Low-maintenance kit perfect for the times

Numbers may have been down at last week's turf management exhibition thanks to the wintry conditions, but those who were able to leave their snow-covered greens to attend Harrogate Week identified an almost universal "positive vibe" among exhibitors and visitors alike.

That upbeat mood was no doubt aided by the presence of the big players at this year's exhibition — but it was more than that. With more than 25 years experience reporting on new developments in machinery, it takes a lot to surprise Horticulture Week technical editor Sally Drury. Nevertheless she was, she says, completely taken aback by the range of new kit and features on show illustrating genuine innovation and good technology. Judging by the reaction from visitors, she wasn't alone.

Much of that "innovation and good technology" will have first been mooted several years ago with the typical development cycle running at around five years for major new products. That lengthy development pipeline has in many cases this year produced kit advances that couldn't be better suited for the times.

One example is Ransomes Jacobsen's Eclipse 322 hybrid ride-on greens mower, which took centre stage on the company's stand. The absence of hydraulics means no oil to leak, no filters to change and no oil to buy — bringing the maintenance cost right down and hence the return on the extra investment swift. Indeed, Ransomes claims that when the machine's various features aimed at enhancing efficiency are combined, users can expect a reduction of up to 35% in operating costs.

This focus on measures to drive down maintenance costs featured heavily among new launches at the show, while, as contractor Chris Downes notes in this week's poll from BTME, some manufacturers are also keeping costs down by cutting back on inessential features. All of which adds up to kit that can work that much harder at justifying its cost in cautious times.

If you missed any of the highlights, don't worry. Sally will be putting as many as possible of the products launched at BTME through their paces in Horticulture Week's unique machinery tests over the coming weeks and months.

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