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Spreaders variable rate a big attraction

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FOR Sam Reynolds, fourth generation farmer on Wonnerup farm, Miling, there was a fairly compelling reason to buy a new spreader a little over a year ago.

The Reynolds family – Sam farms with parents Terry and Ang – conduct a comprehensive spreading program each year involving lime sand, some gypsum, urea and TEK Phos fertiliser ahead of their usual wheat, canola, barley and lupins cropping program.

They also spread NKS and NS compound fertilisers during the season.

Mr Reynolds was testing a spinner on one of two old basic spreaders used on the farm when a blade broke free, went scything past him just below waist height and embedded in a liquids storage container on the other side of the yard.

“It gave me a fright and I realised then that we needed a new spreader,” said Mr Reynolds last week, taking an enforced break, due to high winds, from spreading 2300 tonnes of lime sand with the Marshall 916T Multispread the family selected as a replacement.

After years of liming at a theoretical constant rate with the old spreaders, the variable rate of the Marshall Multispread and its ability to economically build on previous soil profile improvements, was a major attraction, Mr Reynolds said.

Purchased through Boekeman Machinery’s Dalwallinu dealership – like most of the farm’s equipment – it was also “considerably cheaper than the other options”, he pointed out.

The Reynolds have worked with an agronomist for about 20 years to improve and map soils in each paddock – they have some heavier clays at the southern end of the farm, patches of good loam towards the centre, but sand plain is their dominant country.

With adding lime – principally to adjust acidity levels on the sand plain – historic results are not entirely consistent across each paddock.

Some areas now only require maintenance applications, but other areas still show significant yield improvement after heavier applications.

In areas where he judges higher applications of lime are needed, Mr Reynolds follows up the Marshall Multispread with a Horsch Tiger to deep rip and delve to a depth of about 450 to 470 millimetres to help incorporate the lime.

He is confident this program is working.

In the season just ended, paddocks “that appeared to blow away three times” early last year, “did better than they did in 2018, with 170 millimetres of rain”, he pointed out.

So with a lime base already established, adjusting application rates automatically using the i4M technology fitted to the Marshall Multispread, in conjunction with paddock profile maps prepared by the agronomist, made sense to Mr Reynolds.

“We would be wasting money otherwise, putting more lime where it’s not needed and not enough where more is needed,” he said.

“With the products we put out, the variable rate is quite a saving.”

He pointed out fertiliser costs had jumped about $100 a tonne in 2019, so it was not just spreading lime where variable rate is expected to maximise returns from inputs.

Updated paddock maps created by the agronomist incorporating latest soil test data, are emailed to Mr Reynolds via Dropbox.

He accesses the i4M internet site on his home computer, converts the maps to appropriate format and downloads them via a Wi-Fi connection to an iPad in the cab of the John Deere 8320R tractor which pulls the Marshall Multispread.

“It updates the paddock maps automatically,” Mr Reynolds said,

“So the next time I start the tractor, I go to the home screen on the iPad, then maps, choose my paddock and it will come up different colours.

“As you drive through it will automatically change (application) rates.

“I usually keep an eye on the calibration factor – you know from the hectares how many tonnes it should have dispensed.

“On the screen it’ll tell you how many tonnes it thinks it’s dispensed and what the weight scales has put out.”

The Reynolds’ Marshall Multispread has two loadcells per axle and one on the drawbar, for a total of five, integrated with the i4M technology and feeding information shown in realtime on the iPad screen) you can work out what it actually has put out.

“I just add that as the actual factor – you can calibrate each load, or work out a long-term average,” Mr Reynolds said.

“With a bit of wind this year (which can affect spread) and the lime hasn’t been that consistent in terms of wet and dry loads, I have a reasonable idea of what it (output) should be.

“So if I’ve just finished a wet load and see a dry load, then I just change the calibration factor.

“My father doesn’t change it as much as I do – you only need to change the calibration factor if it’s been out for a while.

“If it has been consistent then you don’t need to worry about it.”

After considering the spreader market offerings, the Reynolds purchased the Marshall Multispread just before the 2019 harvest and put it to work as soon as their header was back in the shed.

They did the same after the latest harvest – in early December the contractor who trucked their grain out, began trucking lime sand in – and the spreader will be used consistently through to about September, Mr Reynolds said.

He said the mechanical and hydraulic components were “robust and simple”.

A hydraulic drive variable-speed continuous belt at the bottom of the hopper and rear feed door opening height determined how much material is fed to the spinners – with a rear camera on the outside so the driver can see what is happening.

Spinners are driven independently off the tractor’s hydraulics and are fitted with tachometers which show a readout on the iPad screen.

Their speed and the density and consistency of product being fed out, determined spread patterns.

The system is controlled from the iPad in the tractor which connects via Wi-Fi to actuators on the rear wall of the spreader.

The Wi-Fi connection means if Mr Reynolds decides to use a bigger tractor – as even with 600/55-26.5 flotation tyres, pulling an average 18.5 tonnes load in the Marshall Multispread over sand hills at the north end of the farm taxes the current tractor’s 320 horsepower – transferring the i4M system will be as simple as taking the iPad from one cab and putting it in the next.

Matt Roesner, a director of Roesner Pty Ltd which has manufactured more than 10,000 Marshall spreaders at Harvey since the first one in 1961, came up and spent a day with Mr Reynolds helping him set up the spreader and walking him through the locally developed i4M technology which, according to Boekeman Machinery’s Dalwallinu salesman Lyndon Zetovic, is being trialed on seeders and chaser bins in Europe.

“Everyone has picked up the i4M pretty quickly,” Mr Reynolds said.

He, his father, a regular farm employee and occasional casual workers have used it towing the Marshall Multispread.

“I didn’t really show dad how to use it, I just showed him a few basic things, he just clicked a few buttons and I told him on the radio what to do if he couldn’t work it out for himself,” he said.

“If you just work through the screen everything is where you’d expect it to be and nothing is hard to find.

“In terms of the spreader itself, I’m really happy with it.

“We’re not full controlled traffic, but we’re heading that way – on the sandplain there’s a little bit of compaction – but with the two axles we don’t get any bouncing and with the steering axles we don’t get any scrubbing on the headlands – you can wheel it around and bring it back in pretty tight.

“In ideal conditions we can spread lime at 12 metres – in the afternoon once the wind drops off you can open everything up and get a few more hectares done – but I tend to back off to somewhere between eight and 11m, depending on the conditions.

“Granular stuff spreads pretty well, we set it for 24m and that does a pretty good job.”

Lime sand, compared to granular materials, is a good test of any spreader, being notoriously difficult to spread evenly.

So far this year on Wonnerup farm the lime sand has been particularly testing, but the Marshall Multispread variable rate system and i4M technology has handled it without a problem, Mr Reynolds said.

“We get our lime sand trucked in from Lancelin and each truck load is basically different, it can depend on what time of day you get the lime – it weighs differently and it spreads differently,” he said.

“You can actually get two different loads from the same truck, it’s all very different.

“I generally do a calibration (of the variable application rate using the i4M iPad) almost every load – it only takes about 15 seconds.

“I’ll move (belt speed settings) maybe up to 30 per cent – from a wet load to a dry load, it can really be quite different how fast it comes out.

“With the variable rate, our spread width changes a lot with how much we are putting out.

“If you are putting out up to four tonnes (per hectare) you can spread a long way, whereas if you are down to below 2t/ha then you’ve got to start coming in a bit.

“Generally, the variable rates we use are down to 1.5t/ha depending – if it’s really good we won’t go below 1.2t/ha because it doesn’t spread as well below that rate – up to 4-4.5t/ha.

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