IT has almost been kept on proverbial ice for the past eight months.
So there is a bit of keen anticipation at the Southcott family farm at Wubin to put a new HARDI Rubicon 9000 self-propelled boomsprayer through its paces in a few weeks and see how the new 48.5 metre (160 foot) boom ramps up productivity.
Designated driver is Camille Southcott, who has returned to farming duties after successfully completing a double degree at university in science and commerce.
“The way the season went last year, it was hardly used,” Camille said.
“Dad (Sam) did pre-emergent spraying for the wheat with it while I was operating a seeding rig and then trained me during the post-emergent wheat spraying.
“I’m looking forward to getting out there again because it is an amazing machine compared to our previous SP and the trailed boom, which we upgraded last year as well.”
Both sprayers will be in action next month as germinations emerge from the recent rain-bearing depression – the remnants of ex-tropical cyclone Joyce.
A total of 53 millimetres was recorded on the Southcott property over three days last week.
“The Rubicon will do all the larger paddocks with the long runs,” Camille said.
“The trailed sprayer will do some of the more difficult lake country because the boom is shorter at 36m (120ft).
In short hit-outs driving the Rubicon, Camille has been impressed.
“I’ve tried out the Rubicon doing some late season pesticide spraying in canola for budworm and it did the job really well as the harvester was still able to pick up the crop in the wheel tracks,’’ she said.
“The ride is so comfortable and I can see it will save us a bit of time and chemical with things such as self-priming and flushing (the boom).
“The auto boom height could mean we do extra hours at night.
“It has a lot of features which means there are so many things you don’t have to worry about.”
For Sam, the Rubicon will earn it stripes because of its productive capacity, something he immediately thought of when he took a demo ride of the Rubicon in Balaklava, South Australia, in 2016.
“It rode well, the boom was really stable, considering the width of 48.5m (160ft) and it had a good, tight turning radius,” he said.
Equipped with a 9000 litre stainless steel tank, Sam quickly did the maths that it would triple his production compared with the family’s 5000 litre capacity SP (33m, 110ft boom) at home.
The other maths, to buy the Rubicon, was completed with the help of Sam’s family – wife Beth, Camille and brother Alan – and the “old” SP was duly traded by Hardi dealers McIntosh & Son, Moora.
With a 5000 hectare program, the Southcotts are spraying, on average, four times a year and with their previous SP, they could average 300ha a day.
Depending on conditions, that figure could reach an average 1000ha a day travelling at speeds up to 35 kilometres an hour, with road speeds up to 50km/h.
“We’ll be able to maximise the optimum spraying windows,” Sam said.
“We don’t like spraying in windy conditions (hence the emphasis on night spraying), which is why we’ve only got the standard low-drift nozzles.
“So I’m confident with the Rubicon we can cover the hectares we want in the best conditions because we will have less fills and almost triple our production.
“Hardi has stuck with the Pommier aluminium booms, which are much lighter, but the construction method means their lighter weight doesn’t compromise on strength.
“The wide boom is a two-fold design meaning you can spray at full width, 36m or 24m (80ft) – ideal for controlled traffic and country where you haven’t knocked down all the trees.”
Concerns about boom whip at 48.5m are quickly allayed by the patented pivot pendulum centre, which controls boom stability and boom sensitivity to varying ground contour conditions.
It can be hydraulically-controlled, on-the-go, to adjust for tight, soft or crabhole country.
Another comfort factor for farmers is the power plant.
It’s a 8.9 litre Cummins Tier 3 engine developing 276 kilowatt (370hp) and comes with a 1000 litre fuel tank.
Hardi’s figures show fuel consumption at 42L an hour, depending on conditions, which would be enough to nearly complete a 24 hour shift.
The power plant is linked to a Danfoss hydrostatic transmission, another industry-proven component adding to machine reliability.
A walk-around reveals Hardi has stuck with its convenient work station, which provides a quick and easy instruction for novice drivers.
There’s also a 630L rinse tank, 60L induction hopper and a 75 millimetre (3 inches) filling point.
The Rubicon comes standard with 480/70R54 tyres – which contribute to a 1.85m (6ft) ground clearance – and on-the-go axle adjustment from 3-4m (10-13ft).
Wheelbase is 4.6m (15ft) with a 17.88m (59ft) turning circle while the road width with a folded boom is a fraction under 3.7m (12ft).
Other standard features include air bag suspension, auto boom height control and active full re-circulation – a feature which involves a pressurised and automatic valve-sequencing system.
The tank fill volume is set, and once reached the fluid valves automatically switch over to agitation and boom priming.
The tank content is then agitated and the spray circuit is primed and at standby operating pressure in readiness to start spraying.
Suspension is by way of fully independent, leading arm, over-ride air bag system.
The company says weight distribution is 51 per cent front and 49pc rear with the total weight coming in at 15.6 tonnes empty and 26.5t with a full tank load.
Hardi says an “override suspension” provides the load-carrying capacity on each wheel rather than directly above the more common cross-axle, so there is no shock transference across the machine.
Triple airbags and a heavy-duty shock absorber are between the leading arm on the axle hub and a trailing arm.
This system allows independent wheel suspension.