also seen great demand for Fibrophos 0-0-16 (16%K2O), a straight potash grade, again with the benefit of additional nutrients. With many contractors’ spreaders now having variable rate capability, both P-Grow (23% P2O5) and Fibrophos 0-0-16 can be spread variably via GPS thus giving farms flexibility for nutrient planning.
New biostimulant seed treatments
New biostimulant seed treatments could help growers increase cereal yields by improving nutrient and water uptake through better rooting, said Bayer.
“Getting cereal crops off to the best possible start is a key first step in setting yield potential,” commented the company’s campaign manager for seed treatments, Claire Matthewman. “Single purpose seed treatments, such as Redigo Pro, are an essential protection against damaging soil- and seed-borne diseases, such as loose smut, bunt and leaf stripe.”
But Bayer, through its collaboration with Novozymes, has also been researching ways of helping crops establish a more effective rooting system using biostimulant seed treatments, she explains.
One area of key interest is how to improve phosphate availability. Phosphate becomes bound to cations, such as calcium, iron, manganese or aluminium, in the soil depending on soil pH, while availability to plants also reduces in lower soil temperatures and soil moistures. “In some situations, up to 90 per cent per cent of phosphate fertiliser can be unavailable to crops in the year it is applied,” Mrs Matthewman said.
The active ingredient of the new product, JumpStart WT, is a naturally occurring soil fungus, penicillium bilaiae, which produces organic compounds that break the bonds between phosphates and the cations, so phosphate can be taken up by the plant.
“Effectively we are jump starting the crop by helping to make phosphate more available,” she explained. “But at the same time we also need to address that phosphate doesn’t move in the soil, so roots are only able to take up phosphate in the immediate root zone.”
That’s where the second biostimulant product, ProStablish WT comes in, which is co-applied with JumpStart and a single purpose seed treatment.
“ProStablish WT is a messenger or signal compound, which stimulates mycorrhizae fungi to germinate and colonise roots,” Mrs Matthewman explained.
“By applying the combination of JumpStart and ProStablish WT, we’re both making phosphate more available to be taken up by the roots and making it easier for the crop to access it, which results in both better nutrient and water uptake and a more effective root system.”
In trials across Europe results have revealed a 3 per cent yield improvement from the ProStablish WT and JumpStart WT co-application with a single purpose seed treatment (SPD) over the SPD alone, she added.