R W Walpole Ltd is a long-established business propagating a wide variety of soft fruit plants at Terrington St. Clement in West Norfolk. They are a large-scale commercial grower with over 65 years’ experience as growers and propagators, supplying all areas of the soft fruit industry. They are also one of the country’s last remaining field-scale strawberry growers.
In 2016 the company approached Team Sprayers of Ely to develop a fan-based sprayer that would deliver fungicides to their soft fruit crop, mainly strawberries, especially big canopy varieties like Christine. The crop is planted in rows spaced at 36”.
The resulting Team ‘Air Fan’ has completed its first season and machinery manager Kevin Brandon is delighted with the results. “Overall performance is a lot better than the system we were using before. We are getting a much cleaner crop with more fruit and less wastage.”
The new sprayer has achieved around 40ha/week with 10 to 15 applications across the season of fungicides as recommended by agronomists from Berry Gardens, of which R.W. Walpole Ltd is a member. Application rates are adjustable from 600 to 1500 litres/ha. “If we don’t need to spray it, we don’t.”
The 12-row machine has a 3000-litre tank, based on Team’s ‘Leader’ range. Each row is targeted by adjustable mist blowers operating off a powerful air fan system which blows the leaves aside, ensuring efficient canopy penetration, drastically reduces mildew and crop wastage.
A superb ride in the field and on the road is ensured by axle air-suspension with load-sensing valve, while the sprayer’s low centre of gravity maximises machine stability. The steering axle provides excellent wheel placement in the field. A Muller Basic terminal in the cab displays all the functions required for effortless operation. All-in-all, the new sprayer is “a highly capable bit of kit”, says Kevin.