Pull-type sprayers make a comeback

LANGHAM, Sask. — A 12,000 litre tank capacity combined with the most advanced sprayer technology might prompt a comeback for pull-type sprayers. The obvious advantage of pull-type sprayers has always been gallonage.

There are a number of companies around the globe actively developing, building and promoting giant new pull-type sprayers all the way up to 6,000 gallons capacity.

These manufacturers largely ignore the North American market because our need for high clearance in corn has effectively killed the pull-type sprayer demand here. Building a high clearance pull-type sprayer is easy. Building a high-clearance tractor is the problem.

But what about other crops? Here in Western Canada, the German company Amazone is banking that its UX11200 sprayer will be attractive to farmers growing wheat, canola and other shorter crops.

The first thing that catches your attention as you approach the orange and green sprayer is the tank. It is shaped like a shoe and sits low in the chassis for a lower centre of gravity in highway transit or working hilly fields, according to Amazone’s Jeremie Messerli, who was at the Ag in Motion farm show last month to promote the new sprayer.

“The tank has a capacity of 12,000 litres plus 900 litres of fresh rinse water. They’re located with 450 litres on each side for balance,” said Messerli, who works in the Canadian business.

“We have two axles to diminish load on the soil. We have a footprint on the ground as light any other company’s 5,000-litre sprayer. The axles have independent turning, so all four tires steer hydraulically. You don’t get the ridging in the soil at the ends of the field, and the sprayer tire tracks follow the tractor tire tracks. Again, that’s better for the soil.”

The DoubleTrail automatic steering is electronically controlled. The front trailer axle follows the true tracks of the tractor’s rear tires. The rear trailer axle follows the true tracks of the tractor’s front tires.

This scheme means the sprayer has a smoother ride and eliminates excess crop damage because all four sprayer tires follow the paths made by the four tractor tires. In transit mode, the front axle is locked and the rear axle is automatically controlled by the system.

“There’s hydraulic suspension so the boom has a smooth ride in bumpy fields, but also so you can increase the hydraulic pressure on the rear axle to transfer as much as 30 percent of the load to the tractor,” he said.

“That’s three to four tonnes of weight you can transfer to the tractor to increase traction in soft ground.”

Messerli said all trailer and sprayer controls run through the ISOBUS terminal, which is compatible with all ISOBUS controllers available in North America, including Trimble, John Deere and Topcon.

The UX11200 offers individual nozzle switching for precise control in odd-shaped areas and in the headlands. Compared to conventional section control systems, the Amazone individual nozzle system reduces overlap by 85 percent.

Boom size ranges from 24 metres to 40 metres. For safer transit, the boom folds in so it’s actually narrower than the tire track width. The tank is narrower at the top to accommodate the folded booms. That makes the tank wider at the bottom to help lower the centre of gravity. The combination of low centre of gravity and suspension on both axles contributes to a better ride and better boom control at higher speeds.

For exterior wash-down in the field, an on-board pressure washer is available with enough hose on the reel to reach the far ends of the boom.

Night spraying is made easier with the optional LED lighting on each individual nozzle, allowing the operator to check all nozzles with just one glance. Boom lighting and platform lighting are provided by LED floodlights, and a camera system with infrared LED and heated lenses is also available.

The drawback to any pull-type sprayer is the need for a dedicated tractor. That’s not a big deal if your machinery lineup already includes tractors in that power range that are idle until fall, when they’re used for tillage or to pull grain carts. In that case, buying a set of tall skinny tires may be all that’s needed to turn it into a sprayer tractor.

However, if you have to buy a dedicated sprayer tractor, the economics of this plan may not look as rosy.

The minimum tractor requirement is 200 horsepower, but Messerli said he’s more comfortable with 250 or 300 h.p. so he has a reserve for soft ground and hills.

The UX series can be configured for hydraulic drive or power take-off drive. Sucking capacity is 900 litres per minute through a four-inch suction port, so all the tanks can be filled within 15 minutes independent of other pumps.

The pressure filter is cleaned automatically through re-circulation. The boom has a continuous flow circulation, even when the machine is not spraying, so the liquid never sits in the boom. He said this is especially beneficial when producers have a hot mix with chemicals that are not easily soluble.

“Some chemicals will settle if they aren’t moving. With our system, the solution is always being pumped back into the tank and then back through the boom again so there’s no sediment. This also gives you a uniform startup when you start spraying again,” he said.

“It’s important to always have agitation that matches your volume. This agitation automatically adjusts, so if you spray a lower volume, there’s less agitation. When you spray higher volumes, there’s automatically more agitation.”

Agitation also changes with tractor function.

While spraying in the field, the pump runs at 480 r.p.m. In transit, the pump slows to 400 r.p.m. When filling, the pump goes to 540 r.p.m.

The tractor must have a load sensing system so the terminal can handle the pump drive, boom hydraulics and DoubleTrail steering. These systems will not function without a load-sensing tractor.

Many North American farm implement manufacturers are holding off on offering brakes for their pull type equipment until they see what sort of specifications are mandated by government. In Europe, however, brakes on towed farm implements have been required for decades.

On its UX11200 and other implements in the lineup, Amazone has taken the unusual step of building equipment with air drum brakes, which meet the stringent European safety criteria. The company says disc brakes are too sensitive to dust and dirt. Drum brakes give a more predictable response.

Amazone says the UX11200 can safely travel at 50 km-h.

Depending on options, the UX11200 will sell for about $270,000.

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