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A Norfolk farmer says his recently purchasedFendt Rogator sprayer has rapidly become his most important machine. How self-propelled sprayer switch made life easier on Norfolk farm

A Norfolk farmer says his recently purchasedFendt Rogator sprayer has rapidly become  his most important machine.

Trading as Avocet Farming, Mark Gill grows some 900ha of cereals and 560ha of maize on owned, rented and contract-farmed land at Coston Hall, near Norwich. Mark manages the arable business and an AD plant. His brother John runs a dairy operation.

The arable division supplies straw and machinery to the livestock enterprise. Manure from the dairy is applied to crops and fuels the AD plant.

Diverse cropping

Land is mainly medium loam, but there are also areas of lighter and stronger soil. Under sowing, companion cropping and cover cropping are used to optimise productivity.

Strip-tillage allows double-cropping of maize behind rye so two crops can be harvested in a single season. Rye is either combined for grain or harvested as forage for the AD plant.

Digestate applied to land optimises soil health and provide organic fertiliser. But some is also bagged and sold as green compost for gardening under the Grow Greener name.

The farm used trailed sprayers until 2018, when wet weather hampered mobility  and resulted in deep wheelings.

“I did most of the spraying that season and became very aware of the mess created by the tractor and sprayer combination,” says Mark.

“It tracked well, but having three axles meant a lot of crop was run down when reversing into corners and negotiating obstructions. We tried several self-propelled machines before deciding on an AGCO Challenger Rogator with a 5,000-litre tank and 36m booms. Although the trailed sprayer it replaced had a 6,000-litre tank, work rates were up to 35% higher.

“It revolutionised our spraying, and also made it practical to use two sets of wheels,” says Mark.

With all four wheels driven and tracking perfectly during turns there was little ground damage, even in the wet, and especially on wider tyres.

“Our trailed sprayer wouldn’t have travelled in some of the conditions where we have used the self-propelled machine. Owners of the land we contract-farm are very happy with its performance and light footprint.”

Best replacement

The Challenger Rogator was replaced by a new Fendt Rogator 645 from Thurlow Nunn Standen this spring.

“We started talking about updating the machine in early 2022 and ordered the Fendt without hesitation and without considering anything else, as we knew it was the best machine for the job,” says Mark.

“We have lots of small fields and an average size of only 9ha, so the booms are folded and unfolded frequently but showed little sign of wear, never giving us any problems, right up until the five-year old sprayer was traded in.”

The new Fendt version features upgrades and design improvements over earlier machines – additions appreciated by operator Neil Mendham.

“Like the previous AGCO Rogator, the new Fendt version is exceptionally smooth and quiet,” he says.

“The sprayer suspension and boom suspension are extremely effective, and the boom height control is reliable, although I always lift the ends during headland turns just to en sure they can’t strike the ground.”

Improvements include extra automation, including automatic tank rinse and cleaning. QuadSelect nozzle bodies mean rates from 100–400 litres/ha can be achieved while maintaining treatment efficacy.

Operator comfort is further enhanced by the larger 60-litre chemical induction hopper which boasts a new OptiFlow electronic valve control from an external terminal beside the filling point, or from duplicated controls in the cab.