Efficiency and scale push dollars further

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Emphasis on chemical inputs is helping (from left) John, Clinton and Derek Tiller optimise the efficiency of their operations by covering more land faster.

Growers in the Pinery–Owen area of South Australia have been keen to see one of the few self-propelled sprayers in the district, at work on the Tiller family’s property.

For the ‘Tiller boys’ – John, Derek and Clinton – the $420,000-investment was prompted by farm expansion plans and the consequent need to optimise their operational efficiency in covering more land.

Upgrading to the Miller Nitro 4315 sprayer in 2009 was “a natural progression” for the Tillers, who have increasingly relied on new technology as their cropping area has expanded from 300 to 2500 hectares over the past 35 years.

The new machine, which can be seen towering above the family’s wheat, lentils, barley, canola and faba beans, is helping them move towards a more efficient, faster spraying program.

Derek says making the switch from a tow-behind sprayer to a self-propelled model has increased the pace of their spraying operations by almost 30 per cent. The average speed of spraying has accelerated from 22 to 30 kilometres per hour, which allows them to apply inputs – herbicide, fungicide and insecticide – to an extra 100ha a day.

“We could be comfortably working 20 per cent more land using the new sprayer,” Derek says.

Although the self-propelled sprayer uses about 15 per cent more fuel per hour than the JCB Fastrac tractor that they previously used to a tow a Hardi trailing sprayer, Clinton says the efficiency of the new rig’s design makes up for its running cost.

He says one of the new sprayer’s best features is its greater height clearance, which makes it particularly useful for late fungicide applications in the family’s high-input crops, such as canola, wheat and faba beans.

Clinton says other efficiencies, such as the rig’s ability to better follow the contours of the land and the forward-mounted boom that enables the spray nozzles to be monitored, also encourage a proactive approach to spraying.

“Our preventative fungicide sprays have been more effective using the self-propelled sprayer and this has translated into slightly reduced inputs,” Clinton says.

The machinery trade-in for the self-propelled sprayer was another calculation that the Tillers had to make. In the end, they exchanged their articulated seeding tractor for a Massey Ferguson 8690 front-wheel-assist tractor. This new machine is more functional than the previous tractor because it allows them to tow chaser bins at harvest and it can be fitted with a four-tonne, three-point linkage spreader.

– Clarisa Collis

Region South