Syngenta’s FSOOTY 2023 crowned at Cereals

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Brixworth Farming’s Mark Jelley has been crowned as this year’s Syngenta Farm Sprayer Operator of the Year (FSOOTY).

Announced in the Sprays & Sprayers Arena at Cereals 2023, the prestigious title recognises and rewards the skills and expertise of the UK’s top operators.

Mr Jelley is the lead sprayer operator at Brixworth Farming in Northamptonshire. He has been operating sprayers for 45 years and now uses a state-of-the-art Chafer Interceptor self-propelled sprayer to work across 1,500 hectares of combinable crops on the farm’s own land, plus an additional 500 hectares of contract farming.

In addition to his knowledge and attention to optimise every application, the judges exemplified Mr Jelley’s approach to progressing the skills of his fellow operators on the farm. That included sharing information and best practice to ensure they are all working in the same way, which leads to consistently better results.

Mr Jelley said: “Having been a previous finalist I was keen to give it another go. The FSOOTY questions make you think, so it’s a good learning experience too. Entering FSOOTY is a good way to measure and further your knowledge, and to keep on learning.”

He undertakes frequent work-based training, as well as taking every opportunity to increase his knowledge in his own time.

Making the presentation, Syngenta application specialist, Scott Cockburn, who organises the annual competition, said: “In one of the largest entries in recent years, this year’s finalists highlighted that experience counts – since all of them had made the shortlist before.

“Everyone in the industry is aware of how the application of plant protection products are under constant scrutiny. That’s why highly skilled, qualified and expert operators, who take seriously their continuous professional development, hold such an important position on farms,” he added.

The FSOOTY judges were keen to stress it’s the operator’s skills that are being judged, not their machines and stores. “That’s illustrated by this year’s wide variety of equipment being employed by the finalists,” Mr Cockburn pointed out. “It is, however, now noticeable how many farms, of all sizes, are now investing in modern filling areas, stores and water handling facilities.”

Other finalists commended at the FSOOTY Awards included Peter Dennis of Sternberg Farms, Tenterden, Kent. With more than 40 years of spraying experience, Peter is the lead sprayer operator on the farm and is responsible for all the applications, where he operates a John Deere R962i, treating 1,000ha of combinable crops.

Another previously short-listed finalist that was also in the line-up this year was Chris Hosking, now the lead operator at Varfell Farms near Penzance in Cornwall. He’s responsible for the crop protection applications on 1,600ha of land, including producing 41 million bunches daffodils.

Full details and Top Tips from all the FSOOTY 2023 winners are available on the Syngenta website Application Zone, along with details to enter for FSOOTY 2024 opening soon:

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