Cropping Gear

Millions of dollars worth of machinery and equipment are used on farms to do everything from planting the crops to supplying and monitoring water, right up to picking and processing the final crop. This machinery is essential to running a modern competitive business as it helps to reduce labour, increase efficiency and productivity making the Australian agricultural industry competitive through out the world.

Bores And Pumps

The bores and pumps are serious pieces of gear on a irrigation block, they are what keeps the crops alive and the farmer in business. They are much bigger than the ones we used on the station up north, these ones are powered by six cylinder Cat and Lister motors that can pump up to 120 mega-litres a day. We use them for every thing including moving tail water, pumping river and ground water as well as pumping into dams. Some of the pumps even require a smaller pump to prime them before they can be started, a powerful air vacuum pump powered by a small Honda motor sucks all the air out of the pump creating a vacuum pulling the water up the pipe filling and priming it. Without these pumps and bores we would not be able operate an irrigation property.

 

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Spray Rig

The spray rigs or self propelled sprayed is essential for weed control on the property, these machines are essentially a large spray tank and boom with a motor, it sits high on large wheels to keep it clear of the crop and just motors along flying up and down the crop getting the job done quickly and efficiently. With out the spray rig planes would have to be used sending costs up or chippers would have to be used. Chippers are people who walk up and down the cotton rows chipping out the weeds with hoes, it sends up costs and takes a long time to complete.

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John Deere 7760 Round Bale Picker

The John Deere 7760 Round Baler is a textbook example of how a technology can be taken up and embraced by an industry, since its release for the 2008/09 cotton season it has taken hold in the industry with nearly 100% of operators now using it over traditional methods. This uptake has not even been seen in the USA where many smaller operators (under 4000 acres) still use the traditional picking crew, the success of this machine has been so great in Australia that it has been said that the John Deere Dealership in Moree has sold 16 of these machines in the past year, not because they could only find 16 buyers but because head office capped them at that amount (I can’t confirm this as I haven’t spoken to the dealership, its just the word around town).

The main reason for their success is that they have been able to cut a eight person crew down to two or three as there is no longer the need for a boll buggy, module maker or the many tractors needed to run these machines. Before the release of the Round Baler cotton picking was a very labour intensive process, the picker would pick the cotton before dropping it into the boll buggy being pulled by a tractor similar to a header unloading grain into the chaser bin. The boll buggy would then empty the cotton into the module maker which would then compact the cotton into a module the size of a truck trailer, once the module has been built the module maker gets towed on and a large tarp is fitted across the top to protect it from the rain. The Round Baler reduces the labour required and simplifies the process by making the module on board while still picking the cotton, when the module has been completed it is wrapped in plastic by the machine to protect it from the rain and dirt and dropped out the back. If the picker is still working the row the module can be carried along on the back of the picker while it continues to make another module on board, if the picker completes the second module while still in the field the module on the back can be dropped in the field to be picked up by a loader or tractor and the new module gets the piggy back ride.

John Deere was not the first company to release a module making picker as the Case IH Module Express 625 was released a year before in 2007 but it never took off in Australia, I have only ever seen one on display at Ag-quip in 2008 and as far as I am aware only one has ever been bought in Australia. It had couple of problems that left it uncompetitive with the John Deere 7760, one was that it was never able to get a heavy enough weight in the module meaning you needed to make more modules for the same amount of weight, another issue was that it still needed to have tarps put over it unlike the round baler were it is wrapped in the making process. But the biggest problem with the Module Express was that it didn’t offer non-stop picking like the Round Baler does, it has to stop to empty the module at the end of the row when it was full and then start picking again.

The John Deere 7760 Round Baler has changed the Australian Cotton Industry to the point where in five short seasons it has totally replaced the old methods of picking, thanks to the increase in efficiency, reduced labour requirements and the enhanced protection of the module. If you have any questions or comments feel free to leave them below, check out the last post to see some video’s of the of the John Deere 7760 in action as well as the a chain bed truck being loaded with cotton modules.

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If you look carefully you can see a completed module riding along behind

The Tractor

It’s no secret that the tractor is the work horse of the modern farm, they are used in almost every task on a cropping property and are even a common sight on stations and grazing properties. They have developed along way from the first concept and will continue to develop and evolve into the future as new technologies become available.

The first tractors were steam powered engines used mainly for moving equipment and hauling logs in the timber industry. Larger ones required more than one operator and they wouldn’t just break down but could also have the boiler explode under the right circumstances. From there the petrol powered tractor was developed followed by the diesel tractor. These tractor small, lightweight machines that had no cab leaving the operator exposed to the noise, dust and whatever the weather was like on that day.

Today the tractor has progressed massively from those early models, today they are large machines with air conditioning and enclosed cabins. They are capable of pulling large pieces of machinery but the biggest advancement is the development of GPS guidance technologies and is in fact the reason why I am able to write this while sitting in a working tractor. The GPS guidance system steers the tractor in a straight line within two centimetres of the track making it far more accurate than any person could ever be. However a person is still needed in the tractor to monitor the rig as well as all the temperatures and pressures, but most importantly they are there to turn the tractor around at the end of the row.

So where to from here? Well there’s an exciting new development coming out of the USA called the “Spirt Autonomous Tractor”, this diesel-electric tractor has no driver, it doesn’t even have a cab for one. It is completely autonomous with one controller being able to control up to 16 tractors with in a 40km radius of the control room. While this machine is still in the prototype stages it’s expected to be in production within the next few years, my biggest question with these new machines is how well will you be able to minister the rig from the control room? Will you be able to see it block up with stubble? Or will you be able to see when something breaks?

The Modern Tractor The Modern Tractor

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