Watch: Spreading fertiliser with ease and accuracy in Co. Limerick

Packie Moloney farms in Pallaskenry, Co. Limerick and supplies milk to Dairygold Co-op. He runs a spring calving system on 100ac of a mixed owned and rented grazing platform. He utilises a zero-grazer when needed.

In addition to running a dairy farm Packie runs a farm contracting business for customers in his area. The services he provides include fertiliser spreading, baling, spraying etc. Having the correct equipment improves his efficiency and the overall service quality he can offer to his clients.

In 2017, Packie purchased a Trimble CFX-750 Lite from Kerry Tractors for manual guidance to replace his old GPS system. He used it initially with his spreader and sprayer just to show him where to go.

While out with Packie training him on the functions of the CFX-750 Lite Mick McCarthy from Vantage Ireland informed him it was possible to retrofit section control on his Amazone UF1201 sprayer with Trimble Field IQ. This was completed in March 2018.

Packie saw the benefits immediately. The auto shut off of the sections was saving on spray and he was confident that he wasn’t overlapping or missing any parts of the field.

The benefits were clean to be seen with the sprayer and in 2019 Packie bought a Rauch Axis 30.2 EMC fertiliser spreader to mount on his Massey Ferguson 5460.

The spreader is capable of variable rate and section control. He has a lifting crane mounted on the linkage for loading bags of fertiliser when working on customers’ farms.

Variables affecting accuracy

According to Mick there are many variables when it comes to spreading fertilizer accurately. The rate at which the fertilizer goes out, the forward speed, the distance the fertilizer drops behind the spreader and the width.

It can be almost impossible to account for all these factors manually with a high degree of accuracy.

Nowadays many manufacturers have variable rate and section control options. These machines can alter the rate with relation to forward speed once the speed is known, the most accurate way of getting forward speed is from GPS.

These machines can also narrow in the spread width in sections, much like a sprayer. Again, this can be done manually but is extremely hard to judge. The most accurate way of controlling this is with a GPS system.

Trimble is a market leader in application control and developed its own software protocol, TUVR, which many mainstream manufacturers use and is still popular to this day.

This protocol allows the GPS system to “talk” to the fertilizer spreader to take control of the rate and section control. This combined system can achieve accuracy tolerance of 3%.

Yield and soil maps

To take these capabilities to a higher level, if you have yield maps and soil sampling maps you can generate a Variable Rate Map for each field, identifying zones where more or less fertilizer is to be spread, all controlled automatically with the GPS system.

Of course all of the above is also available on an ISOBUS spreader. However, the same functionality is available on non-ISOBUS machines.

The ease of use of the system allows non-skilled operators to spread fertilizer accurately with minimal training and gives peace of mind that the job is done right, as it automatically turns on and off the spreader at the headlands and also narrow in the spread automatically. So all you have to do is ‘paint in’ the field on the display.

The benefits Packie has seen since using the system include:
  • No double spreading on the headlands or when meeting angles in the field;
  • Regardless of your forward speed the same amount of fertiliser is spread;
  • The ability to be able to set the rate at which you want to spread fertiliser;
  • Fertiliser spreading is a lot easier than before by using the Trimble Guidance.