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Crop dividers now essential for busy WA spray contractor

Originally published in Farm Weekly - Thursday, October 14, 2021

McIntosh & Son

WA spray contractor Trent Ridgway, Ridgway Contracting, and his ‘trusted worker’, Zara, with the E-Kay Crop Dividers on his Miller Nitro sprayer.

ADDING a set of crop dividers to spray equipment costs to help prevent wheel damage while in-crop spraying can be considered a bridge too far for some, but contractor Trent Ridgway now won’t run a self-propelled sprayer without them and his workload has doubled since making the move.

Trent said his E-Kay Crop Dividers had played an even bigger role this year due to the wetter conditions in many areas, as well as the shortage of aerial contractors, which had resulted in the requirement for significant late-season in-crop spraying.

“This season, because it was so wet, we went to wider (650) tyres with the dividers on the front and you could see the crop recover in seven days – you could see it cover over the wheel tracks,’’ he said.

Trent still has thousands of hectares of crop-topping and canola and lupin desiccation in front of him to finish the season.

It is claimed the E-Kay Crop Dividers, which can be fitted to a wide range of sprayers and Trent sourced via his relationship with McIntosh & Son at Kulin and Merredin, can reduce yield loss from wheel damage by up to 90 per cent, but he said he believed it was more than 90pc.

“We have noticed it again this year and it is massive what we are saving.’’

Trent operates Ridgway Contracting, which offers spraying and spreading services based from Beverley, and the business supports growers throughout the central and eastern wheatbelt areas.

He got his second set of E-Kay Crop Dividers for this season after upgrading from a Case IH Patriot sprayer to a Miller Nitro 6365 with the manufacturer’s air-assisted spraying technology, Spray-Air.

Growing demand for late-season spraying of fungicides, Flexi-N liquid nitrogen, insecticides and herbicides for desiccating crops, particularly around Beverley and Brookton, has made the cost-effective dividers increasingly worthwhile.

“The interest from clients is very strong. Every year they want less damage. The crops recover really quickly,’’ Trent said.

He said after completing about 1000 hectares for one farmer, they were so impressed with the lack of damage that they wanted to complete their full program, which became restricted to about another 1500ha due to the wet conditions.

Trent said the E-Kay Crop Dividers were simple to install by himself.

They feature lightweight poly cones with a solid front tip and flared sides.

“You just bolt the nose cone on and you are ready to go. Then it takes about 20 minutes to set up the height that you need,’’ Trent said.

A pivoting divider arm with minimal moving parts allows easy adjustment for different crop conditions. Both the pitch and height can be adjusted to suit the particular crop.

The nose cone is spring-loaded and so easily trips over any obstacles or when travelling through ditches.

“This happens a lot when you are going through gullies and roadways. They need to be able to break away and then they return back to where you have got them set,’’ Trent said.

He said a hook for transport mode also easily lifted the dividers out of the way for loading and transport.

“Being in the central wheatbelt and working further east, we shift the Nitro on the back of a truck and the dividers are not affected. We just drive it straight on the truck.’’

Trent said even a built-in mudguard had become handy during the wetter conditions this season.

He said the switch to the Miller Nitro sprayer with Spray-Air from the Case IH Patriot had been a big move, but it also had delivered key benefits and the support from the McIntosh & Son network had been excellent.

“Being able to see the sprayer system upfront with the front-mount is great and with Spray-Air we are able to use lower water rates.’’

“From the start of August to mid-September we put out a lot of nitrogen and fungicides, and the only machine that really gets fungicides down in the canopy is Spray-Air.’’

Trent said the Miller Nitro also had fantastic ground clearance, whereas the Case IH Patriot was a little low and this could present problems with the height of genetically-modified canola crops, where it could knock-off the flowers at certain stages.

Meanwhile, the successful sprayer move also has since flowed through to an investment by Ridgway Contracting into an Agri-Spread spreader.