Sprayers - dealing with NSTS requirements

With statutory testing affecting amenity and production, Sally Drury looks at how manufacturers' latest products can reduce downtime and create savings.

Ogbourne Downs Golf Club: Multi Pro 1750-D selected by manager Simon Plummer - image: Toro
Ogbourne Downs Golf Club: Multi Pro 1750-D selected by manager Simon Plummer - image: Toro

Grandfather rights are dead. Since November 2015, all persons applying pesticides must hold NPTC Pesticide Application module 1 and then the PA module appropriate to the type of sprayer being used — for instance, PA6 for use of knapsack sprayers and PA2 for using a boom-type sprayer.

Not surprisingly, perhaps, there was a rush of people trying to get these qualifications before the onset of this spraying season.

Now the industry is anticipating another rush, this time to replace worn out old sprayers that are unlikely to pass the National Sprayer Testing Scheme (NSTS), which satisfies the testing requirements of the EU-mandatory Sustainable Use Directive legislation.

NSTS is not a new scheme. In fact, it was introduced in 2003, but then it was voluntary. Now it is statutory. It is simple really — from 26 November 2016 all active pesticide application equipment, other than knapsacks and handheld kit, requires an NSTS certificate.

Applicable equipment

"The legislation change applies to all sprayers, aside from knapsack and handheld. So this includes boom, air-blast and all vehicle-mounted and trailed sprayers as well as ATV-mounted and those of less than 3m boom width," explains Lely UK head of training Neil Adams.

By 2020, sprayers of 3m boom width or more, with an existing NSTS certificate, must have been tested in the past five years, by which point the requirement for retesting reduces to three years. Sprayers of less than 3m boom width, however, only need to be tested every six years after 2020. Handheld and knapsack sprayers should be regularly checked against the list on the NSTS website and a record kept.

There are 47 items covered by the test, including all application components of the sprayer to ensure that the machine is working correctly and efficiently with further considerations of safety for the sprayer operative and the environment. The first 30 items must be satisfied to receive a pass certificate. Sprayer suppliers such as Gambetti are already reporting an upsurge in interest as owners and managers, fearing their old equipment will fail, hurriedly seek information about new applicators.

For some operators, the NSTS will no doubt be seen as just more red tape, more paperwork and another hoop through which to jump. Yet sprayer testing does make sense. Ensuring the sprayer is efficient can reduce costly downtime and create savings in chemical usage through accurate application as well as contributing to the safety of the operator and the environment. It is a factor that Wiltshire’s Ogbourne Downs Golf Club course manager Simon Plummer knows well.

With the merging need for a new sprayer and considering the Sustainable Use Directive’s legislation, Plummer opted for a Toro Multi Pro 1750-D. "There has been a lot of press regarding sprayers with the new legislation coming in and it was good timing in some respects that we needed a new sprayer and are now ready for the legislation coming into force in November," he says. "It’s good to know the sprayer is registered, has had its first test and is now on the system ready for its next check.

"The difference between this sprayer and our old one is huge and makes it very evident why this legislation is a good idea. We mainly use our sprayer once a month with foliar feed and the precision of the sprayer is so accurate we can pinpoint exactly the areas we need to spray. It is, without question, better for the environment, more economical and better for the operator and people around."

Over in north-west Norfolk, Hunstanton Golf Club’s head greenkeeper Peter Read has found a similar situation. "Our previous sprayer was getting very old. With the new laws coming in, it was never going to pass the test," he says. In light of the statutory NSTS testing being introduced, Read chose the Multi Pro 5800 from Toro.

The right time to upgrade

If you have just pulled your sprayer out of the shed and found it is rustier than last year, leaking and beyond repair, there are plenty of new models available for you to consider. Now could be the right time to invest in the latest kit.

StarGreen, although having pedigree, is a new brand on the amenity sports turf market. It comes from Vale Engineering (York), a leading manufacturer of winter maintenance and municipal weed-control equipment. StarGreen products are built in-house at Vale Engineering’s York factory and will be sold exclusively through dealers.

Vale Engineering managing director James Wilson says: "The range will start with sprayers including tractor-mounted and trailed units together with truck-mounted sprayers for the ProGator and Workman-type vehicles and then will expand to other complementary machinery such as top dressers and aerators."

