Spreader testing not just for contractors

With farmers now expected to produce Fresh Water Farm plans in addition to Farm Environment Plans, Culverden farmer David Croft decided to get his spreading equipment tested and calibrated by a Spreadmark accredited tester.

“We wanted to make sure we are spreading our nutrients correctly for our farm environment plan” David says. “Also with the cost of fertiliser going up, it makes it quite a key area for us to save costs.”

Rather than a prohibitively complicated process, David said it was really easy once he knew who to contact. Spread Test NZ’s Travis Churchill being the Canterbury contact, organised the testing to be done on David’s farm and the farmer’s also brought their machines to be tested at the same time. While they didn’t get Spreadmark certification they went through a similar process.

“We wanted to make sure we had our spreading width right. Like any of these things there’s a cost reward to it. We see it as an investment rather than an expense ($500 per spreader) because we get a payback on it. We also all learnt something from it.”

For David, the biggest learning was that spinner speed is really ‘really’ important.

“One of the farmer’s didn’t have a tachometer* to check and it really upset his first pass with a horrible spread pattern. The spinners were too fast and were fracturing the urea. So it concentrated the product at the back of the spread and it didn’t fly as far.”

The calibration of the spreader between different product loads was also a key learning and as a consequence of different spreading patterns over the trays, David ended up altering his spreading width from 18 metres (urea) to 15 metres for NProtect.

Superphosphate was also an area of interest for David, who spreads his own.

“We do the one hectare soil samples and variable rate phosphate applications, which is what got us interested in getting our spreader tested. Most people just do it for urea but we spread our own super too.”

David’s spreaders tested well but he queried the standard of the super, which showed to be too fine in the sieve box test.  This required David to narrow up his spread pattern to 12 metres.

“I would highly recommend doing this to other farmers who are spreading their own product. As one of the biggest costs to us (farmers) we need to make sure we are getting bang for buck. We’d definitely do it again – and currently plan to do it every two years.”

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