17 November 2000

FINDINGOUTTHATFARMING AND ELECTRONICS DO MIX

A year has passed since Fendt brought the virtues of its

sophisticated Vario gearbox down to the 100hp sector.

Geoff Ashcroft spoke to one of the first users about its progress

OPERATING simple, mechanical tractors that didnt cost the earth has always been a philosophy supported by Notts farming business E Brocksopp of Whaley Moor Farm, Langwith, near Mansfield.

The farms mixed enterprises which include 26ha of potatoes, 105ha of barley, 75ha of wheat, 2ha of beans and 20ha of set-aside, have dictated that the farm maintained a fleet of five tractors covering the 80-105hp bracket rather than fewer, high horsepower machines. And until recently, the Brocksopp fleet has been a mix of Zetors and Landinis.

"We dont need a high horsepower tractor for cultivations work, but we do need plenty of tractors to help with potatoes," explains John Brocksopp, who with his father Eric farms a total of about 242ha on two units.

"And Ive always believed that electronics and farming just dont mix, which is why weve opted to run no-frills tractors that are easy to maintain," he says.

But this year, its all had to change. An operation to remove a damaged disc from Johns back forced a rethink on the tractor policy in search of a more comfortable driving position – the result saw a 105hp Fendt Farmer 410 Vario arrive on the farm earlier this year.

"I could have bought two Landinis for the cost of the Vario," he says.

"But without the Vario, it is possible that I might not have been able to continue driving tractors, which could have meant not being able to do my job as well as I would like."

The Varios lack of a clutch pedal was a major factor in Mr Brocksopps tractor choice, as was its front axle suspension.

"With the joystick control for transmission and hydraulic functions, I wont need to sit in a twisted position reaching for a clutch pedal when operating trailed machinery – apart from steering the tractor, I can control virtually everything from one joystick," he says. "The front axle suspension is effective, but more noticeably when the tractor has an implement on its front linkage."

Harvesting potatoes

Of the many tasks the Fendt Vario will be required to do at Whaley Moor Farm, Mr Brocksopp is particularly looking forward to harvesting potatoes with the tractor.

"Its the one task where getting the correct forward speed in relation to the field conditions is critical to the success of lifting potatoes without damaging the crop," he adds. "And with the choice of adjusting forward speed in 0.5kmh increments between zero and 40kmh, I should be able to get the best from our potato harvester."

"On the few occasions Ive tried the tractor, it seems to offer a high level of comfort, and Im looking forward to spending long days in the cab when Ive made a full recovery," he says. "Others on the farm – including my teenage son – who have tried the tractor for various tasks are reluctant to get back in the cabs of the other tractors, simply because of the ease in which the Varios transmission lets you work."

"The Vario is not a simple machine, but when youve read through the operators handbook and put the tractor through a few simple tasks around the yard, it is easy to appreciate the sophistication offered by the Vario system," he says. "But unlike our other tractors, the 410 Vario is not the sort of tractor you could just put anybody on – it needs thought, practice and understanding to get the best from its features."

Trouble-free operation

In the short period the tractor has spent at Whaley Moor Farm, it has clocked up about 250 trouble-free hours. But for all its plusses, Mr Brocksopp reckons the tractor still lacks suitable storage space in the cab where he can keep paperwork, job records and other documentation in a safe place during the working day.

"Cabs have become good working environments in recent years, but theres still room for improvement when it comes to layout and design," he says. "And the light colours of the Varios interior are not, perhaps the best choice for the rigours of agriculture."

But for Mr Brocksopp, the level of investment made in the 105hp Fendt Vario wont really begin to sink in until the tractor has done at least 10 years on the farm.

"Theres no doubt that it is a comfortable and enjoyable tractor to drive, but it is a long term investment and I will have to wait and see if Ive made the right choice," he says. "And thats not just from the point of reliability and residual value – but also for my health." &#42

John Brocksopp reckons the cab of his Fendt Vario 410 has more buttons than the flight-deck of an aircraft. "Its not a simple tractor, but it works brilliantly."

Being able to sit comfortably and not twist too much, reach or stretch for machine controls was a major factor in buying a Fendt Vario, according to Notts farmer John Brocksopp.