5 March 1999

Tough times are set to start now say the French

Farming is still thriving in

France as the mood and

number of new machines at

Sima 99 clearly

demonstrated. Andy

Collings, David Cousins

and Stephen Howe report

BETTER than expected last year, but a difficult 12 months in prospect.

That was the assessment of Dominique Opillard, economist with the French machinery industrys organisation SYGMA, on the health of French farming and the countrys machinery industry.

"We are bracing ourselves for change and we are just as, if not more, concerned, about the effects of the CAP reform proposals on the profitability of farming as farmers themselves," said Mr Opillard.

French machinery suppliers remember only too well what happened six years ago when their sales fell by 40% because of lower prices and uncertainty, he said.

Meanwhile, last year saw another, albeit unexpected, rise in sales for the fifth successive year. "After stable farm incomes in 1997, we forecast sales to fall slightly," explained Mr Opillard.

"In reality our forecast was too low. We expected tractor registrations to be about 36,000 units, in the end they reached 38,000, with sales in December reaching 7833 – more than twice the monthly average and 16.6% higher than December 1997." Combine sales tracked a similar pattern with registrations forecast to reach 2600 units but finally achieving 2943.

Other machinery also sold well on the home market. The reason was better than expected farm incomes in many of the key sectors of French agriculture. Cereal yields were 14% higher than 1997 which more than compensated for the fall in price. Dairy incomes were 12% up and even beef prices rose slightly, said Mr Opillard. The only downside was on pig farms where incomes fell by 37%.

Looking ahead to this year Mr Opillard forecasts tractor sales will decline by about 7% to 35,000 and sales of other machinery by 5-10%.

"We have no idea what CAP reform will bring," said Mr Opillard.

Conformation of French farmers, reluctance to continue with investment this year, came from French farm minister Jean Glavany. "Many farmers have frozen their investment in farm machinery until they know the likely impact of CAP reform on their incomes," he said.

French machinery market 1998

£bn

Home sales* 2.6

Exports 0.8

Imports 1.1

Exports to UK# (£m)

Machinery 31.68

Tractors 19.87

Total 51.56

Imports from UK#

Machinery 23.69

Tractors 97.06

Total 120.75

Balance of trade#

Machinery -7.99

Tractors 77.18

Total 69.19

Sources

*SYGMA estimate

# AEA Jan-Sept 98

Smoothing the way for trailed sprayer rides

AS sprayer speeds both on and off road increase, manufacturers are finding new ways of smoothing the ride on trailed models.

The latest development comes from French maker Berthoud. Its engineers were concerned that the high speeds many trailed sprayers are now towed at, especially behind fast tractors, are making them more prone to boom damage from rattling and shaking. Like other sprayer makers, they also knew that better boom suspension systems were tending to encourage operators to go faster in the field.

Several makers have suspension systems on their trailed sprayers, based on either coil or air springs. But these generally involve fixed axles. Berthouds Actiflex on its Major and Major Super trailed machines goes a step further by mounting the axle on a lever arm. This pivots at the front and can move up and down according to the terrain. A large coil spring, meanwhile, is fixed to the lever arm at one end and to the sprayer chassis on the other and a pair of dampers keep bounce to a minimum.

Whereas most spring systems work best under part-load conditions, Actiflex claims to give full springing whether the sprayer tank is full or empty. As load increases the lever arm and axle moves up, the spring is compressed and the damper closes.

Berthoud Actiflex suspension system claims to reduce bounce on the road and in the field.

After this years testing grain harvest, there may be more than one grower who will look at equipping his combine with rubber tracks. Sima saw the launch of such a system from Italian machinery manufacturer Bruko, which has been designed to provide a wheels-off/tracks-on format. With the track tensioned hydraulically, drive is transferred from the main wheel hub by friction – the track passing round two tensioning pulleys and three idler rollers.

There be may those who question whether the limited contact area made with the friction wheel is sufficient to maintain a positive drive in all conditions. Bruko makes the appropriate assurances.

Suitable for use with John Deere, Case IH, Claas and Deutz-Fahr combines, the system requires no other subframe fittings.

Harvest through the mud with Brukos rubber track, wheel replacement system.

Renault unveils its big ideas on tractor front

TRACTOR manufacturers have long since recognised the importance of having a powerful flagship model in their ranges – if only to create that full model line-up situation.

On this basis, Renaults tractor range is now topped off by a 240hp machine – the largest tractor the company has ever produced.

Designated, in true Renault style, the Atles, power is derived from a 7.2-litre Deutz block equipped with turbocharger and intercooler. The Atles transmission is the result of the Renault/Agco Gima joint venture and comprises a full powershift unit offering 18 forward and eight reverse gears.

The tractors back axle is also a result of Gima. Still considered to be in its prototype stage – production is not due to start for at least another 18 months – a series of performance tests is clearly on the cards.

Even so, Renault is prepared to state rear linkage capacity at 11.33t, turning radius at 5.3m and a cab height of 3.2m.

While we await further news of the "big one", Renaults Ares range has received something of an update in the transmission department. The 145hp 715 RZ and 165hp 725 RZ units are now available with full powershift boxes and the companys Revershift system and, so fitted, are called the 815 RZ and 825 RZ models.

Claimed to be as efficient as a mechanical box, the powershift 18 forward and eight reverse box employs constant meshing helical gears, while the Revershift system is designed to allow under-load directional, clutchless changes through the use of a single lever.

