FSOOTY is back again for 2020 with one goal: To find the best Farm Sprayer Operator in the UK. The award seeks to reward the country’s top sprayer operators - whilst also sharing the practical tips and best practice that can help all operators enhance results and protect the environment.
Read on for top tips from all of our fantastic 2019 finalists and follow @SyngentaCropsUK on Twitter for latest news.
Entry for FSOOTY 2020 competition is now closed.
Harry Fordham, New Farming Technology Lead EUN, on FSOOTY
"The application of crop protection products is one of the most complex challenges faced on farm. From filling the sprayer, through applying the spray to disposing of the empty containers, the operator is faced with many possible ways of doing the job.
The use of plant protection products is under constant scrutiny, so it is important to use them safely and efficiently in a way that meets crop needs, as well as public, operator and environmental safety.
It’s a tricky balance, but for many operators, it comes as second nature. The Farm Sprayer Operator of the Year award...
FSOOTY 2019 - Finalist Top Tips
Simon Bailey is a first time finalist in the FSOOTY competition, although he has 20 years’ experience, including the past 14 as sprayer operator with Velcourt’s Norman Farm Contracting, based at West Tytherley near Salisbury in Wiltshire.
He operates a Sands Horizon 55, with a 5500 litre tank and 32 m booms. It’s all controlled by an Ag Leader Integra in-cab computer for accuracy. The operation also has a Horsch Leeb trailed machine.
Simon keeps a large selection of measuring jugs, so he can measure and set out all the load’s products around the induction hopper in one go, double-check against the list exactly what’s going in the mix, and then add in the right order. There’s no need to wash the jugs between each product, which saves time.
Operating from a number of farm sites, where there’s no bunded area Simon keeps a selection of large plastic drums at each spray store; he can place one under the induction hopper to catch any drips, a second under the sprayer outlet, in case of foaming, and a third to hold all the measuring jugs.
In the sprayer kit locker, Simon has a selection of plastic tubs so that when gloves and other bits are put away, if there are any drips they are safely contained and can be cleaned up.
Another tip has been to change the sprayer’s washing hose nozzle with one from a garden centre, which that can be switched for various pressure jets, appropriate for washing different things without splashing.
First time FSOOTY finalist, Mark Jelley has the UK’s only Horsch Leeb PPT330, fitted with a 5000 l tank and 36 m booms, to cover 800 ha of cropping for Courteenhall Estate near Northampton, along with a further 500 ha of contracting.
He believes the farm’s black-grass control has improved since moving to the Horsch Leeb’s 25 cm nozzle spacing boom, enabling nozzle selection designed to give all round coverage with pre-emergence applications.
With eight years spraying experience, one of Mark’s top tips is to keep a record of each time the sprayer has been washed out, how it was done and what was used, as well as where washings were sprayed out.
Mark also a keeps digital version of all the chemical store records on a spreadsheet on his phone, so he knows precisely what’s available to match any spray recommendations that come in. Records are also kept in the mess room, where everyone knows where it is, in case of emergencies.
Nick Light is another of this year’s FSOOTY finalists to operate a Sands sprayer; a 4000 litre Horizon model fitted with 30 m booms, for E J Barker & Sons at Westhorpe Lodge near Stowmarket in Suffolk.
The 545 ha arable farm, including wheat, barley and oats, but also grass seed and, for the first time, canary grass. He’s been on the farm and responsible for spraying for the past 17 years, along with contract operations.
One of the key developments Nick has found most useful is a comprehensive on-farm weather station, recording local information and sending real-time data direct to his mobile phone apps. As part of a network of such weather stations, he has a great picture of conditions for spraying across the area.
In the chemical store one tip he’d picked up from previous FSOOTY winners was to write on part used cans with the amount of remaining product. Really simple, but saves time and ensures good product rotation, he highlighted.
Like Martyn Smith, Nick has also fitted cameras on the boom to keep a check on what’s going on. And he’s also fitted one to view the machine’s clean water tank measure gauge – so he always knows how much is available for wash cycles and clean out.
Mark Turner is a finalist for the third year running. As sprayer operator for Rise Farms, Near Hull, he uses a Bateman RB35 with 30m booms to spray 900ha of arable crops and peas.
Ever keen to adopt new technology, he’s set up a Facebook page to help communicate with neighbours whose home back onto the farm’s fields. He uses it to tell people when he’ll be operating in the field and what he’s doing.
Recognising that tyre pressure is so important to boom stability, Mark’s adapted a simple push-on tyre gauge to clearly show the ideal pressure and can regularly check he’s working at the optimum. And he uses the Michelin Tyre App to make sure he has all the up to date information.
He also highlights that when he’s doing a nozzle check on the boom, he’ll mark any issues with a waterproof white marker, complete the inspection and can then come back to the right nozzle to sort out and recheck.
Another first time finalist for FSOOTY is Angus Russell, farm director for W J Russell & Son, based at Toft Farm, Kites Hardwick, near Rugby in Warwickshire. The business covers some 1200 ha, including a partnership with a neighbouring farm.
His Sands Vision sprayer has a 3000 litre tank, fitted with 24 m booms. As a cheap and easy modification, he’s fitted a foam sleeve over the end section break-back bar, which prevents damage or scratching off the paint when manoeuvring around obstacles.
The machine is fitted with a rear camera and screen in the cab, but Angus’ modification has been to put two pieces of red tape on the monitor to show exactly where the rear wheels are; when he reverse into a corner he can use the tape to precisely follow the tramlines, rather than mirrors.
With many clients and agronomists across the contracting and partnership business, he finds the digital recording and information sheets on his iPad in the cab is invaluable. It also enables spray sheets to be completed and sent back to customers quickly and accurately, along with exactly what has been used and stocks remaining in stores.
But he also has a reference folder containing all the useful information, such as nozzles, chemical mixing advice and maps – marked with rivers and water courses - which can be instantly referred to and checked if required.
Martyn Smith is the sprayer operator for Percy Farms, based at Ratcheugh Farm, Alnwick in Northumberland. They farm around 1800 ha in-hand for the Duke of Northumberland.
First time FSOOTY finalist, Martyn operates a Sands Horizon, with a 4000 litre tank and 32 m VG boom, selected to help with the farm’s undulating fields.
On the new sprayer he’s fitted two rear cameras, with a screen in the cab. With the booms folded the cameras show any traffic behind, which is invaluable when turning into fields. When the boom is unfolded, the cameras show the nozzles operating, so he can see any blockages behind the machine, which has always been a concern. It’s a modification he says has transformed his spraying experience.