5 April 2002

Veg producers get best out of high-tech Case

Just over a year ago, Case

introduced its CVX 130 and

170 tractors to the UK,

complete with continuously

variable transmissions.

Geoff Ashcroft spoke to

one of the first users of a

CVX170 model to see how

the machine has fared

SINCE taking delivery of its first 170hp Case CVX170 in February 2001, farming firm Strawsons, of Bilsthorpe, Notts, has been keen to get the best usage from its hi-tech tractor.

"Weve put 2150 hours on the tractor in little over 12 months, on specific vegetable harvesting duties," says Martin Reams, production director at Strawsons Featherstone House Farm. "And it has proved so efficient and reliable, that we bought a second CVX170 in September 2001, for potato harvesting."

While the oldest CVX spends 48 weeks of the year attached to carrot harvesting equipment, the second machine has been applied to more varied tasks, including potato harvesting, ploughing, cultivating, bed forming and trailer work. Both have identical specifications, including a 30mph transmission, front axle suspension, front linkage and pto.

"Our cropping regime is predominantly vegetable, root and combinable crops. Carrots, leeks, potatoes, broccoli, cabbage and sugar beet are our main crops," says Mr Reams. "They are grown throughout the 8000 acres the Strawsons business now farms across Notts, Lincs, Norfolk and South Yorks."

The tractor fleet is predominantly a Case affair, comprising seven MX135s, an MX150, two CVX170s, two MX170s and two MX270s. Then there is a Claas Challenger 55, five Fastracs and five MF3125s.

"We do get good service from all our dealers, particularly Farmstar, which looks after our Case tractors," he says.

The first CVX bought by the firm replaced a CS150 and gave the firm more horsepower and a better transmission.

The second CVX tractor replaced an MX135 on potato harvesting and general farm work, and has now covered 800 hours in six months.

"There comes a time – no matter how many gears you have in a conventional transmission – when one gear is too slow and the next is just too fast. This is where CVX comes into its own," says Mr Reams.

"Our tractors work all year round in all sorts of field conditions. A good operator will get the best out of the tractor all day long – but only if he has the right tools for the job."

Both tractors, it seems, have become firm favourites with their operators. "I wouldnt want to drive a conventional tractor again," says driver Richard Inger, who spends six days a week lifting carrots using the CVX.

"Its effortless to drive and fairly straightforward too. And Ill never be in the wrong gear again.

"The cab is also much more comfortable than my previous CS150. There are no gear levers in the way of my legs and I can swivel the seat and sit how I want to."

Mr Inger likes the way the transmission can be tweaked to make minor adjustments to harvesting speed when running up and down the rows.

He also likes the way the system manages headland manoeuvres and the fact that all his main functions – including hydraulic system controls – fall easily to hand around the main joystick controller.

"My only criticism is with the cruise control function. After cruising down the road at 25mph and pulling into a field, you must remember to reset the cruise function before using it again at slower speeds, otherwise it will take off at the last set speed. Even switching off the ignition does not erase its memory."

Paul Kirkland drives Strawsons other Case CVX and he, too, has nothing but praise for the machine, but admits that he was sceptical about the tractors transmission when it first arrived.

"I thought the gearbox was something of a gimmick, but after a couple of days in the seat you realise that its potential is enormous," says Mr Kirkland.

"The transmission is so simple and easy to use, and it frees you up to focus on watching your implement or harvester. And the tractor operates so smoothly that youd never want to go back to a powershift box again, let alone a tractor with a clutch."

However, Mr Kirkland accepts the new CVX driver does need time to adapt to the transmissions method of operation. "Its nothing like driving a conventional tractor.

"It can be quite unnerving at first, particularly when cruise control starts to reduce engine revs while maintaining forward speed – you think youre slowing down but you are not.

"But the tractor is excellent on hills when using cruise control because it automatically winds on the throttle to deliver more power when its needed. &#42