AUSSIE ANGLES - Treading lightly

Sunday, October 8, 2017

David Cruthers from Deloraine-based Earley Spreading says the company’s latest MAN spreader is a high productivity truck that treads lightly in the fields.

Tasmanian farmers are benefiting from the versatility and productivity gains of Earley Spreading’s latest MAN’s TGM 18.340 4x4 fitted with low soil compaction AIR CTI and Southern Spreaders truck mounted spreading unit.

“To fully appreciate how well this machine works, wait till we’ve had a decent downpour of rain,” David Cruthers had said a few weeks earlier.

Loading up for another round.

Spread the love with minimal disruption to pasture and soil.

Sure enough, a few weeks later the rain arrived and dumped almost 100mm over the next three days, ensuring the paddocks would be suitably wet enough for the new MAN spreader to demonstrate its features.

David has spent more years than he cares to remember spreading fertiliser throughout most of the northern part of Tasmania and reckons he knows where every bump and tree stump in each paddock is located. He, along with owner Bill Earley, has been instrumental in adapting new efficiencies and technologies to spreading in the State.

Dave Cruthers believes the MAN’s TGM 18.340 4x4 fitted with AIR CTI and a Southern Spreaders spreading unit is as close to perfect for the task as you’d get.

Farming, like road transport, has its unique idiosyncrasies that play a role in the business’s profitability and one of the pressing issues for farmers is soil compaction. According to David the MAN 18.340 ticks a number of boxes, which is why they’re the preferred truck with bulk spreading operators across the nation.

“For starters the MAN is up to a tonne lighter than some of the competitor vehicles. We use the big Michelin 495/70 24XM47 floatation tyres which helps improve traction and spreads the load over a wider area compared with traditional truck tyres,” said David.

The business end of delivery. The chain feed provides a more consistent and even delivery to the spinners than a belt set up, particularly on hilly terrain.

However, in wet, soft going the MAN needs an even bigger tyre footprint to reduce its impact on the paddock. David can adjust his tyre pressures using the AIR CTI (central tyre inflation) system. By reducing the tyre pressure to 30 PSI in the paddock the tyre’s footprint increases greatly, reducing the impact to the soil.

A recent study on agricultural soils by UTAS and Tasmanian Institute of Agricultural Research reported that nearly 70% of compaction is caused by compression from wheeled farm machinery traffic. The report suggested that prevention of compaction is a better and cheaper alternative than treating it.

Field trials by an Ontario farmer in 2013 revealed that deflating tyres from road pressures to lower field pressures used 14% less fuel, as well as reducing compaction and improving traction. On the other side of the globe in Scotland, Michelin recently ran similar field trials that revealed a 36% reduction in soil compaction and a 9% reduction in fuel.

“There is plenty of information and evidence available that shows the benefits of running a central tyre inflation system,” said David.

“Lowering the tyre pressure when in the paddock gives a much smoother ride. One thing we’ve noticed is that by lowering the tyre pressure in the paddock we are seeing a significant reduction in wear and tear on the truck’s chassis components, spring bushes and the spreader bin.

“Being able to adjust the tyre pressures on the fly adds significant productivity to my day,” David added. “These big Michelin tyres are not cheap and looking after them is paramount to our profitability. I can fine-tune the pressure up and down 10PSI (69kpa) with the plus and minus buttons.

“The CTI has obvious benefits in regard to traction, preventing the digging of wheel ruts up and down the field that may cause drainage and erosion issues later on.”

The AIR CTI set-up.

Spreader bin

Southern Spreaders’ 750 Chain Contractor spreading bin is designed specifically for contractors or large scale farmers who require a multipurpose machine to spread a variety of products from heavy rates of manure to light rates of urea.

“It’s a versatile spreader for heavy products like we’re using today that can compact in the bin,” David explained. “On this unit the conveyor removes the product with ease, due to its positive hydraulic drive system. We can achieve great spread widths allowing fewer passes in the paddock, which translates to less compaction in the field and greater productivity. These spreaders are easy to maintain because there are fewer moving parts than a conventional belt spreader.

“We have a GPS unit coupled to the spreader, which regulates the amount of product being spread,” said David. “So if I slow down for some rough going, the GPS automatically adjusts the fertiliser feed to suit the speed of the truck. Conversely it also tracks and logs where the product has been spread in the paddock. At the end of the job the farmer is emailed this information, which he can store and use for accurate future orders. This gives valuable proof of placement records and helps to prevent farmers from double spreading.

“It saves so much time too because we know where we have to spread product before we arrive on site,” said David.

“Prior to when we had the GPS system we’d often be waiting at the gate for a farmer to turn up and tell us where to spread the product and sometimes that could take hours. Thankfully those days are behind us.”

When asked about the reliability of the MAN truck, David smiled and replied, “They must be good, we have six of them now and they don’t miss a beat”.