The nature of machines previously manufactured and the customers supplied by Vale have meant the company typically sold direct. But Wilson predicts this market to be larger and more suited to being supplied through a dealer network. "We are now actively building relationships that we are looking forward to growing over the forthcoming years," he confirms.

StarGreen machines have been designed to be uncomplicated and user-friendly, having a high-quality finish and realistic pricing. For example, the 300-litre tractor-mounted sprayer has a RRP of £3,358 + VAT.

Wilson explains: "We have looked at our competitors and identified various features that will help the operator without increasing the overall cost of the machine. For instance, we have included a boom catch to hold the booms closed and secure when in transport, hose guides to ensure the booms fold and unfold without fouling the hose and make sure the hose doesn’t obstruct the spray pattern and bout marker droppers are secured in place with stainless steel clamps rather than just bolted on. Also, stainless steel induction bowls and clean water tank/clothing lockers on the pro sprayers for quality."

Greater choice for growers

Growers seeking a new sprayer will find their choice also increased over the past 12 months. Team Sprayers of Ely has a 35-year history of engineering sprayers in the UK but for the first time is supplementing its offering with a range of fruit sprayers from Italian firm SAE.

"There’s a growing appetite for cider, especially from younger drinkers, and having received interest from our dealers, rather than develop our own fruit sprayers it makes sense to improve proven machinery from a respected manufacturer equally keen to establish their Turbmatic brand in the orchards of England," says Team sales director Danny Hubbard.

The SAE Turbmatic range includes trailed models with fans from 650mm to 910mm, certified for low power absorption and symmetrical distribution, with front or rear aspiration. These are also available with a tower aspirator. Tanks come in 600- to 3,000-litre capacities and combine a fresh water tank mounted within the main tank to reinforce the overall structure and aid stability during road transport and when working on inclines.

Tractor-mounted compact options as well as high-productivity "twin" fan systems are also available within the SAE brand.

Bargam has started offering machines with specialist air-blast sprayers for the fruit market. So far two units with directional nozzles have been sold to a fruit farmer based in Kent.

Having started sprayer production more than 120 years ago in the vineyards of France, Berthoud has plenty of experience in effective spraying of orchards and soft fruits. The company’s extensive range includes mounted and trailed fruit sprayers with delivery systems dedicated to cane-grown berries, tabletop fruit in tunnels, orchards and open-field applications.

Top sellers in the UK include the trailed Fruct-air orchard sprayer with 900mm reverse intake fan and optional tower system, and the latest Win-air with enclosed fan unit to prevent clogging from debris and directional AB Most "drop leg" booms — particularly suited to hedgerow fruit. Its advance design includes minimum pipe runs, a diamond-shaped tank sump to minimise residues, Berlogic controls and operator clean-water handwash.

Other equipment from Berthoud includes the Twist-air articulated semi-mounted soft sprayers in 600-, 800- and 1,000-litre capacities with a tight turning circle, balance for working on slopes and a choice of diffusers or cannons. Vegetable sprayers are available in mounted or trailed designs.

High-end options available

John Deere’s M700 and M900 Series trailed sprayers, which include six models from 2,400 to 6,200 litres and booms from 18m to 40m, are now available with two high-end options. The BoomTrac automatic boom levelling and height control systems and LED field lighting options are designed to increase performance and uptime while lowering operating costs.

BoomTrac uses ultrasonic sensors to measure the height of the boom above the crop or soil. If changes in the target surface mean the boom is on a longer level, the system adjusts it to maintain optimum distance, reducing the risk of spray drift and improving target coverage. The twin LED lighting kit mounts below the boom’s centre frame assembly to illuminate the boom and spray pattern below each nozzle.

Growers have an opportunity to view the new 5,000-litre R4050i self-propelled sprayer making its UK and Ireland debut at the Cereals 2016 event in Cambridgeshire next week (15-16 June). Joining the existing 4,000-litre R4040i and powered by the same 6.8-litre John Deere PowerTech PSS engine, it boasts a carbon-fibre boom to offer a lighter alternative to aluminium or steel and gives spray widths of 18m or 36m. Full production is planned for 2018 but limited numbers will be available from early 2017.

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