With a range of machinery options and the potential for more land to cover, sprayer choice was a hot topic at the latest Bath Monitor Farm meeting.
AHDB Cereals & Oilseeds’ Bath Monitor Farmer Rob Addicott has a mounted sprayer coming up for replacement. Shared with business partner Jeremy Padfield, the sprayer currently covers 360 arable hectares across 100 fields and slopes, handling nearly £110,000 worth of chemical a year.
Rob said: “Critical timing and application accuracy to make our inputs cost-effective are equally, if not more, important to us than the relatively small differences from the capital and operating costs of different machines.”
The Monitor Farm group in December discounted trailed options because of the field slopes and sizes, although a trailed sprayer would allow Rob and Jeremy to reduce their axle weights and give better road speed.
It was estimated that it would cost £40,000 or £8.70/ha over eight years to replace the mounted system, adding an extra front tank to expand capacity. A £50,000 second-hand sprayer retained for eight years would bring costs down to £6.70/ha, but with the risk of higher ongoing repair costs. A £140,000 new machine, however, would raise spray costs to £11.30/ha over 10 years.
With sprayer costs where they are, the groups suggested that Rob consider switching to a liquid fertiliser strategy, which would reduce costs from £11.30/ha to £8.90/ha, and also release machinery for sale.
“This requires much further thought, looking at work patterns and labour requirements at peak times with both crop protection and fertiliser options through one machine.”
Philip Dolbear, AHDB Cereals & Oilseeds Knowledge Exchange Manager for the South West, said: “With some of the uncertainties that lie ahead, it is important for growers to get as fit as possible to cope effectively with any changes. We have to ask whether, irrespective of machine choice, this farm could afford these sort of application costs while still making a margin. Rob and Jeremy will need to look seriously at driving down costs of production. This might mean even more cooperation and collaboration to spread the costs further of such machines. The next benchmarking meeting in the near year will shed more light on this.”
The conversations will continue at the next Bath Monitor Farm meeting on 14 February 2017, looking further into the topic of spraying and specifically biological applications.