A keen adopter of innovative farming practices, particularly those methods that deliver a healthy soil profile and minimise the presence of residual herbicides in the environment, Mr Machan has teamed up with the federal government’s Reef Rescue project to help deliver solutions that are in-step with environmental best practice.
Nearly four years ago, with the assistance of funding provided through Reef Rescue, Mr Machan made the strategic purchase of a shielded sprayer from GC Agriculture in Armidale.
It’s a purchase that, over time, has paid dividends both in terms of reduced herbicide costs and improved environmental outcomes.
“I used it on the whole farm this year, it cuts down your use of residual herbicides so it’s virtually all knock down, no residuals.
“Hopefully you’re going through at the right time, knock your weeds over and the cane should close in, you get a few weeds but nothing too bad.”
The shielded sprayer is set up to spray roundup into the inter-row spacing, four rows at a time, via the nozzles beneath the hoods and gramoxone among the stools via the nozzles situated above the hoods. Getting the process right has taken time and patience and there are plenty of handy hints which Mr Machan is happy to pass on to fellow farmers.
Low water volume proved to be an issue when the Bilyana grower first purchased the shielded sprayer and he was initially less than satisfied with the effectiveness of the gramoxone spraying with the new system.
That issue was largely solved by placing a six hundred litre tank on the front of the tractor, in addition to the two three hundred litre tanks mounted on the spray rig, and increasing the volume of water in the gramoxone mix. It also meant some alterations to the spray nozzles to get the desired result.
“I didn’t use it much in the first couple of years but once I got used to the way it worked, it was mainly the low water volume that was the issue,” he said.
“The nozzles underneath are still standard they’re doing around sixty litres per hectare of water and these nozzles (above the hoods) were doing the same.
“At the moment they’re doing about 180 litres per hectare.
“Gramoxone needs to be wet and covered to work, where roundup only needs to be spots to work.
“So just by putting more water through there you get a good job, before it was hit and miss.”
The shielded sprayer is currently set for a 5-foot-3 inch row spacing, but the spacing can easily be changed to accommodate alternative plans. In the future, Mr Machan is considering changing to a 2. 2 metre row spacing which the shielded sprayer will easily be able to accommodate by simply repositioning the hoods.
The use of an additional 600 litre tank also means there is less time spent refilling and, along with the relatively cheap cost of gramoxone and roundup, herbicide costs are reduced.
“It’s putting out double what it used to and getting good results and you can do close on nine hectares without refilling,” Mr Machan said.
“It gives you about two and a half hours spraying without refilling, so if you go in the morning your back by smoko. It’s cheap too; the roundup’s not dear, the gramoxone’s not dear.”
While some cane farmers question the use of shielded sprayers in the interrow spacing due to the potential of glyphosate damaging cane and leading to lost productivity, Mr Machan says he has seen no such issues on his farm.
His advice to fellow farmers is to keep the tractor speed to about 8 kilometres per hour and be careful at the ends of rows where there is the most potential for spray drift.
“I’m prepared to stick with it until I can see any evidence on my farm that it’s damaging the cane,” Mr Machan adds.
“Pre-emergents are doing damage you can’t see and every year spraying pre-emergents it’s going to build up in your soil and that’s what we don’t want.”