Farmers Guardian: Lamma ’10: Covering the miles as well as the crops is crucial for contractor

Self-propelled sprayers come in all shapes and sizes, but not many are larger than the Lite-Trac 2400 tractor unit. Launched at Lamma 2009, James Lane caught up with a contractor using one for a very specific role.

Source: Farmers Guardian (please click here to read the original article)

The name Lite-Trac may make you think of a small, compact unit for lightweight spraying duties over a few hundred acres, but the 2400 certainly does not live up to that image.

This 240hp, 7.5m-long beast, capable of handling a 7,000-litre load of liquid and 40m booms, is legal at 50kph through a six-speed mechanical gearbox, and has a maximum gross weight of 24 tonnes.

Contractor Warren Garford bought one in October 2009 for his contracting business, which is mainly based around OMEX fertiliser application from his base at Maxey, just north of Peterborough.

Handling a wide area which extends north to Grantham and west to Leicester, south west into Northamptonshire and south east into the black fens of Cambridgeshire, the machine has a lot of varied cropping to cover – and a lot of road miles.

“The keys to success with an OMEX application machine are simple,” says Mr Garford. “You need forward speed and low ground pressure first and foremost, with a tank which can keep you going for long runs without refilling.

“When I first discussed the machine with Paul McAvoy [of Lite-Trac] at Cereals 2009, I was looking to replace a 21-year-old MB Trac 1000 forward control with a 2,500-litre tank and 24m booms.”

Since the order post-Cereals, Lite-Trac drew up the specification to his exact requirements and fitted the old 24m Chafer booms from the MB Trac to the machine. “I could move to a larger width, and may well do so in time, but at present they suit my workload,” says Mr Garford.

Application rates

Using a 5,750-litre tank, it takes just under 8.5 tonnes of suspension fertiliser at 1.4 to 1.5 specific gravity. Running application rates of between 250 and 1,500 litres per hectare (101 to 607 litres/acre), capacity is king. A Hypro centrifugal pump is at the heart of the application system, controlled by a Topcon X20 computer system.

This all-singing, all-dancing unit not only handles liquid flow but also the variable rate system, data logger and DGPS auto-steering system. It also deals with mapping, so field data and rates from either the agronomist or host farm’s computer can be uploaded to apply the desired rates with auto on/off control.

Paul McAvoy, who designed the Lite-Trac, insists the machine is well suited to both OMEX and general sprayer duties, despite its size.

“We designed this version with the idea of gaining true 50:50 weight distribution and equal weight on each wheel, even with a half-full tank or spreader. This is achieved by using a low, narrow chassis with components positioned within the frame,” he says.

“We also use larger diameter wheels, such as 800/70R38 flotations or 420/70R46 rowcrops as these give a very low ground pressure, but can still run at 72in (1,829mm) tramline centres.”

Even with mechanical drive axles instead of hydrostatic units usually found on self-propelled sprayers, a ground clearance of 850mm is possible on rowcrops, plus a turning radius of just 4.5m.

The self-leveling air-bag suspension system and sculpted sprayer tanks mean the Lite-Trac gives an excellent ride and is safe at 50kph.

It is quiet both on the road and in the field, as Mr Garford testifies. “I spend between 14 to 20 hours per day in a sprayer cab, and it is vital I am comfortable and focused.

“There is little noise ingress from the engine as it is positioned well back in the chassis,” he says. “I also like the fact the mechanical drive does not need a fast engine speed for most applications, so it’s frugal on fuel too.”

Crop spraying

As well as OMEX application, the machine carries out general crop spraying and has the usual chemical induction system on the nearside of the main tank.

It also has a chemical intake point up behind the New Holland forager-derived cab, where duplicate induction and spray control valves and an opening intake hatch are positioned.

Also part of the spray system is the side-mounted 600-litre washout tank, which feeds five disc washer units.

The Lite-Trac has a novel system for sprayer bodies and other attachments, with a couple of neat features.

The mounting chassis can be lifted hydraulically – similar to a trailer body – allowing easy access for both maintenance and thorough cleaning. Mr Garford cleans his machine after every day’s work as he insists this is vital for reliability.

In addition, the rear end panel which hides the spray control valves contains twin conventional hydraulic sockets.

These connect directly to the lift cylinders so if the machine loses power, a tractor can be used to raise the mounting frame up and give access to the engine and hydraulic components.

Lite-Trac is working with KRM on a Bredal spreader body which will give an even weight distribution during use. Attachment of different bodies is via four large bolts.

It is only early days for Warren Garford’s machine, but he is confident it will serve him well over many thousands of acres and miles in the coming years.

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