EUROPEs farm machinery makers are clear where they see the markets of the future – in bigger machines for bigger farms with bigger budgets.
The extra cash being demanded of farmers is for more sophisticated equipment incorporating the latest in control software but very often giving the user a state-of-the-art package which is on the surface simple to operate despite the complexity of its build. The stepless automatic gear changing for tractors now being developed by many manufacturers is a typical example.
Agritechnica 97 gave the farming public its first opportunity to see tractors equipped with either the Fendt, Claas, Steyr-Daimler-Puch or ZF power-split systems which allow variable gearing throughout the drive range. All four systems won DLG gold medals in the shows innovations awards category although they have still to undergo the full scrutiny of the DLG (German Agricultural Society) field testing scheme.
Other gold medal winners this year included an electronic control unit for limiting tractor power and fuel used. Developed by the German company Valtra, it is designed to allow maximum engine power only to be released when some of that power is being diverted for pto use. As well as saving fuel through better injection control, the system means that tractors can be specified with drive transmissions and axles designed for the lower performance with which they have to cope.
The Arcus combine harvester, which won a gold medal for its makers MDW, from the east of Germany, appeared at the show in either the manufacturers blue or the red of the companys ultimate owner – Case. Either way, it won the award for a chute rotor system with two axial rotors. Its most unusual feature, however, were the two permanent drive, front-steered wheels which were smaller in diameter than the following pair.
Normal combine harvesters are limited to a road speed of 20 kph in Germany but the front-steering design makes it permissible to use the Arcus between fields at up to 40 kph.
Ground working equipment did not come out particularly strongly in the awards. Dutzi were the exception with the ground-driven Phoenix for initial weed pulverisation and working down chopped straw and stubble. Each rotor is linked to form a chain.
A number of manufacturers, including some of the big makers, rolled out new tractors in sizes ranging from the 48hp Carraro Ergit to a 450hp Horsch three-wheeled platform. Valmet even came up with a new name Valtra Tractors (UK) on their new four-model M100 range.
Designated as the 600, 700, 800 and 900, the new tractors use either the three-cylinder Valmet 320 or four-cylinder 420 engines in naturally aspirated or turbocharged forms. Key to these engines, ranging from 60-90hp, is the claim of 20% more torque than the engines in the previous M5 range. A choice of three transmissions is available but the 700, 800 and 900 models get 16 forward and eight reverse gears as standard, with a new splitter giving 15% overdrive.
Valmet remains true to its principle of custom building to order. While the turbocharged models get a standard Autocontrol electronic linkage management system, it is among the wide range of options for the other models.
An innovation to be introduced further up the Valmet range won the company one of the DLGs gold medals for technical innovation. Sigma Power is an electronic system which senses the degree of engine power needed at the pto shaft and delivers that according to demand.
John Deeres 6010 Series tractors made their European debut with eight models from 80 to 135hp replacing the 6000 Series. New generation PowerTech 4.5 litres and 6.8 litres engines are fitted, together with electronic governing, depending on the choice of nine transmission variants. The familiar PowrQuad, or PowrQuad Plus versions with push-button shifting, are joined by AutoQuad which provides automatic gear changing according to load and engine rpm.
Prices start at £27,768 for 6110 80hp 2WD model, rising to a top of the range 6910 4WD, with 20/20 PowrQuad 40kph transmission, costing £53,543. A further £1,129 is needed for the PowrQuad Plus gearing, and another £1,728 for AutoQuad. Triple link front suspension costs an extra £2,807 on this model.
Increased demand for higher output tractors in the 121 to 140hp sector is cited by Renault for the introduction of the Ares 640 with an uprated turbocharger and injection pump to take output to 130hp,
Priced at £54,850, the 640 comes with Quadrispeed change-under-load transmission providing a total of 32 forward and 32 reverse speeds. Strengthened areas include the rear axle to cope with 8,740kg lift capacity, brake boosters and the uprated front axle from the Ares 700. Renaults touchpad controlled TCE 20 electronic linkage control provides automatic draft control and active wheelslip control.
