16 December 2000

Brand spanking new

Big tractors, big sprayers, big cultivators, big seed drills. It was obvious from even the most cursory tour of machinery exhibits at the Royal Smithfield Show that the emphasis is firmly on capacity, reports Peter Hill.

MONG the tractor newcomers catching the Smithfield show-goers eye was Valtras S-Series 200hp to 260hp tractor. Due to enter series production some time next year, it heralds a new sophistication in terms of electronics for engine/transmission management and remote performance and service monitoring.

Visitors were also concentrating hard getting to grips with the stepless hydro-mechanical transmissions introduced by Case (CVX and Steyr CVT) and John Deere (Auto Powr) which challenge the Fendt Vario line-up. Ideal for keeping potato harvesters and stone/clod separators working at peak performance, potential users still have to be convinced about the cost-effectiveness of such tractors for other work.

While Massey Ferguson highlighted its first front axle suspension – a Carraro design unique to the 6200 and 8200 ranges – at JCB Landpower, the emphasis was on the unique qualities of the Fastracs all-round suspension, said to result in productivity gains by keeping the driver comfortable at all times. The companys video noting the Fastracs 10th anniversary appearance at the Smithfield Show promised "this is only the beginning"; a neat way of hinting that more powerful Fastracs are on the way.

On the tillage front, manufacturers making ploughs and combination power harrow seeders reported a surge of demand for these traditional implements from "low till" growers struggling to cope with this autumns dire sowing conditions. Conditions that will make the decision to go minimum tillage all the harder for those still to make the switch.

Dowdeswell, Britains biggest arable machinery manufacturer, is keeping its options open with the first seed drills to bear the companys name. In addition to a mighty 6m tine mulch drill, the newcomers include a power harrow-based combination unit. And little wonder, too, that several of the many new and improved plough models on show had on-land capability to work with flotation-tyred and rubber tracked tractors.

Ploughs

On-land capability to enable ploughs to work with tractors on tracks, wide single or dualled tyres has become an obligatory feature of new models.

Which is why Kvernelands O series Vari-Width plough has a hydraulic parallel linkage attaching beam to headstock to provide the necessary offset.

Available with either shear bolt (LO) or auto-reset (EO) leg protection, the new model comes in 5+1 and 6+1 sizes for tractors up to 300hp. It has hydraulically adjustable furrow width from 30cm to 50cm and point-point clearance of 85cm or 100cm.

The parallel linkage provides up to 3.7m of offset from the edge of the first furrow wall to the outside edge of the tyre or track furthest away.

Kverneland notes that, with operation between on-land and in-furrow ploughing needed just the pull of a hydraulic lever, the O series plough can easily be shared by different tractors.

Vogel & Noot has devised an offset headstock for its S series heavy duty mounted plough for on-land working. Available with mechanical and hydraulic furrow width adjustment, the plough comes in sizes up to six-furrows.

The S series is being joined, however, by a heavier-duty model catering for more powerful tractors. Dubbed XS, its beam shares the same dimensions as the S model but is made from thicker steel, and it has a stronger headstock construction catering for tractors up to 260hp.

Sizes go to seven-furrow with manual four-position working width adjustment, six-furrow with Vario hydraulic control, and a new Permanit steel formula with higher carbon content gives the XS and other plough wearing parts greater wear resistance, says Vogel & Noot.

Dowdeswells latest plough is a semi-mounted model that will supersede the DP9 and 180 Series. Available in sizes from six- to eight-furrow, the 190 Series Delta Furra has a roller-assisted hydraulic offset mechanism designed to improve the line of pull through the main beam and reduce the side loads that can cause the tractor to crab in some conditions.

The hydraulic turn-over mechanism is simpler, while the depth wheel is side-mounted on this model to enable ploughing close to field boundaries. A 200 degree pivoting headstock allows tighter, faster turns at headlands, says the company.