Plug ‘n’ Play revolution becomes reality

Imagine being able to hitch up a seed drill, a baler, a big plough, a triple mower combination or a forage wagon, plug in a single connector and operate all the implement’s functions from the comfort of the tractor seat.

With Fieldstar and LBS-equipped tractors, this has been a possibility for some time – but only on Massey Ferguson and Fendt tractors and a very limited choice of implements.

In 2006, the concept comes of age with the commercial implementation of a programme that has taken years of technical discussions, software development and hardware design to define protocols for a universally compatible tractor and machine control system.

It may not be 100% complete; in fact, there will doubtless be ongoing changes and developments as both new technology is introduced and as manufacturers wrestle with the practical intricacies of what ISO 11783 – ISOBUS – is trying to achieve.

But this is the year that the programme finally moves from the laboratory into the field.

ISOBUS sets a worldwide standard for all aspects of an integrated tractor-implement communication system.

It covers mundane but crucial matters such as the specification of a single cable and connector to transport power and data between tractor and implement.

It also sets parameters for the network of sensors needed to supply data from the tractor’s powertrain and hydraulics and the implement’s functions.

It also covers the software that enables an implement’s controls and settings to be represented as a graphical display on a tractor-mounted monitor.

There are numerous practical benefits: Connecting just one cable makes implement coupling quicker and easier with less risk of obscure electrical faults.

Implements no longer need dedicated control boxes.

Operators should find it easier to use a single design of controller-monitor for a number of implements.

Memories for machine settings and easier collection of more comprehensive field and performance data for farm records and management cost-analysis are other attractions.

Future developments are likely to see implement sensors controlling the tractor – for example, a pick-up load sensor on a baler or forage wagon regulating the tractor’s forward speed to optimise work rate and minimise the risk of blockages.

So how do farmers join the ISOBUS revolution? Essentially, there are three routes: Buy a new tractor that is either ISOBUS equipped as standard or has an ISOBUS package as an option.

Purchase an ISOBUS-ready implement from a manufacturer that is supplied with an ISOBUS monitor.

Get an ISOBUS monitor from an independent electronics manufacturer and use it with ISOBUS-ready implements.

It is possible to use ISOBUS-ready implements on a non-ISOBUS tractor but you don’t gain the full system benefits.

Kverneland, for one, offers a tractor electronic control unit (ECU) upgrade with its Tellus monitor.

   Implement with ISOBUS Electroics*

Arable Machinery

  • Fertiliser spreaders: Accord and Vicon
  • Ploughs: Gregoire-Besson, Kveneland
  • Seed drills: Accord
  • Sprayers: Rau

Grassland machinery

  • Forage wagons: Pottinger, Strautmann
  • Grass rakes: Claas
  • Balers: Case-IH, Claas, New Holland, Vicon
  • Waste spreaders: Strautmann and Zunhammer

*A number of other implements, Notably fertilisers spreaders, can take GPS and other data through an ISOBUS monitor but still need their own controller

Tractor options

A number of John Deere tractors can be ordered with fully-operational ISOBUS electronics.

On 6020 model, the 4000 package includes a GreenStar 2100 monitor. The 7020 and 8030 Series tractors have ISOBUS wiring as standard so just need a terminal:

Either the GreenStar push-button or touch-screen monitors at about 2400 and 3000 or an independent unit.

Fendt says its latest Variotronic software is now ISOBUS compatible and is standard on all new Vario transmission tractors.

Latest versions of the Massey Ferguson 6400 Dyna-6, 7400 Dyna-VT and 8400 Dyna-VT tractors are now ISOBUS prepared.

They will be available with the Datatronic III package later this year, fronted by AGCO’s new GTA push-button monitor with data recording software compatible with selected farm management records.

An optional ISOBUS electronics package on Valtra N, M, T and S Series tractors leaves customers free to add either the GTA monitor or an independent unit.

Newly-developed monitors – again with a choice of push-button or touch-screen operation – are being introduced by CNH on New Holland T8000 and Case-IH MX Magnum tractors later this year.

   ISOBUS Attractions

  • One terminal controls serveral implements
  • Graphic representation of control functions
  • Memories for different implement settings
  • Comprehensive data display and recording
  • Integrated operation of tractor and implement

Implement options

Pottinger is positive about the benefits of integrated control: Its large forage wagons and mowers are already ISOBUS equipped and the Terrasem drill and fully-electronic Servo Intelligent plough are scheduled to go ISOBUS this year.

Kverneland has its own mechatronics group producing the Tellus touch-screen monitor and has a number of ISOBUS ready implements, including Vicon and Accord fertiliser broadcasters, Rau trailed sprayers, Accord grain and precision seed drills and the Kverneland R/T semi-mounted plough.

Selected Claas Rollant round balers, the Uniwrap baler-wrapper, Liner 3000 four-rotor grass rake and Quadrant big balers can be operated through the Claas Communicator monitor or other ISOBUS systems – likewise, the New Holland BB-A and Case-IH LBX big square balers.

Kuhn has dipped its toe into the ISOBUS pool with three triple mowers.

Other manufacturers are keeping a watching brief until assured that the tractor manufacturers’ interpretation of ISOBUS protocols matches their own.

Conversion of implements such as Vaderstad’s Rapid drills, Grimme potato harvesters and Krone balers, which already use CANbus digital electronic controllers, should quickly follow.

Likewise Amazone ZA-M, KRM-Bogballe and similar fertiliser spreaders. At present, they still need their own controllers but can take selected information – such as GPS data – through a tractor’s ISOBUS monitor.

   ISOBUS Tractors

  • Case-IH: AFS 200 on MX Magnum (later this year)
  • Fendt: Variotoronic terminal standard on Vario 400, 700, 800 and 900 series
  • John Deere: 6020 – ISOBUS package including GreenStar 2100 push-button display unit and wiring £4029; 7020 and 8030 – GreenStar 2100 push button monitor £2400, GreenStar 2600 touch-screen monitor £3000
  • Massey Ferguson: GTA push-button terminal optional on 6400, 7400 and 8400 Series (later this year)
  • New Holland: IntelliView II push button or touch screen system on T8000 (later this year)
  • Valtra: ISOBUS electroincs for GTA or other terminal optional on N, M, T and S Series