The quest for speed combined with comfort is catered for by the addition of 50 kph, independent front suspension for four CS models from Case IH. The tractors in the 110 to 150hp range have a new front axle with independent wheel suspension. Ground clearance of the front axle can be adjusted by 15cm using hydro-electronics.
The new Doncaster-built CX range with six models between 50 to 100hp, was also previewed at the show. It will start to appear next March and will use Perkins-built engines and a modified gearbox with synchro shuttle. Standard eight forward, eight reverse gearboxes can be supplemented by creep speeds, or a two-speed Powershift option in 30kph or 40kph versions.
Further off for Case is the introduction of a continuously variable transmission which it has acquired with the purchase of Steyr. The prototype developed by Steyr on a 150hp tractor is capable of moving from a standing start to 50kph without any intervention by the operator.
The DLG gold medal awarded to this transmission was likewise awarded to other infinitely adjustable gear systems from Fendt for its Vario transmission in the Favorit 900 Vario series, Claas for the HM 8 power-split hydrostatic drive, and ZF with a hydrostatic and mechanical power-split transmission.
The systems have still to go through the full DLG field testing programme but other tractor manufacturers still lacking changeless transmissions are expected to be looking for deals with these pioneers if they are unable to develop their own alternatives.
JCB is one of those manufacturers whose range may soon look dated in the transmission department. It did not, however, stop Horsch showing a 65kph modification of the JCB 185 with a frame extension and steering back axle for fertiliser or spraying work. Chris Ellis, of Horsch, hopes to have one for UK demonstrations in the New Year with demountable sprayer or spreader units. The four-wheel steer allows adjustment from 1 to 30í, and the unit priced at Dm242,000 will crab steer.
He also believes contractors will show interest in the companys latest Terratrac T352 with 450hp Deutz engine and a Dm310,000 price tag in its home market. Hydrostatic drive has been moved out of the wheels into gearboxes in the back axles to give more power. Electronic control has also improved the anti-slip characteristics.
The East German factory of Landtechnik Schonebeck (LTS) provided many showgoers with a surprise. Fans of the once-popular Mercedes MB Trac have an updated replacement, coyly quoted at Dm1,000/hp. Trac 100, 130 and 160 range from 99 to 160hp engines. According to Andreas Stelzer, of LTS, the old MB Trac provided the model for a 95% revamp. Engines are from Mercedes, the gearboxes from ZF, and four-wheel steer is available.
LTS plan to build 500 of the tractors each year, and Mr Stelzer claims many of the old MB Trac faults have been eliminated. The new machines are designed for 50kph road speeds. Springs and shock absorbers are to the original design but the axles are now planetary axles made by LTS at its works in Schonebeck.
Other tractor newcomers included a compact implement carrier, the Unimog UX 100, with hydrostatic drive. German local authorities provide farmers with an extra income carrying out snow clearance and mowing duties for which the Unimog is said to be ideal as well as for farm work.
From the Japanese manufacturer Morooka came a new crawler range suitable for arable or forestry work. Prices start at Dm150,000 for a 117hp machine on rubber tracks. In a different price range to most of the European tractors, Belarus will launch 82hp and 90hp models in Germany next year, priced from Dm64,500.
The brightly-coloured, blue and yellow Arcus combine which featured in the DLG gold medal winners for its twin-rotor axial flow system, has a dual personality. It was also on the Case stand in the red paint which will be its future colours once Case has fully evaluated the model from its acquisition of the eastern German maker, MDW. Aside the from the axial flow system, the other main feature of the Arcus is its design road speed of 40kph using permanently driven, front-steered wheels with small diameter than the rears.
Deutz Fahr claim a lead in high capacity combines with the Topliner 8 XL fitted with conventional straw walkers capable of handling more than 40t/hr aided by 10.4 sq m of separating surface and 7.8 sq m of screening surface. Fitted with a 408hp engine, it can be used with 7.2m or 9m tables and is priced around £225,000. The company claims the secondhand value of such conventional machines is likely to be better than the axial flow equivalents.
