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Program puts spreaders to the test

Countryman

There was strong interest from producers and fertiliser industry participants in a series of Accu-Spread demonstration days run in the South West earlier this year.

The demo days were co-ordinated by South West Catchment Council regional officer Jenny Rowbottom, with support from Department of Agriculture and Food WA.

Ten sites were selected from Ellenbrook, then travelling to Waroona, Harvey, Boyanup, Busselton, Cowaramup, Margaret River, Scott River and finishing in Denmark.

Australian Fertiliser Services Association Accu-Spread program leader Russell Nichol ran the workshops, along with WA's testing officer - AFSA WA's Larry Marchant.

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Five farmers near each testing site had the opportunity to test their fertiliser spreaders for the accuracy of evenness of spread in accordance with AFSA's Accreditation Program, though these tests were for demonstration only.

AFSA WA president Kevin Spurr said Accu-Spread was a program that involved the independent testing and accreditation of fertiliser spreading equipment for accuracy and evenness of spreading.

He said the testing process involved driving the spreader machine over 50 equal-sized-and-spaced collection trays, while the machine discharged product.

The spreader passes over the trays two to three times, and the contents of each tray are weighed and their location in relation to the centre of the spreader recorded.

The data is entered into a computer program and a graph is created showing the test pattern, in terms of width and quantity of product spread, compared to the desired pattern.

As the machines were put through their paces, Mr Nichol explained the fertiliser spread pattern from each machine tested as to the width of spread it had achieved using the National Standard (15 per cent co-efficient of variation).

He then explained what adjustments could be made to optimise the machine's performance to improve productivity.

"Many farmers were surprised at some of the results of their machines spreading pattern using Superphos and urea, which showed that they weren't performing to the standard that they thought and that some tweaking was required," Mr Spurr said.

He said the benefits of being Accu-Spread-accredited were accuracy of fertiliser placement, enabling increased nutrient uptake by plants and less opportunity for excess fertiliser to leach into the waterways, the ability to spread a wider bout width and less fuel usage.

The fertiliser contributes to on-farm quality assurance programs.

"Knowing the fertiliser spread pattern and width of spread enables operators to make adjustments to machinery to optimise the machines performance to improve productivity - for the operator and the farmer," Mr Spurr said.

"Without an Accu-Spread test, an operator cannot be certain of the spread pattern of the machine.

"It could be over applying nutrients in some parts and under applying them in others.

"Without this knowledge, the operator is unable to optimise the performance of the machine for the best environmental and productivity outcomes for both operator and the client."

Accu-Spread is a part of the Australian Fertiliser Industry's Fertcare initiative. An Accu-Spread tested machine and a Fertcare trained operator are important in best practice fertiliser application.

Fertcare is a national training/accreditation program for fertiliser and soil ameliorant businesses.

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