Northamptonshire arable farm foreman, Steve May, has won the highly prestigious title of Farm Sprayer Operator of the Year 2022.

Presented at the Syngenta Sprays & Sprayers event in Cambridgeshire this week (8-9 June), as part of Cereals 2022, the Farm Sprayer Operator of the Year (FSOOTY) rewards the top operators for skills and awareness of safe and efficient operations.

The pick of six great finalists selected from farms and contracting businesses across the UK, Steve operates across over 800ha (2000ac) of arable cropping for Fromant & Sanders, based at Kislingbury, Northampton.

A previous finalist in 2018, Steve now operates a John Deere R962i, fitted with a 6000-litre tank and 36m boom. Equipped to a high specification, Steve reported he makes the most of the sprayer’s electronic technology, which includes TwinSelect dual nozzles, as well as RTK GPS guidance.

Job satisfaction

“Along with automatic boom levelling, the sprayer has made job much more precise, as well as more pleasurable,” he added. The TwinSelect feature enables Steve to choose between two different nozzles or running both together, which he says is particularly useful for applications at 200 litres/ha.

Other recent developments on the farm include a new chemical store, constructed from a converted refrigerated container. It is insulated and fully bunded, along with a 30,000 litre capacity water tank enabling faster sprayer turnaround and greater output per day.

Already BASIS and FACTS qualified, Steve has now progressed by taking further BASIS modules, including a BASIS diploma and Harper Adams Diploma in agronomy.

‘Deep knowledge’

Syngenta application specialist and FSOOTY judge, Scott Cockburn, commented how all six finalists had demonstrated a deep knowledge of sprayer operation and exemplified good practice to consistently achieve optimum results, whilst achieving safe and accurate application.

“There are so many good examples and top tips to share with other operators across the UK. Elevating the skills and best practice of all farm sprayer operators is an essential step to improving all aspects of application.

“Steve stood out for his experience and understanding of his spraying activities and his commitment to continue learning and improving the integration of sprayer operation with the farm’s agronomy.

“It really emphasised the vitally important part that the sprayer operator plays in ensuring the business meets its productivity and efficiency goals.”

The Voluntary Initiative 

Presenting the FSOOTY awards, Neal Evans, director of operations at the Voluntary Initiative said: “Farm Sprayer Operator of the Year is a perfect example of the projects VI support to encourage more collaboration and promote practises that ensure both food production and caring for the environment go hand in hand and prosper. Our congratulations to Steve May and all the finalists.”

The Voluntary Initiative is an industry led programme of tools and messages to promotes the responsible use of pesticides, through an IPM-based approach to sustainable agriculture.

Full details and Top Tips from all the FSOOTY 2022 winners are available on the Syngenta website Application Zone: