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Ag-market sees new interest in dry-product spreaders

New machines designed to broadcast dry fertilizer are hitting dealerships for the 2017 season

For years, one-pass seeding systems that incorporate fertilizer application with the seeding pass had producers turning their backs on dry spreader systems. Many older designs of spinner spreaders lacked the precision that producers could now get from direct-seeding systems. But the logistical demands of getting everything done in one seeding pass have a few growers looking to transfer some fertilizer application to the fall in order to ease the spring workload. As a result, dry spreaders have seen a resurgence in buyer interest in recent years.

That fact hasn’t been lost on manufacturers, some of whom introduced new machines to the marketplace in 2016 to capitalize on that demand.

Salford

As a result of a request from a Saskatchewan farmer, Salford initiated an R&D project to develop a large-capacity air boom spreader. The result of those efforts is a 20-ton spreader with a 66-foot redesigned Valmar boom that was unveiled at Canada’s Farm Progress Show in Regina in 2016.

“We took a 20-ton spreader and redesigned the (Valmar) boom a little bit,” said Dave King, the company’s director of sales and marketing. “We started working with this farmer to run a demo in the field.”

The new machine is meant to appeal to western Canadian growers, and Salford expects it will help generate new interest in the market for dry-product spreaders across the Prairies, which has lagged over the years.

“The units that were here in the past had less technology and features,” King notes. “And the sizes weren’t big enough. Today, we’re offering a lot higher technology in spreaders.”

Salford expects the air boom design will appeal to growers because it overcomes some of the limitations associated with spinner box designs, which have traditionally been more commonly used for dry-product broadcasting.

“As a general rule when you get to about 25 m.p.h. with wind, an air boom will perform better than a spinner,” King says.

For those who still prefer the spinner box design, Salford has added improved section control as an option for its BBI equipment. Salford recently acquired U.S.-based BBI and brought it into the brand.

“Section control is not new to BBI equipment,” Richard Hagler, president of the BBI division of Salford Group, said in a press release. “We’ve been building models that can spread a full swath or manually turn on and off left and right side for the turf and orchard/vineyard markets for over 15 years. What makes this new section control option such an advance over other machines on the market today is the ability to dynamically stop in an already-applied area, to turn on or turn off the left and/or right side of the spreader rather than a mechanical switch the user must operate.”

The feature will also help avoid broadcasting product outside field boundaries into buffer strips or waterways.

Section control was made available on a limited number of models through 2016, including the Javelin, with a 120-foot spread capability for urea, and the Magna­Spread, which has an 80-foot reach.

SeedMaster

As spreader boxes and floaters garner more interest in the marketplace, SeedMaster engineers think they have developed a product that allows producers to spread dry fertilizer without making another relatively large machinery investment. It’s the Nova Flex applicator.

Introduced in mid-2016, the Nova Flex applicator allows the brand’s Nova SmartCarts to do double duty. The applicator bar hooks up to any Nova air cart just as a regular air drill does and can fall-apply or top-dress granular fertilizer.

Designed to work with the SeedMaster’s Nova SmartCarts, the Nova Flex dry-fertilizer applicator allows growers to make full use of existing equipment.
photo: Scott Garvey

“The Nova Flex fertilizer and nutrient applicator really came out of the idea that people were sinking $300,000 plus into floaters, when they already have a highly accurate, highly technologically advanced metering system and holding tank in their yard,” says Trent Meyer, director of sales and marketing at SeedMaster. “They already have the power to pull it. Why are we going out and spending money on another engine and everything else to take care of?”

“With new products coming out from the fertilizer companies, this really is a cost-effective way of utilizing the assets we have on the farm.”

Connected to a Nova cart, the Flex applicator is capable of delivering 350 pounds of product at working speeds up to 10 m.p.h. And the zone control feature of the Nova carts allows for up to 10 zones to reduce application overlap.

“For a lot of floaters, if they have any zone control, it’s half width and they’re not blending,” Meyer says. “Not everyone’s going to apply multiple products at the same time, but at the end of the day there is the opportunity to do that (with the Flex).”

Inside the tractor cab, operators use the same monitor, so they don’t have to learn to use yet another system. The Flex applicator bar is available in a 70-foot working width and in a trailing or tow-between configuration to match both models of Nova carts. “We tested it in the field in the spring and it’s really, really durable, stable and easy to run,” he adds.

Trailing versions of the Flex retail for about $45,000, while tow-between models sell for around $60,000. These types need heavier hitch and frame to support the cart, which accounts for the price difference.

John Deere

Equipped with a 330-cubic foot New Leader dry spreader box, John Deere’s new F4365 applicator is designed for high capacity. The brand expects it will fill a need on large farming operations and with custom operators.

The F4365 can apply up to 1,100 pounds (499 kilograms) of fertilizer or 6,600 pounds (2,993 kilograms) of lime per acre. It also has the ability to variable-rate apply up to four different products in a single pass, with spread widths of 60 to 90 feet.

The John Deere F4365 is a high-capacity self-propelled dry-product spreader.
photo: Scott Garvey

Under the hood, the F4365 gets one of Deere’s PowerTech PSS 9-litre diesels mated to an IVT transmission. That gives it a 46 m.p.h. (74 km/h) road speed and maximum application speed of 30 m.p.h. (50 km/h).

“Service providers and large-scale producers can cover more acres faster, and in greater comfort, with the ability to variable-rate apply up to four different fertilizers in a single pass,” says Dave Mulder, product manager with John Deere Crop Care.

Inside the CommandView III cab, operators get some updated features to add to the comfort Mulder was talking about, such as an improved seat swivel and cameras that show the field, dry box and rear spreader pattern.

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