Scott Morgan, Morgan Lawn Care, Pittsboro, Ind.

Photos courtesy of Morgan Lawn Care.

The L.T. Rich Z-Max we tested had two 25-gallon tanks; a 200-pound hopper; and a 15 hp, Kawasaki, V-twin engine. The tires were 20-by-10-inch-wide turf tires, and it had 16-inch-tall front tires.

My friend owns and operates a 2006 Z-Max. I asked him to use his machine for comparison. Side by side, there are only a couple of noticeable differences: a new foot plate, a new style boom and a GPS speedometer.

The new foot plate makes a world of difference with ride comfort. The foot plate cushions the ride, making it easy on the knees. But, I guess any ride-on is easier on the knees.

The L.T. Rich Z-Max.

The stainless steel boom looks to provide more protection. The nozzles are less exposed than on the older model. You would have to be really careless to break off a tip. I imagine with some people in our industry this won’t be a challenge.

Maintenance should be easy with the removable kneepad, which removes quickly to access the engine and hydraulic pumps.

The GPS speedometer made establishing ground speed simple. It measured our speed at .1 mph increments. That, coupled with the adjustable speed handlebar, we no longer had to worry about our ground speed while spraying. L.T. Rich suggests spraying at 5 mph.

Calibrating the machine took a little thought, as I am used to putting a lot more water down with my product. These ride-ons spray a much more concentrated mix. L.T. Rich assured me that you are putting the same amount of chemical on the turf, but with less water. The Z-Max is equipped with five 1/3-gallon tips. The day we used the machine was a little breezy, I was impressed at how little drift occurred. The tips were air-injection compared to flood-jet nozzles found on some ride-on spreaders I have seen. The boom set up with the tips provided far less drift than other machines I have operated. I also had to familiarize myself with the operation of the tanks. There are several valves on the machine that can be confusing at first. It is set up to pull from one tank at a time, or both. You must have the valves set up correctly to do this. Another nice feature is the 50-foot hose reel. I was able to spot-spray in tight areas, and I even used it on some steeper hills.

The operator can control steering, speed, pressure, nozzle on/off and granular spread width on the control panel.

Spreading fertilizer was a breeze. The Z-Max has a Spyker hopper with a hydraulic motor. I could easily fit about four bags in the hopper. I could also haul another two bags in the boxes on the back of the machine. The spread pattern was adjustable from a short throw up to about 24 to 25 feet. You could throw farther, but the pattern starts to dissipate. The hopper motor was controlled by a dial on the dash, making it easy to adjust the throw. The rate dial was on the front of the machine to set the opening width of the hopper door. A cable with a T-handle is used to open and close the door from the operator’s position. A second T-handle was also on the machine, but I never figured out what the use was. I really like the single-hole hopper. I never understood why other hoppers have had three holes, as product always seems to get lodged.

The advantage the Z-Max has is that it is capable of spraying and spreading at the same time. The spray system will give you a 10-foot spray pattern, so one just needs to calibrate the machine to throw about 20 feet. You throw back to the tire tracks, which gives a nice overlap, and the spray pattern matches up well. There are two ways to turn the pump on. A rocker switch is mounted on the dash, and there is a handy foot switch on the foot plate. When using the machine, I used the foot switch instead of the rocker, as it was easy to let off and left my hand free to turn the hopper on and off while turning on my passes. You need to be sure-footed however, as it would be easy to hit this switch with your foot and spray if you aren’t careful.

Production was very impressive. The machine was great on my larger accounts, and was very agile on the smaller ones. Put to good use, this machine could easily do a million square feet a day.

It maneuvered pretty easily.

I tried the machine on some hills. I had some difficulty at first, but called L.T. Rich for advice. I was instructed to keep minimal product in the hopper, keeping the front end as light as possible, and to spread first, then spray. After doing this, I was able to operate the machine on some decent slopes.

The machine was also good on gas. It has a 5-gallon tank that easily lasted all day. I put six hours on the machine and used probably a little over half a tank. The 15 hp Kawasaki is probably overkill, as I didn’t run the machine over half throttle. At full throttle the machine would go over 8 mph.

All said and done, the Z-Max is a nice machine from its increase in production down to its solid build. 

Think you’ve got what it takes to put some new gear through its paces? Can you write a complete sentence and craft a piece like this? Contact Publisher David Cassidy at dcassidy@MooseRiverMedia.com to get your name on our list of Turf magazine Field Test experts!