John Deere gave ag equipment journalists a glimpse into the future in August. At a media event held at its Des Moines Works assembly plant, the brand displayed one of its 4 Series sprayers equipped with a prototype carbon fibre boom.
“We’re very excited to show you an innovation we’re working on,” said Deere’s Jason Beuligmann as he stood in front of the sprayer at the Iowa plant. “It’s a sprayer boom made out of carbon fibre material. Carbon fibre allows us to further improve the 4 Series sprayers.”
But don’t expect to run down to your local dealer and order one for spring delivery — at least not yet. Deere’s marketing staff confirmed the new boom design was still in field trials and wasn’t yet ready for public release in Canada or the U.S. Although working in partnership with Argentina-based King Agro, Deere has already been offering sprayers with carbon fibre booms on machines built in South America for about three years.
“Carbon fibre has a lot of properties that make it a great fit for a sprayer boom,” added Beuligmann. “It has a higher strength-to-weight ratio than aluminum or steel. In fact, it’s over 30 per cent lighter.”
With less weight hanging well off to each side, sprayers with lighter booms become more manoeuvrable at working speeds. Using carbon fibre technology, booms can even be stretched beyond 120 feet without increasing weight or reducing manoeuvrability. Beuligmann noted that with wider boom widths, operators could slow down to improve spray efficacy and still cover as much ground in a day as they could with narrower and heavier conventional metal booms.
“Another advantage to carbon fibre is it’s resistant to corrosion,” he added. “Corrosion from chemicals, herbicides and fertilizer like UAN. And it’s resistant to UV exposure from the sun. So year in and year out it’s still going to keep its strength and hold up. It’s a good material to use.”
If a boom is damaged in the field, carbon fibre offers an advantage there too. No special welding skills are required to repair it as with traditional booms. Instead, Deere has been offering a carbon fibre repair kit with its machines in South America (which it expects to offer here, as well) that allow for simple, in-field repairs that can be done by anyone.
“It (the repair kit) can be installed in less than a day, and the boom section it’s installed on comes back to full strength,” said Beuligmann.
Deere’s marketing staff said carbon fibre booms will definitely become an available option in the not-too-distant future. However, there was no firm word as to exactly when that would happen.
At the Des Moines event, Deere also introduced its ExactApply “intelligent” nozzle control system, which will debut on 2018 model year 4 Series sprayers. ExactApply will help better maintain consistent droplet size and spray pattern over a wider range of field speeds while reducing overlaps at the same time, according to marketing staff.
The system provides for a higher frequency pulse width modulation than the brand’s previous offerings, and it’s compatible with all boom sizes equipped with stainless steel plumbing. It offers full variable rate and shut-off functions at the nozzle level rather than over typical boom sections that are several feet wide. ExactApply also provides for turn compensation, varying the application rate at each nozzle to account for the difference in actual speed from one end of the boom to the other.
The number of nozzles on a boom can be reduced with the ExactApply system, because each one is capable of delivering a 15 to 20 inch spray width. The system will also send an alert to the operator if any get plugged. And LED lights on each individual nozzle make it easier for the operator to keep tabs on them during night operations. Operators can also manually change between different nozzles while on the go through inputs in the brand’s GreenStar 2630 monitor.