20 Horsch Leeb sprayers have been sold in Ireland over the past 30 months. Prices for this particular sprayer range start at about €75,000. 10 of the 20 machines were sold with the TAMS (Targeted Agricultural Modernisation Scheme) grant.

So what's the big deal? Why are tillage farmers investing this amount of money?

Boom control

Ian Griffin, of Horsch, spoke to AgriLand about 'the ins and outs' of this much-talked-about sprayer. Boom control is its biggest feature. The sprayer can run at up to 20kph on dry and even ground and hold its boom height. On hilly or tough ground, the tractor can run at 12-14kph and maintain boom height.

The main reason to buy a Horsch sprayer, in my mind, is the boom-levelling. It's the only machine, that I know, that will consistently run at 50cm - or below - over contouring, undulating ground, all of the time.

"There are either four or six sensors on the boom, depending on the configuration. The operator sets the boom height above the target and it will hold that boom height up to fairly high speeds, depending on ground conditions.

"While the sprayer can run at 50cm spacing and at 50cm from the target, we also offer 25cm nozzle spacing. The idea is that you run with smaller-size jets, smaller spacing and the sprayer at a lower height.

"When you go to a smaller-size nozzle, there are finer droplets - more coverage. But finer droplets will blow away in the wind. We can lower the boom and spray down to 35cm with finer droplets; finer droplets lead to better coverage and less drift. All the boxes are ticked.

With the amount of money that big arable farmers spend on chemicals, they don't want to watch it blowing away in the wind. The majority of chemical that's coming out of this machine is hitting the target.

"Depending on nozzle configuration, you can set up an 'auto-jump' function. So, if speed increases the sprayer technology allows you to jump to the next nozzle up. So, you're keeping the right spray quality and the right pressure, regardless of forward speed. This can be done with three or four nozzles, if the farmer wants to."

The sprayer will also apply variable rates to crops where field mapping is being used.

"If you're putting an application map in, so that it's putting on a variable-rate application, it will change with regard to that as well.

You can sit at the same speed, but if you were applying liquid fertiliser, for example, and you were putting 100L/ha on in one spot and 300L/ha in another - it will jump around for that as well.

"It's controlled either through your tractor's ISOBUS or via our own screen on the sprayer."

Sprayer cleaning technology

"We have some really clever cleaning systems on the machine, which are really easy to use. For example, the Horsch Leeb 5LT has CCS pro-cleaning. There are five wash programmes that you can operate from the screen inside of the cab.

"The sprayer has a blow-out function. This means that before you start to do a wash, you can blow all of the residual chemical out of the boom with compressed air.

"There are two pumps - a centrifugal pump for spraying and filling and a separate piston diaphragm pump; it can only suck from the clean water rinse tank or the filling point - so it's always a clean pump.

When washing, it's the clean pump sucking clean water, whereas with other sprayers the spray pump is doing the wash as well.

The sprayer can do a boom wash and wash the suction and pressure filter. This can come in handy where spraying is stopped due to weather.

Is it easy to use?

"When I go through the control systems with operators, they all agree that it's easy to use. Folding and unfolding, for example, needs just one button and it does everything automatically."

Leeb and Horsch

Horsch was founded in 1984. Almost six years ago Horsch bought 75% of Leeb; the two now work together to produce Horsch Leeb sprayers. Theo Leeb was the original designer of Leeb products; he still part-owns the Leeb brand.