SectionControl - is it what its shut-off to be?


The cost of mineral fertiliser inputs has stayed stubbornly high in respect to falling commodity prices and so growers are increasingly looking for ways of maximising their use, for example, by the adoption of variable rate application maps, predominantly for P & Ks, but also now with Nitrogen as well through the use of satellite imagery, on-line sensor systems or deep soil core testing. Tray testing the spreader to make sure of the lateral distribution pattern is a must, especially where we are using products which are not necessarily in the spreader’s setting chart. The introduction of the new NSTS, the National Spreader Testing Scheme, will help to focus farmer’s minds on getting the spreader tested for spread pattern ahead of the spreading season. Weigh-cells fitted to present day fertiliser spreaders, such as the ZA-TS Profis or the new ZA-V Profis machines weigh at 200 Hz, that’s 200 readings per second coming from the weigh cells to the spreaders ECU ‘brain’ to make sure the spread rate is kept accurate no matter what the weather, ground topography or product flow rates are doing at that split second across the day.

With all this technology at our fingertips, the one area that we can take a look at with regard to continuing to maximise our fertiliser usage by avoiding wastage, maintaining yields and, at the same time, protecting the environment is in the area of headland management.

For that first time round, modern headland spreading techniques, such as the AutoTS integrated border spreading blade system as found on the ZA-TS range of spreaders can increase yield on the first 12 metres round the hedge back by as much as 15%. The increased disc speed off a shorter spreading blade gives a spread pattern with a vicious cut-off against the hedge side so that the days of uneven crop growth and potential lodging around the field border are now a thing of the past.

But when it comes to entering the headland and stopping and starting the spreader, what technology is out there to keep making those savings? We take it for granted now with sprayers that we can switch the boom off and on in sections along its length via a GPS signal and, depending on the severity of the short work, we can end up with a sprayer running into the headland with just one section of nozzles out on the boom tip still spraying. On the fertiliser spreader front, and with the exception of double, double, overlap machines, we have always had the ability to switch off the right or the left hand side of the spreader manually when approaching the headland. This all changed, however, in 2007 with the introduction of the ZA-M Profis Hydro with 6 section shut-off via application rate and individual disc speed reduction. And so by utilising this system through GPS-Switch, it meant that fertiliser spreaders also enjoyed automatic part-width, section control. This, though, was a question of three sections on the left and disc and three on the right but no ‘crossover’ between left and right if we go back to the sprayer comparison.

Luckily, the introduction of new models of spreader with wider throwing widths and more overlap such as the ZA-V and ZA-TS, now sees clever software maximising the ability of a spreader to switch itself down when in running work, either in 8 sections with PTO-driven models with no delivery system adjustment or 16 sections with PTO-drive but an electric in-cab delivery system adjustment. However, more radical, is the ZA-TS Profis Hydro, which now offers the grower ‘stepless’ infinitely variable SectionControl on twin disc spreaders vis a vie what an individual nozzle shut-off system on a sprayer would offer, a system which, with the exceptional of AmaSelect on Amazone UX and Pantera sprayers, is still very uncommon.
So SectionControl is now available for all budgets and on all machine sizes and at any level of sophistication. With fertiliser savings in the order of 5% possible even with the 6-section shut-off on the ZA-M Profis Hydro, then the potential cost cutting by going up to the new ZA-TS Profis Hydro, with electric delivery system adjustment, can not only offer considerable reductions in the amount of fertiliser purchased but also in improved yields and grain quality around end rigs plus reduced lodging for easier combining.

So, when considering purchasing a new fertiliser spreader, we need to look at the pros and cons of not only being able to shut off just a few sections but to buy into the ability to have a seamless shut down right through the middle so the spreader can also have just those few ‘nozzles’ on the boom tip working just like the sprayer. One thing to note though is that the number of sections is limited by the ISOBUS terminal in the cab so make sure the desired operating system can offer the full 128 sections that are potentially possible from a controller such as Amazone’s AMAPAD.

By buying into the right technology then SectionControl is what its shut-off to be, make the most of your fertiliser in the field and make the most of every acre.