After narrowly missing the top-spot last year, Luke Haynes got straight back on the competition trail, taking coveted title of the Farm Sprayer Operator of the Year 2021 on his second attempt.
Luke has been following the progress of FSOOTY and its entrants since he started spraying six years ago, and has always viewed the competition as an opportunity to work with – and learn from – others.
“I do like the top tips, and the shared knowledge that helps other operators to improve their professionalism,” says Luke. “So any opportunity to learn is a good opportunity. And I believe that you won’t improve as much as you’d think, unless you give yourself those different challenges.”
One of those challenges was influenced by a change of employment during the past 12 months. Moving to Stevens Farm, Hawkhurst, Kent, brought new responsibilities to his previous sprayer operator’s job, and a different focus.
His new role involves the spraying 1,153ha of combinable crops for farm owner Richard Budd. The business also grows 100ha of apples, and while Luke is not directly involved with spraying the fruit crop, he does help out when needed.
A change of job also brought a change of sprayer – a 30m Rogator 645 with Arag OptiNozzle quad body system.
“I did like my Bateman, but the Rogator has that extra level of refinement that the Bateman never had,” he says. “Cab comfort, controls, ergonomics – it’s just a far better all-round package, with greater capability.”
And it needs to be. The business farms an area that spans 45 miles from one end to another, which also demands a considered approach to logistics, planning and application timings.
“There’s such a wide variety of soil types across the area we farm, that we need an almost regimental approach when spraying different crops to minimise downtime and wash-outs,” he explains.
“It’s very much a team effort that includes giving thought to variety choices as well as taking account of weed and disease susceptibility. We even look into how the workload can be managed by comparing harvest date criteria on different soils.
“We’re also into conservation agriculture at Stevens Farm, and as much as conditions allow, that means no-till. Soils are in great health and we run with permanent tramline locations on a 30m spacing,” he adds.
Luke says the new job has given him fresh enthusiasm for farming, with a completely different approach being taken by his employer, to anything he’s previously experienced.
“It’s great to get stuck into a different way of crop production. There is much to learn with conservation agriculture – and while we push for high yields, we also prioritise keeping our crops clean and green,” he says.
The no-till approach puts a lot of emphasis on pre-ems, which all go on at 200 litres/ha, and Luke accepts that, as an industry, growers need to give more consideration to what is applied and when.
“Stevens Farm does not apply insecticides, nor do we use glyphosate on cereals pre-harvest,” he says. “We chop all the straw and that means a lot of surface trash and residues to encourage soil biology and organic matter, too. The way we farm does allow the implementation of small changes to improve overall efficiency,” he explains.
Being FACTS and BASIS qualified, Luke takes an active role in understanding tank mixes and sequences, all with one eye on logistics and efficiency.
“Training for the qualifications was one of those areas that made me start reading labels properly. I began to challenge myself with tank mixes and sequences.
“So between myself and the agronomist, if I can plan application sequences and tank mixes to help me move around the farm in a logical order with the minimum number of washouts, it can bring considerable efficiency gains.
“It doesn’t always work that way – but there are opportunities where we can fine-tune, and reduce downtime or lost productivity. And that’s why it’s important to involve your agronomist and bounce your thoughts and plans off them, rather than just blindly following recommendations,” he advises.
Luke says the Rogator 645, which is used exclusively for pesticides, is well-equipped and is able to carry everything he needs when spraying. He also has two hose reels on-board, one for pressure washing and the other for compressed air.
“The pull-out storage space beneath the cab is superb, and the bin-sized induction hopper is something that other manufacturers could benefit from,” he adds.
The sprayer is shod on 620/70 R42 for year-round operation and with adjustable ride height, he says it’s great when crop canopies start to gain height.
Its 30m wide boom rides and follows contours well , he adds. “Our field sizes range from 1ha to 52ha, and our second largest field is 42ha. It means we do average out at just 10ha, and I wouldn’t want a wider boom,” he says.
With application rates from 100-200 litres/ha, Luke says low and slow suits herbicide applications, but speeds of up to 15km/h are achievable with fungicides.
RTK coverage across the farm and four base stations in the area give good access to an accurate, repeatable signal. This lets Luke auto-steer on tramlines, giving him time to watch and inspect crops as he passes through, making the most of the Rogator’s individual nozzle control capability.
“I do like the OptiNozzle system, but it’s not without its flaws,” he says. “For example, if you don’t use all four nozzles, it’s possible to get dead spots, which can lead to nozzle blockages. It’s something you do need to be aware of, and I need to be diligent when it comes to nozzle cleaning.
“That said, as a system to improve performance and productivity, while maintaining droplet size as speed changes, it is superb,” he adds.
Wide nozzle choice
As a result, Luke is looking to build up a generous selection of nozzle choices, so he always has clean sets ready for swapping, or simply to extend his range of choices. His current nozzles of choice include Defy 3D for herbicides, Albuz AVI for fungicides, and Albuz AVI Twin for ear and panicle washes. In 02, 03, 035, 04, 05 sizes, he has most bases covered.
“When you consider the value of active ingredients going through the sprayer, nozzles are still cheap,” he says. “I don’t want to be limited to just four sets that live permanently on the nozzle bodies. I’m not afraid to switch nozzles to do a better job – even though there are 240 of them across the boom. Spraying is all about attention to detail,” he explains.
Enter FSOOTY now!
Have you got what it takes to be the next FSOOTY champion? As Luke Haynes says you won’t know unless you enter and you will learn new skills and pick up lots of great tips and on the journey. Enter now by visiting https://www.syngenta.co.uk/fsooty
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