Spray a Finer Swath

Climb into the John Deere 4920 Sprayer and the first word that comes to mind is "luxury."

Published on: May 16, 2006

Climb into the John Deere 4920 Sprayer and the first word that comes to mind is "luxury."

But that word isn't accurate. Sure the suspension system makes sure you don't bounce your back all the way to the chiropractor's office. Sure the cab is climate-controlled, comfortable and finger-tip and foot control is available for every operation without even stretching a limb. Of course, AutoTrac pulls you right down the row without having to touch the steering wheel. And, of course, the GreenStar and GreenStar 2 monitors are easy to see and simple to operate.

But it's not luxury. It's luxury if it's extravagant, expensive but serves no purpose, fancy without a reason. This isn't a Lexus. This is a John Deere, which means every part has a purpose. Every gadget, each feature is efficient and practical.

AutoTrac brings efficiency

Yes, even AutoTrac. AutoTrac saves money on fuel, inputs and foam by reducing overlap and increases yield by minimizing skips. Farmers who use AutoTrac will tell you they feel less fatigue than they did after a day of fighting the steering wheel. Farm wives will tell you their husbands are better dinner companions since they bought AutoTrac.

So at the risk of sounding like an info-mercial, the task now is to give a buyer all the numbers and special details before laying out that final number.

Though the John Deere 4920 Sprayer, released in 2005, only is an inch longer than the JD 4720 Sprayer, 50-inch rims cause the state-of-the-art machine to loom over Deere Product Manager Jim Woosley.

The 4920 has 300 hp and an 8.1 L engine.

The hydraulic parts started out in construction machines and log skidders. These aren't tinker toys. They're in it for the long row.

Cruise up to your target speed, push the hydro-handle and the throttle all the way forward and the AutoTrac will maintain that speed. You now are in field cruise. Which, again, is not a luxury. You know what speed you want to maintain to put out product at the correct rate. Field cruise helps make that happen.

Need to switch fields? Cruise down the road at an even 35 mph. With 100 gallons of fuel on board, slow down to 30 mph.

The suspension system controls shock. The means the boom rides smoother in the field. You ride smoother in the seat. The suspension system also adjusts for up to a 5-degee tilt, again helping to keep that 120-foot boom level.

The chemical eductor on the John Deere 4920 Sprayer whisks product into the elliptical tank at a rate of 50 pounds in 15 seconds. When equipped with the 90-foot boom and the high-flow option, the machine can put out 50 gallons to the acre at 15 mph. The standard 52-inch clearance allows for spraying in just about any field. "This was designed around going to liquid fertilizer," Product Manager Jim Woosley says.

With 140-gallon fuel tank, the 4920 runs for 18-20 hours. Refuel at the end of each day and you're ready to roll the next.

With a 72-inch wide elliptical tank carries 1,200 gallons with no baffles. Solutions flow and fold over, making the ride smoother and helping to keep product mixed. When you fill the tank, use the chemical eductor while standing on the ground. Need to agitate the tankmix? Flip another switch. When you're done spraying, press a switch and clean the tank, for however long and however many cycles you want it to process.

If you need foam, the 4920 has a foam tank. But if you have AutoTrac, you can take that line out of the ledger.

While you're thinking this through. Think about the spreader and a sprayer in your barn today. With the 4920, that becomes one machine with two tanks. The dry box is 304 premium stainless steel that doesn't need paint. Capacity is 200 cubit feet, divided into two bins that can be independently control to vary the rate of each product, which then is mixed by the spinner spreader at the back. Go ahead and scratch the line for blending out of your ledger. To switch tanks when you follow the book the first time is about 4 hours. After that, operators report routinely switching in 1½ to 2 hours.

"When you put that dry box on there it allows us to go to a three-season machine north of Highway 70 and a four-season machine south of Highway 70," Weynand says. The only time this machine is generating income for a commercial applicator or a farmer with large acreage is when it's running."

With the 4920, Weynand says, aerial applicators are grounding themselves.

The price?

OK. Now you can have the retail list price: $210,000 without the dry box, float tires, AutoTrac or rear fenders; $290,000 with all the bells and whistles.

Swath Control Pro increases efficiency

The new system controls the boom sections and spray nozzles turn on and off automatically based on a GPS coverage map that is created as the sprayer goes through the field.

The system is available on John Deere's 4720 and 4920 Self-Propelled Sprayers. Systems for older models sprayers are being developed and likely will be available later this year.

Take it from someone who drove one of those machines equipped with AutoTrac and Swath Control Pro, the only word that comes out of your mouth the first pass is: Wow!

And, yes, the first-time driver does constantly check to see if the sprayer is doing what it's supposed to according to the colored monitor mounted a few inches from your right knee.

Integrated with the GreenStar 2 system, Swath Control Pro offers automatically turns off various sections of the boom when they're not needed. The boom on the 4720 I drove had six sections. The driver can input that Swath is supposed to minimize skips or minimize overlap.

With the minimize skips command, the sprayer turns off a boom section when the last nozzle in the section moved into the area that was previously sprayed.

With the minimize overlaps commend, the sprayer turns off a boom section when the first nozzle in the section gets into the area that was previously sprayed.

The result? Efficiency.

Reduce input costs at least 5%

"Our research shows an overall reduction of at least 5% of the input costs when using Swath Control Pro and AutoTrac on John Deere sprayers," says Craig Weynand, division marketing manager, sprayers. "The 4720 and 4920 Sprayers with Swath Control Pro will take spraying operations to new levels of productivity."

When the grower finishes his spray operation, he can pull the compact flash card out of the GreenStar 2, use Apex Farm Management Software to download it onto his office computer and then can print out reports on what he sprayed and where he sprayed it.

In addition to increasing efficiency, reducing cost and improving record keeping, the Swath Control Pro also minimizes crop damage from overspray and improves environmental stewardship opportunities, says Kyle Collins, of John Deere's Ag Management Solutions division.

Try a 15-hour free trial

A 15-hour demonstration activation will be packaged with all GreenStar 2 displays sold starting this month. The Swath Control Pro is a $2,000 option to the system. Should a grower choose to buy Swath Control Pro, a John Deere service advisor comes out to the farm to upload the data system and input a permanent activation code.

For now, John Deere recommends growers mount the GS2 monitor next to their original GreenStar monitor to keep each screen more readable.

"We're working to create on monitor," Collins says. "It's kind of one of those things were you have to be careful what you ask for. You could end up with a lot of information cluttering up one little space."