AN increasing number of farmers are choosing self-propelled boomsprayers in their quest for improved productivity.
More than 500 sales of SP boomsprayers in Australia last year has provided evidence of a clear trend by broadacre farmers in favour of higher capacity models with wider boom widths up to 36m (120ft).
Industry analysts regard the SP boomsprayer as one of the fastest growing market segments and the most integrated part of broadacre farming, apart from GPS.
Dandaragan mixed farming enterprise JAV Brown, is a typical buyer, switching from a trailed spray rig to a Miller Nitro 4365, which boasts a 6100 litre tank and a 36m boom.
It also is equipped with Trimble FM 1000 RTK autosteer and auto boom section control.
According to David Brown, the reason for the family decision to switch to a SP model was to increase productivity, improve flexibility and reduce crop damage.
"We saw the tank size and front-mounted boom as big advantages," David said. "The tank gave us the ability to stay out longer and the front-mount boom ensured the chemical hit the target rather than getting mixed up in the dust.
"The Nitro also seems to be doing less crop damage which I guess is because there's less wheels involved."
Probably the first question anybody would ask David on seeing trees scattered throughout the property is why the family opted for a 36m boom.
"Yes, we have to watch the trees and maybe a 30m boom would have been better but the wider boom means less wheel tracks and in-crop spraying is becoming one of our most important management strategies.
"Besides we can fold back to 70 feet (21.3m).
"It depends on the season of course but with the Nitro we now have an option to go into liquid fertilisers and that means we can increase in-crop program if we have to without worrying too much about the crops or compaction.
"We believe the other advantage of the SP is that it is ready to go when we want to use a spraying window.
"In the past we have used planes but they can be delayed and you risk missing the optimum time for spraying."
Another reason the family moved to the Nitro was its ability for easy wheel track adjustment.
"We grow sweet potatoes and we can set the working width of the sprayer out to 4.1m to cover three raised beds," David said.
According to McIntosh Distribution spray division manager Jonathan Bent, another feature of the Nitro is the ability to interchange the front-mounted boom with a swather front.
"It's a very popular feature with Nitro owners growing canola," he said. "The Nitro becomes a swather and farmers aren't fretting about contractors not turning up on time to swathe the crop.
"With the swathe front, the Nitro becomes the most flexible self-propelled boomsprayer on the market."
This year McIntosh Distribution held extensive on-farm demonstrations of the Nitro 4000 Series, which has undergone a complete design makeover compared with earlier Nitro models.
A new deluxe cab provides optimum operator comfort including low cab noise and easy control via a multi-function joystick.
Cummins engines are standard in the five model range with power ratings from 160kW (215hp) to 272kW (365hp) and a power bulge to 280kW (375hp).
The Nitro 4275, 4315 (Mercedes engine) and 4365 are fitted with a Torq-Trac hydrostatic drive system with twin Sundstrand heavy duty pumps allowing for an operating speed up to 32km/h and a road speed of 56km/h.
Combined with a 36m (120ft) boom, it makes the Nitro the world's biggest factory-fitted SP.
A new Spray-Air option will be available on the 36m Nitro model next year. No other forced air-type system is available beyond 30m (100ft).
The Spray-Air system can be used with all pesticide and liquid fertilisers with Dial-a-Drop chemical drift control.
A standout feature of these Miller sprayers is the Spray-Air drift reduction system which essentially is a hybrid of both an air-assist and an air-atomising nozzle.
It is designed to provide optimum droplet size on-the-go with the ability to push the droplets to the target areas, hence there is almost nil drift.