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Paul’s New Miller Spray-Air Nitro Delivers Him from his “Solitary"

Local grower Paul Bammann on the Eyre Peninsula in South Australia check over the Spray-Air boom on the family's Miller Nitro 6333 sprayer. National distributor McIntosh Distribution added an extra 0.5 metres to each end of the standard 36.5m boom to suit the Bammann's controlled traffic farming system.

EYRE Peninsula grain grower Paul Bammann, South Australia, spends a lot of time spraying – a task he calls “solitary confinement".

He also doesn’t like getting out of the cab to fill up the tank too often, so when technology that reduced this by about half finally became commercially available, he was always going to be a quick adopter.

Particularly having gained an early insight into the technology several years ago.

The Bammanns, based at their home farm Akeringa, near Cleve, continuously crop 6070 hectares to wheat, barley, canola, lentils, peas and lupins.

Due to the dry conditions this season, 1215ha of non-wetting sand and shallow, stony country was not sown to lupins and peas.

A disc sowing system has placed pressure on weed control and management of herbicide-resistant weeds, so careful crop rotation has been important.

Barley grass is the main problem weed and has shown strong resistance to Group A FOP chemistry and some resistance to Group A DIM herbicides.

Mr Bammann said seed-set control at harvest was difficult because barley grass sheds.

Brome grass is another difficult weed on non-wetting sands and while ryegrass is under control, other weeds to manage can include turnips, Indian hedge mustard and sow thistle broadleaf species, as well as melons, fleabane, potato weed, caltrop and silverleaf nightshade, during summer.

“In lentils we can have two summer sprays, a knockdown with a pre-emergent and sometimes a double knock, then a grass herbicide and possibly a second grass spray, a bug spray, up to three fungicide applications, then crop-topping,’’ Mr Bammann said.

“We can have up to nine to 10 passes.

“In cereals, we generally have a couple of summer sprays, knockdowns, pre-emergents and then broadleaf sprays, so we can have four to five applications."

The Bammanns have been controlled traffic farming since 2002, initially set on two metre centres using a home-made marker arm before moving out to 3m centres.

All equipment has been set up to have 12.5m section widths.

Their choice of sprayer has been the Miller Nitro, firstly acquiring a second-hand 4365 model from a neighbour before purchasing a 5365 machine two seasons later.

When the Spray-Air air boom technology was released earlier this year, the family upgraded to the latest Miller Nitro 6333 model.

“There was just under 2000 hours on the 5365, so the trade value was there and we were looking at the air booms," Mr Bammann said.

He said he became aware of the air booms in the early 2000s after hearing from a Canadian speaker at a conference and reading about it in a North American magazine.

The Miller Spray-Air system allows more targeted chemical application through air-assist and air-atomisation technology.

Growers have fingertip control of the droplet size and speed of the air delivery for any spraying application.

To suit their controlled traffic system, the Bammanns arranged for an extra 0.5m to be added to each end of the standard 36.5m Spray-Air boom, which was configured by Miller’s national distributor, McIntosh Distribution.

“It was all done by McIntosh in WA and the company did a really good job," Mr Bammann said.

The Bammanns operate between 20 and 30km/h and fill-up at tanks in specific locations on each of their properties, rather than using nurse tanks.

Using Spray-Air technology, water rates have been cut by 50 per cent.

“With the grass herbicide in-crop we normally use water rates between 70-100 litres a hectare but with the Spray-Air boom we did it at 35L/ha," Mr Bammann said

“We are halving the water and getting the same coverage as an 03 air-induction nozzle.

“So in theory we are also getting twice the concentration of chemical and penetrants, or at least higher concentration anyway.

“The efficacy is a lot quicker with the higher concentration and there is quicker brown-out."

Mr Bammann said another benefit was the shape of the spray pattern.

“Instead of being a fan, it is more of a cone, so we are not getting the shading that you can get with some stubbles,” Mr Bammann said.

“With the cone shape and the fact it is blasted, it is reducing the shading effect."

Mr Bammann said the 35L/ha water rate was also allowing them to cover 175ha with a tank, compared with 85ha at 7L/ha.

“Previously, on a big day, we could have five to six re-fills, whereas we now have half that,” he said.

“We are getting the productivity without carrying any extra tank size.

“It is one of the best tools currently available for stepping up your efficiency."

Mr Bammann admitted that it took a while to “get his head around it", leading to test strips, initially done with McIntosh Distribution.

“We did summer spray test strips at 45L/ha and 35L/ha at 20km/h, and we found the coverage was better at 35L/ha," Mr Bammann said.

“For fungicides, we use a higher water rate, but also higher air pressure to atomise the droplets."

Mr Bammann said the new Miller Nitro 6333 model, which featured an innovative drive train system, provided maximum power with minimum fuel consumption.

“We’re probably saving between 30 and 40 per cent in fuel,” he said.

“With controlled traffic farming, our fuel usage was already pretty good, but we are only doing 1800 revs, compared with full noise with the other machine.”

“The ground clearance is also slightly better with the bigger tyres and the ride is beautiful.

“The in-cab screen is large and much easier to read and the rear camera is handy, although you have to get out to wipe it and the lights at night are much better to see the platform.

“With the other Nitros, I had to use my mobile phone light when exiting."