FARMER FOCUS: First visit to the USA

Hail, snow, strong winds and floods. No, not the UK, but the first 72hrs of my recent 2,000 mile road trip around mid-west America.

We started out from Chicago, Illinois and travelled through Iowa and Minnesota to North Dakota, where we visited the Case IH tractor factory in Fargo. It was amazing to see robot welders rotating half a Quadtrac to get at those awkward welds. I’ve been to tractor factories before, but I’ve never seen anything quite like this, the size of the engineering machines was staggering.

Next we went on to Benson in Minnesota to the Case IH sprayer and cotton picker factory. While the cotton pickers were interesting, it was the sprayers that really caught my eye. With the engine at the rear and cab up front, the tank sat perfectly in the middle so 50/50 weight distribution was maintained no matter what the tank contents were and with the Quadtrac cab for comfort and hydraulic track width, it was hard to fault this well-thought-out machine.

Back on the road again we headed for Grand Island Nebraska, just 450 miles south of the Case IH combine factory – 26ha under one roof and a new rotary combine rolling off the production line every 15 minutes, very impressive. However, the highlight of the trip was to see my combine being built, tested and then to drive it off the production line.

This was my first trip to the USA and I expected to be greeted by direct drilling and strip tillage, but I couldn’t have been more wrong. In the whole seven-day 2,000-mile trip, I don’t think we saw a single acre of direct drilling, let alone strip tillage. However, there was widespread use of RTK guidance and an increasing amount of variable rate application of inputs not to mention some seriously wide machinery.

I would like to take the opportunity to thank the three Case factory managers for their hospitality and Paul Harrison for being great company.

Keith Challen manages 800ha of heavy clay soils in the Vale of Belvoir, Leicestershire, for Belvoir Fruit Farms. Cropping includes wheat, oilseed rape and elderflowers. The farm is also home to the Belvoir Fruit Farms drinks business.

More on this topic

Read more from Keith Challen

Read more from Arable Farmer Focus writers