Norfolk-based, South Pickenham Estate Farm Manager, James Brown says that even though he and his team have a strong preference for AGCO products, the main reason that they are used on the large farm is the excellent back-up provided by the Thurlow Nunn Standen team.
The estate, near Swaffham, comprises approximately 3,000ha of owned land, most of which is farmed in-hand by James and his team. Some 600ha is rented out, mainly for carrot, onion and potato production which helps provide an extended rotation. Most of the soils are light, but there are areas of heavier land further north. Irrigation is available for vegetables but can also be used on the farm’s own crops which include winter wheat, winter barley, oilseed rape, sugar beet, winter beans and maize for a local AD plant.
The farm recently invested in its first Fendt Rogator 655 self-propelled sprayer following demonstrations of the Fendt plus three competitor machines. “We always shop around, and the price and specification are major factors,” explained James. “We tried the latest version of the sprayer we owned previously, and two others. As we expected, they all had good and bad points, but part of the Rogator’s appeal is that it is a premium product which shares the cab layout and operating logic with our Fendt tractors, so it is home from home for operators moving between tractor operations and spraying.”
Increased work rates
Previous spray systems included a pair of 4,000-litre sprayers, one self-propelled and one trailed, with 32m booms. In 2015 a single 6,000-litre, self-propelled sprayer was purchased and, at the same time, the farm changed to a 36m spray width. The new Rogator 655 also has a 6,000-litre tank and 36m booms but, with superior ride suspension as well as extremely effective boom suspension and height control, it achieves higher work rates and is expected to complete the annual spraying workload in 1,000–1,200 operating hours per year.
As well as spraying crop treatments, the Rogator also applies fertiliser. “We use liquid fertilisers throughout the year, except for the last dose when we apply granules instead. This helps us avoid risks of flag leaf scorch and reduces pressure on the sprayer when fungicide applications are the priority,” said James.
Improved accuracy and spray efficacy
The farm’s previous sprayer had spray control in three-metre sections, but the new Rogator has individual nozzle shut-off and QuadSelect nozzle bodies which each have four nozzles. The optimum nozzle or two-nozzle combination is automatically selected to maintain the ideal droplet size while application rates adjust relative to travel speed. “We immediately saw an improvement because of the individual nozzle control,” said James. “Spraying around obstructions; there used to be triangular chunks where overlaps or misses occurred, but now we have perfect circles and more consistent crops.”
Adjustable wheel track
The Fendt Rogator came with OptiRide hydro-pneumatic suspension which allows the machine height to be raised by up to 45cm, giving 120cm under machine clearance for working in tall crops including maize and oilseed rape. It was also specified with OptiTrack hydraulic-adjustable track width which allows the wheel spacing to be altered between 1.80–2.25m from the cab. James explained that an alternative option would have been to change the track width used in the farm’s cereal crops to match the sugar beet and maize, and save money by purchasing the sprayer with standard fixed axles. However, he believes that the convenient adjustment gives the farm additional options for the future and will also allow the Rogator’s use for applications to vegetable crops grown by the farm’s tenants, if needed.
There are two sets of wheels for the sprayer. Wider flotation tyres are used on stubbles and during the early growth stages. Later – narrow wheels are fitted to reduce crop damage. The Rogator’s wheels are 2.05m diameter, and this means that even on the narrow row crops there is still a large footprint, and the sprayer travels well on soft, wet ground.
Like the farm’s AGCO tractors, the Fendt Rogator sprayer has telemetry as standard. “Using the AGCO Connect smartphone app: we can view the locations and work status of all the tractors and the sprayer in real-time,” commented James. “It’s a definite advantage of operating machines which are all from the AGCO family. The app is a useful management tool and being able to monitor task progress remotely helps us plan our activities.
“The TNS workshop team uses it too. The diagnostics function allows technicians to check remotely for errors and, if a visit to the farm is needed, then the engineers can check the machine’s location. AGCO Connect is reassuring when it comes to operator safety; particularly if people are working alone. If we can’t contact an operator, we can check whether the machine is still working, or see if it has returned to the yard.”
Best cab on the market
David Dye is the sprayer’s main operator. “I believe the Rogator’s VisionCab is the best on the market, but it’s a Fendt so that is expected,” he said. “The ride quality and comfort are very good. Even with a full load, the engine runs at only 1,200rpm so it’s particularly quiet. It’s a pleasant place to spend the day.”
David describes the tank filling system as excellent, and he likes the large 60-litre induction hopper which handles two bags of powder at a time with ease. “I usually set the automatic tank filling system to stop early, giving me time to add the chemicals before topping up with water,” he explained. “The pause function is handy for filling fertiliser too. We use a three-inch hose, and the 785 litres/min pump fills the tank in just over five minutes.”
The automatic boom height control system is reliable although it can be over-sensitive to crop density which means it drops in areas of thinner crop. “It is very reactive, but even where crops are uneven, the automatic mode works well,” he stressed.
Average work rates are approximately 180–210 hectares per day. “It achieves that very easily, even though many of our fields are quite small,” David continued. “It’s got everything I need to do a good job and allows me to take pride in the results.”
Dealer back-up key to buying decision
The farm’s current tractor fleet includes five AGCO brand tractors, three of which are Fendts. They were all supplied and are looked after by the TNS team. “The tractors perform well, operators like them and they are reliable,” James stressed, “but we still wouldn’t consider them without effective back-up. “Area Sales Manager, Jolly Bullen is based at the Attleborough depot. He’s our main sales contact and always friendly and helpful. He’s familiar with our business and knows what we need. The workshop team at Attleborough have looked after our AGCO tractors for many years and are excellent. The sprayer specialists, Gareth Bell and Ben Miller are based further away at the Littleport depot, but when help is needed they are always available by phone and use their experience as well as remote access to the sprayer’s telemetry to resolve issues quickly. The Rogator has been almost totally reliable since it arrived in January, but we know that even if something major goes wrong, we won’t be without the machine for long.”