The system, apart from a few minor control differences, is identical to that used in the new MF 6200 and 8200 tractors – both are the result of the Gima joint venture.

One of the latest creations from Cummins is this 6-cyl diesel engine which the company claims offers all that is new in engine development. Features include 24-valve cylinder head, improved piston design, 500-hour oils changes and an ability to meet current and expected emissions regulations. With power ratings from 180 to 350hp (higher horsepower versions are equipped with plasma coated top rings), the QSC8.3 is expected to be a popular option in both the agricultural and construction industries.

Gases prevent soil sticking to rotary tines

A FRENCH farmers clever way of discouraging soil from sticking to his rotary cultivator-drill combination has now become an option on Horsch cultivators.

The unnamed producer farms north of Tours. His land is so sticky that soil builds up above the tines on his rotary cultivator and has to be cleaned off regularly. It apparently also saps 20-30% of available tractor power.

His patented solution was to pipe hot gases from the tractors exhaust pipe over the cab and down to the back of the cultivator. Two 100mm (4in) entry holes for the gases were drilled at either end of the hollow box section and a third hole made to allow the gases out again.

The gases swirl around the hollow steel structure and raise its temperature to 60-70C (140-160F). Soil hitting the heated metalwork cant adhere properly and falls off – problem solved.

Horsch France now offers the heating system as a £700 option on its Seme-Exact rotary cultivator-drill. This, according to the companys Stephane Proust, includes the pipework and adaption to the top of the Seme-Exact rotary cultivator. This model is not a big seller in Britain, but the principle could have applications elsewhere.

Versatile Kuhn acquires another string to bow

SIMA, for Kuhn, proved to be one of the most important events in the companys history.

Now a company of many parts – since the acquisition of firms such as Nodet and Audureau – its machinery line-up now includes, straw spreaders, tedders, drills, cultivations equipment and mowers.

One of the latest additions comes from the Audureau camp and comprises two new hedge trimmers. The 4944 and 5560 offer working reaches of 4.9m and 5.6m, respectively. Both have identical arm mounting units which feature a centre mounting position – for better balance characteristics – and a fan-cooled independent hydraulic system.

Controls can be either cable or by an electro-hydraulic system activated by a single lever. Cutting heads for both models comprise 1.2m flail units suspended from central pivot joints.

The Kuhn Minitor straw spreader/silage feeder also made its debut appearance at Sima. Aimed at the small-scale stock farmer, it has a relatively conventional build with hydraulically driven feeder slats, a self loading door, chopping rotor and spreading impeller.

Where it does differ from most other designs is in the drive arrangement for the chopping rotor which employs belts rather than chains.

A jockey wheel engages the drive and, when disengaged, allows the impeller to continue to rotate – a system that enables small groups of stock to be fed or strawed down more accurately.

Belts also negate the use of shearbolt protection – in the event of an overload the belt slips.

Muckspreader handles 18t

dle

KEENANS orbital muck-spreader range now includes an 18t capacity version. Built in a similar style as the existing 12t model, a hydraulically powered plate pushes the manure towards the front of the spreader, forcing it into a bank of rotating knives.

These knives both chop and discharge the manure out through an exit gate sited on the left hand side of the machine.

The advantage of pushing muck forwards rather than conveying it rearwards – as in most other types of spreader – should be obvious; it maintains a useful weight on the tractor drawbar for traction purposes.

Apart from being significantly larger than the 12t model, the main difference is to be found in the design of the rotating knives. Instead of a single centrally rotating knife section sited in the middle of the main rotor, the 18t version, with its larger diameter barrel has two.

According to Keenan, this arrangement allows the spreader to handle any type of manure – including a certain influx of string or stones – without undue problem.

Complete with slurry gate, the new model weighs in at some 6.5t. Shod on a tandem axle and clearly aimed at the contractor market price is about £25,000.

Joint effort – first tyre

PIRELLI TM600 will be the first new tyre from Trelleborg Wheel Systems, the recently announced joint venture between the Italian maker and Swedish wide tyre specialist Trelleborg.

The two companies say the move was made to form a specialist farm tyre maker that could keep all customers satisfied in this increasingly competitive sector. Combined turnover of the two ranges is £110m.

The deal has considerable logic, given that the two companies ranges hardly overlap. Pirelli makes only radial tractor tyres and Trelleborg specialises in crossply wide-section tyres. The tyres will still be marketed with the Pirelli or Trelleborg names on them.

The TM600 will be launched in the summer and is designed to be a mid-priced tyre for tractors in the 70-190hp range. It is a tubeless radial and is sized in millimetres rather than inches.

Latest tyre development from Goodyear for the agricultural market is this 710/70R42 DT 820 version which has a 2m diameter and a rolling circumference of 6m.

Pirelli TM600 radial tractor tyre, due to be launched in the summer, is suitable for tractors of 70-190hp.

Larger capacity for Keenans Orbital muckspreader. Manure is pushed to the front of the machine and spread by a bank of rotating knives.

Hedgetrimmers join the Kuhn machinery line-up – at least for the French market. Built by Audureau, the range includes models with 4.9m and 5.6m reaches.

Optional cleaning system on Horsch Seme-Exact cultivator drill uses exhaust gases from the tractor to heat the metalwork above the tines to 60-70C, discouraging mud from sticking.

Still about 18 months away from production, the range-topping Renault 240hp Atles reveals its might at Sima.