Viticulturists are increasingly looking to technology that will allow them to be more targeted with their spraying to reduce chemical use and cost as well as drift.
This was the feedback Silvan Spraying general manager, Gavin Wheatcroft got from customers at WineTech Australia’s leading wine conference and trade exhibition held in Adelaide in July. The industry event is held every three years.
Silvan was an exhibitor at the event showcasing its flagship TurboSCRAM sprayer, other models in the Turbomiser range and Nobili mulchers, suited for vineyards.
According to Mr Wheatcroft customers are also looking to adjust the rate of chemical they apply while spraying depending on canopy size and density.
“At the moment people still tend to spray the whole canopy,” he says.
Mr Wheatcroft said the technology for allowing growers to achieve this more targeted approach could be as close as a year away.
“We’re working with suppliers on doing that. Most of the technology is available to do it right now. It’s just making it user friendly and fit for a vineyard application.
“We want to be able to push a button (in the cabin) to put more or less chemical on a particular zone.
“At the moment we’re controlling it row by row. The next step for us is to control (applications in) different zones within the vine canopy, whether that means not spraying in certain zones or putting more or different chemicals in certain zones.
Mr Wheatcroft said Silvan was in a good position to act given the way its multi-row sprayers were designed with multiple outlets.
“That allows us to potentially spray at different rates on parts of the canopy with a higher dose in the middle of the head hitting the bud zone for example.
“That’s what we focus on: having a sprayer that’s quite adaptable to whatever the customer needs.
“Having those multiple spray outlets from top to bottom and left to right allows the customer already to be quite targeted and gives us the opportunity to take it to another level again.”
Mr Wheatcroft said because Silvan manufactured its sprayers in Australia, it allowed the company to build sprayers to order particularly for customers operating bigger vineyards.
“We essentially have a broad list of options to make a sprayer fit for purpose for a vineyard.”
Silvan’s TurboSCRAM (Silvan Centrifugal Remote Air Module) sprayer, launched at WineTech in 2015, signaled a move away from a single PTO (power take-off) driven fan to multiple hydraulically driven fans that allowed more even air output from one side of the spray to the other thus removing all variability.
It also allowed many customers to reduce the kilowatt power required, at low application rates which meant a fuel saving for them, Mr Wheatcroft said.
“With other customers it’s given them the flexibility to spray at higher application rates than a Turbomiser they’ve used in the past.”
Mr Wheatcroft said sales of the TurboSCRAM in the past two years had doubled year on year. Similar growth had also been experienced with other models in the Turbomiser range for those customers not requiring a two or three row unit but still wanting low volume spray technology.
As well as wine grape growers, sales had also been strong in the table grape industry mostly centered around Mildura and Robinvale, he said.
The Silvan Turbomiser sprayer range can be broken into four categories – two lots of single row units with a three-point linkage or trailed version and two types incorporating multi-row, conventional PTO driven fans and the hydraulically driven TurboSCRAM.
The TurboSCRAM range begins with a two-row unit with 1500 litre tank which retails for $87,989 inclusive extending to a three-row sprayer with 4000 litre tank from $113,000 including GST.
Apart from its sprayer range, the other focus for Silvan at WineTech was to promote its Italian manufactured Nobili range of mulchers for mid-row management of vineyards.
Four of the existing mulchers distributed by Silvan have vineyard applications, which account for about a third of the range. The base model starts from $7900 inclusive.
Mr Wheatcroft said a new model BVR series mulcher particularly suited to vineyards, just introduced by Nobili, was likely to be launched into the existing range within the next 12 months.
“It’s a machine that can be mounted on the rear or front of a tractor if you’ve got front linkage and PTO. We’re now seeing some inquiry for that type of product.”
Mr Wheatcroft said one drawback was the low number of tractors with front PTOs in the local market whereas in Europe they were common. But more tractors were now coming on to the market here with this feature.
At WineTech, he said, inquiry by new and mainly existing customers was the best it had been in 10 years.
Overall, it was a good opportunity to talk to existing customers about what Silvan could do to suit their needs in the future and whether there was a product available which suited them.