Crop Cruiser saves time, money

Countryman

Stepping up from a trailed sprayer to a self-propelled machine takes a big investment, but for Lake King's Michael West, choosing Goldacres' Crop Cruiser Evolution earlier this year was an easy decision.

His old boomspray had done four seasons and was due to be traded in. He believes that with the heavy use of sprayers these days, it's important to keep them up to date.

Michael's dedicated spraying tractor had also clocked up 10 years and was also due for replacement.

"Stepping up to a self-propelled made a lot of sense," he said. "It meant we could buy a dedicated machine for around the same money it would have cost to replace both the tractor and sprayer."

While the economics behind investing in a Crop Cruiser were clear for Michael, there was another factor at play.

"We were finding that our spraying program was taking a lot of planning," he said.

"Even though the tractor was pretty much always hooked up to the sprayer, there were times when it was needed on other jobs.

"We'd have to work the spraying around them. It's much better having a dedicated machine - we can spray exactly when the treatment is required."

Michael runs the 5200-hectare Magdhaba Downs in partnership with his wife Asa, his father Bruce and Bruce's wife Nola.

This year, they have sown 1600ha to barley, 1000ha to wheat and there are a further 300ha each of canola and lupins.

Michael said the lupins looked good, better than the price outlook.

While there is much that Michael likes about his new Crop Cruiser Evolution 5236, it is the ride that really gets him smiling.

"It's much, much smoother than the tractor. Even though the tractor had front suspension and a suspended cab, there's just no comparison.

"And the boom rides beautifully. The machine is so well suspended that it doesn't throw the boom around. If you're a bit savage on the steering, you can see a bit of movement in the aluminium sections but the steel sections don't move at all, it's very stable."

He finds the Crop Cruiser Evolution cabin quieter than his tractor, which he attributes to the low engine revs at working speeds.

"The auto transmission does a great job - the engine's really only ticking over when we are spraying at 28 clicks and that's a bit quicker than we used to go with the tractor," he said.

Michael also likes the fact that the Crop Cruiser Evolution is purpose-built for spraying with extra crop clearance.

"That would have been very handy last year when we had an outbreak of stem rust late in the season. I did a couple of paddocks with the sprayer but it was doing too much damage.

"I had to get a plane to do the rest. The Crop Cruiser would have handled it, and apart from saving money we could have also put on more water which would have given a better treatment," he said.

The other feature that has made an impression is fuel economy. It's a tangible input cost that every farmer can understand.

"I did a 240ha paddock that is 18km from home. After driving there and back I'd still only used 95 litres. I couldn't believe it," he said.

"That's under 400ml per hectare and I expect it will come down to around 350 when it loosens up. The fuel flow ranges from 12 litres per hour up into the low 20s, never any more. That's under half what you'd expect with a hydrostatic drive machine."

With Michael expecting to cover at least 15,000ha each cropping year, he is in no doubt that his fuel savings will be substantial.

The new sprayer, purchased from Staines in Esperance, is equipped with a dual line 3TS system that allows the operator to vary application rates and machine speed by switching extra nozzles on and off automatically. There's also auto boom shut-off and a Raven 4400 controller.

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