Case also used the show to launch its updated axial flow machines. The 2300 series will be available in time for next harvest, in addition to the 2100. Conventional combines also get a boost with the launch of five new models sourced by Case from MDW.
With 140 to 270hp engines, the newcomers have 4 to 6 straw walkers. Top of the range is a 527 model with 8,300 litres grain tank, six straw walkers, 1,630mm wide concaves, and a multiple cylinder threshing system.
Bigger farms in eastern Germany and over the EU borders in Poland and the Ukraine mean that many German machinery makers concentrate on developing bigger machines for these markets. These include MA, based at Gustrow, which builds trailed and mounted equipment including 36m fertiliser spreaders for Damann, Unimog, Iveco or Renault 4WD chassis.
According to Heiko Tolzin, of MA, the spreaders will handle from 30kg to 15t/hr of urea through to chicken manure and lime at working speeds up to 20kph. Its twin-axle Gigant model has a 9t payload.
Amazone claims a working width of up to 48m, depending on the material, for its new ZA-M 4.2 four-disc spreader. The twin-level disc system fed by twin hoppers means two different materials can be broadcast at the same time. It also enables different rates of material to be applied more easily when controlled by GPS-based yield map software.
A sensor-controlled nitrogen (SCN) application system for the Amazone machines won a DLG gold medal for the development partners of Amazone, Massey Ferguson, Dronningborg and Hydro Agri. Although still essentially in prototype form, it will be used extensively in Germany next year on tractor/spreader combinations fitted with three optical sensors at the front to read crop nitrogen requirements.
Dr Jurgen Wohlring, of Hydro Agri, said the two sensors either side of the tramlines measure the chlorophyll content of the crop leaves by colour analysis, while the middle sensor is calibrated to provide a correction for variation in readings taken at different times of the day. The sensors cover 10 to 20% of the area covered by the spreader. Their readings are used in conjunction with a variable rate fertilising map previously drawn up using yield data.
The on-board software uses both the on-line readings and the mapping information to decide on the amount of fertiliser to be applied at any given point.
Hydro Agri has now carried out 33 different trials on fields from 5 to 50ha. Dr Wohlring says the variable rate fields have crops with more uniform development. Yield data is still being analysed but it is thought 1 to 4% extra yield can be obtained from variable rate application. However, every extra percentage point of yield translates into 5% more on profit.
Jos Marquering, of Amazone, the major benefit would not be from using less fertiliser but could be from more uniform proteins, or from being able to reduce nitrogen leaching in sensitive areas. Amazones control software on the spreader itself is now compatible with the Claas, MF or Muller systems, with even greater compatibility promised.
Horschs emphasis on big equipment continues but its latest FG stubble cultivator is designed to work the top 50 to 100mm at up to 16kph with a low power requirement of 25hp per metre width. A 5.7m set will cost about £10,000 in the UK. Other sizes available are the 7.5m and 11.7m machines, the latter being a five-section folder due next autumn. Each model folds to a transport width of 3m. and can be fitted with two 30cm extensions.
A number of Horsch 3m drills have been sold in the UK. The DS/D 6 double disc drill launched in Hanover will cost around £38,000-39,000. With a working width of 6m, it is capable of 75ha a day.
Dutzi is bringing in a range of Conserva Pak drills from the USA in 6 to 12m widths. Work rate is up to 180ha (445 acres) a day. Tume of Finland introduced the Agri Master HKK 6001 DD air drill; Amazone promoted its Airstar drill range from the small Progress version through to the 6m Express hydraulically-folding direct drill; and Rau also showed an Airsem pneumatic model available in 3m or 4m versions in combination with rotary harrows and tine rotors.
Rau also introduced three new trailed sprayers with tank volumes from 1,800-3,800 litres and boom width up to 36m in the aluminium boom version. The company also has a new self-propelled, air-assisted sprayer with fully hydrostatic drive. Powered by either a 155hp or 201hp Iveco engine, the machine has a working width of up to 28m.
Agritechnica in Hanover, Germany, is the worlds biggest event devoted to agricultural machinery. David Millar joined the180,000 visitors to see what was on offer.