Advances in spreading accuracy had, up until this spring, been largely ignored, despite companies like Sulky putting tremendous efforts into improving the situation.

The hike in prices earlier this year has certainly awoken farming from its torpor and dealerships throughout Ireland report a surge in interest for machines that are ISOBUS-enabled and are capable of working with GPS systems.

Setting spread width

The chief route to ensuring more efficient use of fertiliser is the avoidance of overlapping at headlands, and this may be done by section control.

Disc vanes sulky
The rate is controlled in the normal way on standard manual machines

Section control is a term borrowed from the spraying world but in essence it means the reduction in spreading width on one side of the tractor as it approaches headlands at an angle.

In spraying, this is usually achieved by shutting off sections of the boom, or even individual nozzles, but with granular fertiliser being thrown out by a spinning disc a different method has to be used.

The Sulky way

There are, in fact, two different ways in which spreading width can be altered with a disc-type spreader.

The first is by altering the speed of the disc. By doing so, the material is not thrown so far, but it is only possible if the discs are driven hydraulically as individual units.

The second method is to alter the point at which the fertiliser is dropped on to the disc.

The closer this point is to the centre of the disc, then the greater the length of time it is accelerated by the vanes and so the higher the velocity at which it leaves the disc edge.

Matching rate to drop point

It is essential that whatever the method used, the feed rate to the disc is reduced in line with a smaller area of ground being treated.

The majority of spreaders sold capable of section control use the variation in disc speed to control spreading width. Sulky, on the other hand, goes with altering the drop point.

Drop point, Sulky
Setting the drop point is done by a quadrant on the side of the hopper

This, the company claims is a simpler way of going about the task and does not require any alteration to the vane positions. It also maintains a more consistent spread pattern.

The drop point is altered by a quadrant on the side of the hopper on manual models or electronically on more advanced machines.

Brittany base

The French company, which now employs 300 staff, can’t be that far wrong as it sells over 4,000 machines a year and has been represented in Ireland by Farmec, of Co. Meath, since 2003.

Farmec is now run by Gary Daly, son of the founder Geoff Daly, who formed the company, as it is now, in 1994. It is still very much a family concern with Gary’s sister, Jennie, running the office.

Sulky Co Meath
(L-r); Stephen Cooney, sales manage; Geoff Daly, commercial director; Gary Daly, sales director Farmec

Geoff, however, had been actively selling brands such as Kidd and Taarup since the 1970s and was already well known in the trade, Indeed, both he and Gary have served as president of the Farm Tractor Machinery Trade Association (FTMTA) during their careers.

The firm recently built new offices at its base and it is from here that Gary is determined to enlarge the presence and sales of the three major lines they import into Ireland.

Portfolio of products

Besides Sulky, it is MX loaders and SIP which form the backbone of business. Other makes such as Bargam, Twose and TeeJet also make up a significant part of its turnover.

Gary notes that Sulky is proving to be an ideal choice for Irish farmers. The spreaders come with a long guarantee and are robust enough to survive the rigours of farming in Ireland.

The company also produces power harrows and drills and it is the latter which is a source of a great deal of enthusiasm within the team.

Fresh start

It was 10 years ago that Sulky drew up a clean sheet of paper upon which it started to sketch out the ideal drill.

Sulky Progress drill
The Progress P100 drill will be on display at the FTMTA Punchestown show before setting off on a demo tour

Into the design went two years of consultation with farmers and dealers, and even a joint exercise with Airbus engineers to create an ideal distribution head, before it finally saw the light of day.

Now being demonstrated in Ireland for the first time this season, the Progress drill is a three-in-one machine, in that it can be used after standard cultivations, for minimum tillage and, if the soil is right, direct drilling.

Natural progression

Gary sees the drill as being the ideal answer for farmers wishing to reduce their reliance on conventional cultivations as switching directly to direct drilling usually ends in tears.

He recommends a gradual change to either non conventional techniques, as building up the soil’s reserves of organic matter is of paramount importance he believes.

The Sulky drill can serve the farmer as he progresses through the process, and contractors are able to offer drilling in a much wider variety of situations.