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Downsizing sprayers

Over the past 10 years, sprayers have grown to super-size proportions to meet the needs of larger producers.

“But large sprayers don't fit every farm or application,” says Ken Lehmann, Case IH. “Having a wide range of product offerings allows us to meet customer requirements. And some of those customers desire a smaller sprayer. Whether they're looking for light and nimble, a sprayer to match the size of their farm, tank capacity to match their tendering setup, or a lower cost unit, having a smaller offering provides solutions for those growers who can't justify the purchase of a larger capacity sprayer.”

Companies take note

Within the last three years, companies like Case IH, John Deere, and Hagie Manufacturing have noticed this latest trend to downsized sprayers, and they've introduced machines to fill that need.

“In just the past three years, John Deere has introduced a 600-gallon sprayer, and Case IH has released an 800-gallon sprayer. Along with our recent introduction of the STX10 1,000-gallon sprayer, the emphasis on the midsize farmer has been increased,” says Jim Williams, Hagie Manufacturing. “We have seen an increase in the number of applications being made and an increased focus in the timing of those applications.”

Williams notes that there has also been an increased awareness of machine weight and compaction, and he says, “Both have influenced the design of smaller machines.”

John Deere's Nick Weinrich says they are hearing the same thing from midsize growers related to timing. But he notes that increasing efficiencies is also important.

“There is a trend focusing on the midsize farmer due to more demand to put fertilizer and chemicals on when needed,” says Weinrich. “Customers are looking for a machine that fits their operation. They are looking for features and opportunities in a sprayer that will increase their productivity and efficiency to get their acres covered in the time frame needed, based on the crop's demand for nutrient and chemicals.”

It has created the perfect storm for the sprayer manufacturing industry, as more and more growers continue to see the advantages of applying fertilizer and chemicals themselves.

Weinrich says it may not be common knowledge, but up until 2009, when the 4630 (600-gallon machine) was introduced, Deere was producing a 400-gallon machine — the 6700.

“When it came time to replace the 6700, customers were asking for a more productive and efficient machine,” Weinrich says.

Price is a factor

“The big influence to design a machine that fits into this category is price,” says Weinrich. “If midsize farmers are wanting to apply their own fertilizer and chemicals, they have to be able to afford the machine to do it. A smaller, lower priced machine gives them the ability to buy new, with the benefits of integrated technology, such as automatic guidance, swath control, and rate control.”

Deere is also seeing customers move from pull-type sprayers to self-propelled machines.

“The pull-types have the ability to carry a lot of product but are limited by speed due to comfort and the integration of technology. That's where customers are willing to give up volume to gain speed, comfort, and technology, ultimately keeping their productiveness or even gaining productivity,” says Weinrich.

Case IH is seeing a similar shift. “Grower purchases of self-propelled sprayers continue to rise. So it makes sense to offer products that fit what these customers are looking for,” says Lehmann. “Midsize growers have the same demands as their larger counterparts; that is, being able to spray the crop at the right agronomic moment and owning a sprayer that allows them to do that. The driving force behind the introduction of the Case IH Patriot 3230 was to maintain our presence in the 800-gallon sprayer segment.”

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While the iron discussion is important, all three companies emphasize that the need for precision farming technologies is every bit as important for the midsize grower as it is for the larger grower.

“Being able to spray at the right time and doing a quality job is critical in a spray application. So features like auto guidance, automatic boom section control, and advanced spray technology help provide solutions to satisfy those application requirements,” says Case IH's Lehmann.

“Although larger equipment usually means higher efficacies, with the technology available today (such as guidance, steering, and boom section control), it's easier for smaller machines to equal these efficiencies,” says Hagie Manufacturing's Williams.

Reasons for shifting down

John Deere says as customers farm more acres and manage fleets of equipment to plant, till, and harvest crops, there are some trends that may actually see a downsizing of equipment. With the advance of new technology, producers are able to gain more efficiency from tractors, planters, tillage equipment, and combines.

Growers should analyze these five factors when buying equipment.

• Transport. With farmers covering more acres and working fields that are farther apart, transport becomes a major issue. Are there narrow bridges, gates, or roads to navigate?

• Fuel economy. Larger machines need more fuel. There is a balance between acres covered and fuel consumption for acres worked. Precision guidance has helped bring more efficiency to every pass in the field with equipment, both large and small.

• Trade-in value. If a customer works with a local dealer and trades equipment every year, the dealer needs equipment that can be resold to a healthy used equipment market. Sometimes the largest machines are more difficult to sell in certain areas.

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• Faster field speeds. With precision guidance and great accuracy, some equipment can be operated at faster field speeds. Producers can get more done in less time.

• Financial programs and tax incentives. Renting, leasing, and buying equipment are all options based on equipment availability, tax incentives, and a farmer's own analysis from consultants or financial advisers. The right mix of machinery could make a difference for each farm operation.

“The key to all of this is for producers to work with their local dealers to find the right mix of equipment to bring more efficiency and productivity to the overall farm operation,” says Barry Nelson, John Deere.

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