Monday, 22 June 2015 11:21

Team Powder Applicator Review

Applicator relocation pays dividends

Digimon at P J Lee & Sons

Operating four potato planters across their 6,700 acre Fenland farms, P J Lee & Sons of Ely are among the country's top growers, specialising in chipping and ware varieties. So cost reductions can have a major impact on profitability.

For example, they recognised that the traditional method of applying tuber treatment by hand during planting was both inefficient and potentially harmful to the operator.

"We would put up to 2Kg in the hope that 1Kg would hit the target and not drop through or blow away!" explains Christopher Lee. So they set out to find a solution.

Turning to technology, they trialed the Powder applicator and Digimon control system, manufactured by Team Sprayers. The results were good. Operator contact was minimised and usage of Monceren was reduced.

The farm operates two 2 row high speed Mercer Structural PM20 and two 6 row folding Standen ‘Big Boy's, Christopher set about optimising the performance of the Digimon to each model.

The standard location for the Powder applicator on the high speed Mercer machine is above the first belt, perforations along the applicator ensuring an even distribution across the seed potatoes. Brushes are fitted to agitate and dust the tubers after application. A positive drive shaft within the applicator ensures efficient operation in cold and damp conditions.

Christopher felt that they would be more effective above the forward hoppers where the potatoes are tumbling which would promote coverage. "It's a bubbling point and the operator can easily see that the powder is being applied because the hoppers are directly behind his cab. Also there are no brushes involved that could damage the delicate chits on the tubers."

So he engineered brackets and mounted a pair of Powder applicators, one either side of the machine, driven by a shared Digimon control box. Initial problems with the tuber monitoring sensors being blinded by falling powder was resolved by a simple piped air blast from the tractor's braking system. "Before, we had to clean the sensors regularly at each end of the field which sometimes totalled up to an hour a day in stoppages" says Christopher.

"This left just one problem on the Structural models: we have had to switch off the auto tipping control which would bring the main hopper up onto the applicators and opt for manual operation from the cab instead. The Digimon has reduced our usage of Monceren to just 1Kg per ton of seed potatoes."

"The new application method has clearly proved itself because sample digs through the growing season have shown the planted tuber (having an easily recognisable pink coating), which has never been seen in previous years."

The Standen planters have individual cups for the potatoes and the six Powder applicators are positioned above the belts. These applicators are pulse driven, delivering the desired treatment to each potato as it passed below.

Christopher has worked closely with Team Sprayers in nearby Ely who are currently adopting his proven concept as an alternative to the standard location and designing a mounting system based on his arrangements.

The system will be launched at BP 2011.