Krone Vs Claas: two engines in one machine

Lumping two engines into one machine might seem a crude way of upping forager output but for both Krone and Claas it’s viewed as the most efficient way of boosting power. Nick Fone spoke to one operator with experience of both breeds

In 2005 Krone launched the world’s first twin-engined foragers – the Big X 1000 and 800. Then, two years later, fellow German manufacturer Claas introduced its Jaguar 970 and 980 – also with two engines in the tail.

However, although the concepts were similar, there were two big differences between the machines:

Krone Big X 
Krone’s twin-engined Big X 800 has a monstrous appetite and beefily-built header and chopper.
While Krone linked its twin engines with a gearbox, Claas opted for a more forgiving belt coupling. And, while each of the Jaguar’s Mercedes motors are identical, the Big X 800 has one 7.2-litre lump and another 12.8-litre.

To find out just how these differences play out in the field, Farmers Weekly tracked down the only UK contractor to have owned and operated both Krone and Claas harvesters.

It’s fair to say Neil Clarkson knows the silage game. Over the past 25 years he’s cut and cleared vast acreages of grass, maize and wholecrop in and around the Chichester area of West Sussex. An average year will see his forage operation covering between 3500-4000ha (9000-10,000acres).

Up until 2005 he had operated two foragers – Jaguar 890 Speedstars – but it became increasingly apparent that running two gangs wasn’t going to be economically viable for the future, with increasing diesel costs squeezing margins and a shortage of skilled labour becoming a real issue.

“We needed to find a way of moving to a single team and considerably upping output,” explains Neil.

“We weighed up the options and the only real solution I could see was to go down the twin-engine route. At that time the only machine on the market was the Krone Big X so we went for it.”

Foragers Side-by-side  

  Claas Jaguar 970 Krone Big X 800
Power 730hp 793hp
Engines 2 x 12.8-litre 6-cyl Mercedes 1 x 7.2-litre and 1 x 12.8-litre 6-cyl Mercedes
Chopping cylinder   750mm wide x 630mm diameter 800mm wide x 660mm diameter 
Plus points User friendliness Big, wide hydraulic-drive header and crop intake

Belt-coupling between two engines Two different size engines

Easy access for maintenance Highly sophisticated computer controls

All-round visibility

Big, wide haudraulic-drive header and crop intake

Two different-size engines

Highly sophisticated computer controls

Well thought-out 12-row folding maize header

Downsides Grass header limits output Lack of ‘give’ in rigid engine-to-engine gearbox coupling

Fuel tank won’t run all day High overall weight

Corn-cracker issues Poor visibility

Slower field times

Lack of “give in rigid engine-to-engine gearbox coupling

High overall weight

Poor visibility

With its two Mercedes straight sixes linked through a gearbox coupling driving the chopper, blower and hydrostatic transmission, the Krone was something of a revolution. The beefy hydraulic header and intake roller drives gave infinite, independent variability – a real plus point for uneven crops.

“In the first season we had a vertical-fold 10-row maize header. It was a nightmare on the road but once you got in the field it was unstoppable.

“The following year we got a prototype double-folding 12-row header that was so much better to travel with and slowed the Big X down a bit, thankfully for the trailer drivers.”

“But the Krone’s real strength is the build of the intake. You only have to look at the springs on the rollers to realise how robust it is.”

Output had increased so much that it became necessary to run two loading shovels on the clamp. A pair of JCB Farm Master 414s worked side-by-side to ensure the forager was never kept waiting in the field.

The Krone had achieved Mr Clarkson’s goal of upping output and allowing him to streamline the forage operation but as with all new machines, it had had its issues.

After a year’s work the strain of handling two engines rigidly linked together by a single gearbox had taken its toll on the driveline. By then Claas had launched its new twin-engined Jaguar so he decided it was time to give his old favourite another shot.

“I liked Claas’s approach of using a belt to link the two engines – it gives that little bit more tolerance, should torque loadings or speeds vary. The Jaguar is more compact, making visibility vastly better and Claas machines are just so familiar and easy to use,” he explains.

“The back-up we had received from Sussex Harvest Centre over the years was second-to-none and going back to that was a real deal clincher for me.”

One year on, the Jaguar 970 has proved itself to be a reliable performer, although it too has its weaknesses.

“The Claas is about 50hp less powerful than the Krone but it still manages the same output.

“It seems to lose less power through the hydro units than the Big X and although it uses the same Merc engines, they seem to be mapped differently – you definitely get more torque out of the Jag.”

Although having two engines of identical power might reduce the strain on the driveline, it means the Claas isn’t as versatile as the Krone. With the BigX’s power plants pumping out about 500hp and 300hp, respectively, it was possible to run just the larger one in lighter crops – with the Jaguar there isn’t enough muscle from just one engine.

With its bigger, heavier build, the Krone chopping cylinder was distinctly better at resisting damage from foreign objects and in 7000ha (18,000acres) it never once threw a blade, whereas the previous Claas 890s has a tendency to lose them when they swallow something nasty.

That said, Mr Clarkson is convinced he has made the right decision in swapping back to Claas, although he’d like to see the company learning a few lessons from the competition.

“If you took the header, feed-rollers and chopper from the BigX and mated them with the Jag’s blower, spout, cab, engine and driveline, you’d have the perfect forager.”

NT Clarkson Forage Services  
Work undertaken: All arable work incl. stubble-to-stubble contracts, grass, maize and wholecrop silage plus baling, muck and compost spreading

Tractors: 4 x NH T6080s, 12 x NH T7040s, 3 x T7060s and 1 x T8050

Combines: 2 x NH CX8070s

Loaders: JCB 434 and 414 Farm Masters, 2 x NH LM 5060 telehandlers

Sprayer: 3000-litre Sands with 24m booms

Forager: Claas Jaguar 970

Mower: Krone Big M 400

Trailers: 9 x Bailey 16-tonners

Muck spreaders: Three Rolland 14t plus two 16t Rolland TCE compost spreaders

Balers/wrappers: MF185 & MF2170; 2x McHale 998 wrappers

Drills: 6m Vaderstad Rapid plus 3 x 4m power-harrow combis

Staff: Five full-time plus 15-18 others at peak times

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