As spring fertiliser applications get underway, farmers should check their spreaders are properly tested to ensure optimum coverage and efficiency. Failure to do so could result in wasted fertiliser and variable crop and grass growth.
According to Rob Foxall, managing director at SCS Spreader and Sprayer Testing Ltd, two-thirds of fertiliser spreaders are not tray tested to check their application accuracy. “Fertiliser is not cheap, so it’s important to use it at maximum efficiency,” he said.
Mr Foxall carried out a full-width tray test on the spreader at the site of the Grassland & Muck Event, before spring top-dressing of the grass. “It’s a three-stage process,” he said. “First, we check the equipment, to ensure it’s working as it should and doesn’t have any worn parts. Then we check the fertiliser size, strength and weight, which all affect the spreadability. Finally, we go out into the field with a full set of trays, do a pass with the tractor and spreader, and collect the contents to assess the fertiliser distribution pattern. Any final adjustments can then be made.”
The evenness of application is measured using a co-efficient of variation, added Mr Foxall. “We aim for a COV of less than 10%. Between 10% and 20%, the unevenness won’t be visible in the crop, but over 20% you will see stripes in the grass, which will affect grass quality and palatability.”
According to research by Yara, reducing the COV from 30% to 10% will boost grass productivity by £15/ha, based on a silage value of £100/t, says Mr Foxall. “A full width tray test costs just over £200 + VAT, so it pays for itself in just 14ha. It’s an absolute must for anyone with a focus on the bottom line.”
Visitors to the Grassland & Muck Event on May 21 and 22 will be able to see a wide range of grassland machinery on display, including fertiliser spreaders, and meet more than 240 exhibitors with the latest products and innovations. They can also see muck spreading equipment in action and earn four BASIS points for attending. For more information or to book early-bird tickets visit www.grasslandevent.co.uk.