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Demand grows for cost-effective summer spraying

SPOT spray technology

SPOT spray technology is helping growers in the Wongan Hills region target harder-to-kill summer weeds in a more efficient and cost-effective manner.

Landmark Wongan Hills has been operating a spray contracting service for three seasons and demand has been steadily increasing, to the point where it has now upgraded its system and hired a full-time operator.

According to Merchandise Manager Todd Keeffe, the branch started the contract service as an opportunity to help growers tackle harder-to-kill weeds and fight resistance by using a more targeted herbicide spray system.

The branch was previously running a 24m trailed WeedSeeker behind a Toyota Landcruiser, but at the beginning of the year it took delivery of a new Miller Nitro 5240 self-propelled sprayer with 36m Quick Attach WeedSeeker system.

“I guess we just dipped our toe in the water with the trail boom,” Todd said.

“It had its limitations being purely a summer rig, plus some inefficiency with the smaller boom and tank.

“By upgrading to the Nitro with the Quick Attach system, we are able to transition from a spot spray machine into a full blanket rig without too much fuss – and we don’t have to pack the machine up at the end of summer.

“The majority of farmers wouldn’t have the capacity to have this sort of technology sitting in their shed for nine months of the year or longer if the season doesn’t call for it.

“We saw a worthwhile opportunity for us to help by eliminating some of those costs for growers and help tackle the harder-to-kill weeds and fight resistance.

“We’ve got clients who have used the WeedSeeker for a few seasons now with good results and others who are booking the Nitro purely because of the WeedSeeker.

“We’re targeting summer weeds that are harder to kill, such as fleabane and roly-poly, wireweed, couch grass and melons.”

The WeedSeeker selective spot spray system, distributed throughout Australia by McIntosh Distribution, works by emitting a dual frequency light band.

The reflected light is then analysed by a sensor looking for the distinct light signature of chlorophyll present in weeds.

If a weed is present, a signal is sent to a solenoid that directs a burst of chemical directly onto the weed.

This is performed incredibly fast, with the sensors sampling ground at 79,000 times a second.

“The beauty of this system is that it’s pretty simple to operate, so while we do have Aaron Derbyshire as our full-time operator, if anyone else from the branch does need to jump in there and use it, it’s easy to pick up,” Todd said.

“The fact that it sits out in front means you can see what’s going on and it’s out of the dust, which eliminates that factor.

“The old machine used to misfire a bit with dust behind wheels, but now we don’t have that problem.”

Todd said the branch generally travelled within a 100-kilometre radius with the Nitro, but would consider travelling further depending on the contract.

He said clients who had used the WeedSeeker had been impressed with the herbicide savings per hectare using the system, which can be up to 90 per cent in some situations.

“We’ve covered just over 30,000 hectares so far and have seen jobs covering anywhere from as low as 6pc up to 20-30pc of the paddock. Although the savings lessen the higher you go, even at 20pc you’re looking at herbicide savings of $6-$7/ha compared with a conventional system."

“It’s not a silver bullet, but it certainly offers a good, cost-effective option.

“We found last year during summer, especially when it was quite wet, that many growers had done a blanket spray and then wanted us to come back through for any big weeds that had survived that initial spray.

“It’s a cheaper option for them for us to go in with the WeedSeeker, rather than do another blanket spray.

“We are also able to use some higher rates as well as new chemical groups that are otherwise too expensive to broadcast over an entire paddock.”

The WeedSeeker can be fitted to most boomsprays and is also available as a standard tug-along boom based on the proven Sonic Boomsprays chassis and suspended boom, and which also features a 3000-litre tank and widths up to 40m.

Todd said the branch had just reattached the WeedSeeker to the Miller Nitro using the Quick Attach system and it was anticipating another busy summer spraying period.

“We’ve already noticed some caltrop and melons starting to grow, so we’re anticipating it to be quite a busy summer spraying period, especially if it’s another wet one like last season,” he said.

“If growers are thinking about the WeedSeeker and have any questions, I would encourage them to give us a call and we can have a chat.”