Light bulb moment

Father and son, Colin and Nick Hurst had a lucky break when testing their fancy new spreader this year. Thinking their spreader could do no wrong, they were surprised to find that when it was put through the Spreadmark testing exercise, that it didn’t cut the mustard.

The Spreadmark programme, which is designed to ensure that nutrient spreading machinery is being utilised effectively to accurately and evenly place nutrients in the right place, found the spreader wanting. Colin, who is a Federated Farmers board member and on the executive for the Fertiliser Quality Council (Overseer of Spreadmark) said it was an eye opener for his son and himself.

“Everything looked fine, but nothing worked properly,” Colin says. “For us it was a big eye opener to the value of testing your equipment and fine tuning it. We thought our spreader was pretty new and high calibre, but when we set it according to the factory specs and tested it, it wasn’t doing what it should.”

When they collected the spreading trays and weighed them, to test the spread pattern, the pattern didn’t come out correctly, which would have caused striping*.

“It turns out the vanes on the spreading disk were damaged but you couldn’t tell that from the general view.  A big lesson for us, that you cannot always trust what you can’t see.”

A simple and relatively inexpensive fix ($1,800) of replacing the vanes had the machine working perfectly.

“We could have gone the whole season spreading not knowing this if we hadn’t tested and had some pretty bad results.”

Colin, estimates that of the 220 tonnes of nutrients he applies each year and the test showing him his spreader was out by 20 percent that getting his spreaders tested saved him, at face value, about $40,000. He says that number would likely climb in relation to lost opportunity of yields and its quality.

“There’s both an environmental and economic impact to not testing your spreading equipment and because we do multiple applications a year, this would have been even worse for us. Without testing we would have been overapplying nutrients in some areas, causing leaching into the groundwater, and underapplying in other areas, causing a loss in production and waste of money applying it.”

Colin said getting his spreader Spreadmark tested was a real eye opener for him and the value of the programme in protecting his business.

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