Do it all with rear platform
By James de Havilland
BUYING a systems tractor is seen by many as a way of using one tractor for a whole range of different tasks.
But for Dorset farm manager Philip Rymer the choice of a Fendt 524 Xylon was largely down to one aspect of the machines design – its rear load platform.
"We were using an MB-trac 1100 and a Massey Ferguson 6.0m (19.7ft) pneumatic drill to perform the drilling, and were looking for a replacement tractor and drill which would enable us to continue using a 2t capacity tilt hopper to feed the drill," he explains.
St Giles Farm comprises some 1520ha (3750 acres) of which about 1010ha (2495 acres) is down to arable cropping. A further 114ha (280 acres) of forage maize is also sown annually. This workload was deemed to justify a dedicated drilling tractor.
The six-year-old MB-trac was sold for a healthy £18,000 – a sum which made the Xylon purchase look like a reasonable long-term investment – despite its price premium.
"I always believed the MB-trac to be a good general purpose tractor, particularly on road work, and the new Xylon has proved to be just as satisfactory," says Mr Rymer. "But when the tractor was first used with a mounted 6m Accord drill, the front end was too light, particularly on headland turns."
"It was not too bad," says the Xylons driver John Legg. "But I do find the tractor less manoeuvrable than the MB-trac."
A front-mounted 6.0m (19.7ft) Flexicoil packer and cultivator combination is now used with the Xylon to enable the lighter land to be drilled directly after ploughing. It also helps solve the front end lightness.
"At first I thought the packer would pull the tractor down and slow up the drilling. But it doesnt seem to have much effect, with overall performance still being much the same as the MB-trac," adds Mr Legg. Fuel consumption is also pretty much the same as the old tractor, despite the extra 30hp. "The engine is pretty noisy from the outside though, and you can tell when the Xylon is out working. But in the cab its very quiet.
"It took a while to get used to all the controls, but everything is pretty straightforward. You need to remember to switch the shuttle lever back to forward after hitching up though," he says. "Visibility is also very good and I am also happy with the dials which control the hydraulics."
Apart from a couple of oil leaks, which have been rectified under warranty, and the reluctance of the gearbox to engage momentarily when cold, the Xylon has had few problems.
Mr Legg has added two drain pipes from the spool valve block covers to prevent the small quantity of spilt oil running onto the trailers electrics socket, but apart from that the tractor is completely standard.
"I do not see the tractor as being any more difficult to service than any other machine," adds Mr Rymer.
For maize work the Xylon has been fitted with narrow wheels, these equal-sized units being borrowed from the farms self-propelled Clayton sprayer.
"We have to run the Xylon in two-wheel drive with these wheels because its standard front wheels are smaller than the rears. We know that Fendt does not recommend this, but the system works for us," says Mr Rymer. "All I would like now is an 8.0m mounted drill with folding wings to go with it. That way we would make even better use of the Xylon."
• Power: 103kW/140hp at 2300rpm.
• Engine: Turbocharged and intercooled MAN 4-cylinder, 4580cc.
• Maximum torque: 556Nm at 1400rpm.
• Transmission: 44F/44R with Variofill turboclutch.
• Front lift capacity: 3930kg.
• Rear lift capacity: 6840kg.
• Payload: 5630kg.
• Price: £65,577 (including air conditioning).
FENDT 524 XYLON
St Giles Farms, Wimborne St Giles, Dorset
• Total 1520ha (3750 acres);491ha (1215 acres) winter wheat; 231ha (570 acres) winter malting barley; 73ha (180 acres) combining peas; 17ha (43 acres) linseed; 142ha (350 acres) herbage seed; 114ha (281 acres) forage maize; 103ha (254 acres) set-aside of which 55ha (137 acres) industrial linseed.
• Three dairy herds totalling 600 cows.
• Soil: Predominantly chalk, with around 121ha (300 acres) clay loam and 40ha (100 acres) heavy clay.
• Cultivation regime: Plough and press with front-mounted Flexicoil and cultivator combination on Xylon preceding drill.
• Plough with a John Deere 4755 and seven-furrow semi-mounted Kverneland plough and a JD 4050 with six-furrow Lemken.
The Fendt 524 Xylon: It was the machines rear load platform which appealed to Philip Rymer.