Market Report- Tractors

The latest models from 23-110hp use technology to make them manoeuvrable and versatile, says Sally Drury.

Ideally sized for trailer transport and manoeuvrable in difficult-to-reach spaces, sub-compact and compact tractors are the mainstay in many grounds maintenance operations. And the number of these machines on the market continues to grow.

This year, despite the economic climate, manufacturers continue to introduce models - offering choice, enhanced features and improved performance for work in the grounds care, professional gardening and nursery sectors.

Two new diesel sub-compacts added to the McCormick CT Series, the 23hp CT23 and 27hp CT27, are built to take on a wide range of light professional groundcare duties. The machines, generally referred to as the CTJ to reflect their junior status in the CT range, complement an existing line-up of compact tractors from 28hp to 54hp.

Apart from giving easy and versatile speed and direction control using a large rocker pedal, the newcomers' hydrostatic drive has a fast top speed plus cruise control to give a set speed over runs. A two-speed gearbox means the transmission can be set for speed and agility or finer control and extra torque. Wet, multi-disc brakes, four-wheel drive and hydrostatic steering combine to give these sub-compacts something of a big-tractor specification.

"This little tractor extends the McCormick range, which is still best known for its full-size farm and turf tractors, into new territory. But using proven technology makes it a sub-compact with no performance deficit," says Wade.

CT machines in action

When using implements, the mechanically controlled three-point linkage on the junior CTs will heave 670kg from the ground and the power take-off facilities can drive rearor mid-mounted equipment. Prices start from £11,759 ex VAT.

Rated at 25hp, the new Massey Ferguson MF 1525H replaced the 22hp 1523H when it made its European debut at the BIGGA Turf Management Exhibition (BTME) held in Harrogate in January. It features upgraded engine, transmission, hydraulics and driver platform, and a new three-cylinder diesel engine developing 25hp at 2,600rpm.

An extra three-litre capacity to the fuel tank - up from 25 litres - enables longer operation without refuelling. The three-range hydrostatic transmission brings the tractor in line with the larger 1500 Series hydrostatic models.

Users operating implements and attachments should appreciate the 1523H's uprated hydraulic pump, now delivering 33 litres/min, giving the rear linkage lift capacity 600kg at the line ends. That's an increase of 60kg over its predecessor. There are also two auxiliary hydraulic valves as standard, selectable for singleor double-acting by moving a lever on the valve.

Equipped with rear and mid power-take-offs (PTOs) with independent electro-hydraulic engagement, the MF 1525H's PTO activation switch is located on the tractor's dash and offers both normal and "soft" engagement - the latter being recommended for high inertia implements or when operating in difficult or heavy-load conditions.

The MF 1525H was swiftly followed by the introduction of the 28hp MF 1529MA and the 32hp MF 1532MA, marking an important rationalisation of the MF 1500 Series. The newcomers replace four separate tractors - the MF 1529M and MF 1529A and the MF 1532M and MF 1532A - all of which had different standard specifications. The key features of these four have been combined within the new models, producing a pair of tractors with versatility on a multitude of onand off-road tasks.

The MA models have an 8x8 shuttle transmission with the option of four creeper speeds producing a 12-forward, 12-reverse mechanical shuttle gearbox - ideal for aeration, drainage and other slow-speed tasks.

Standard on both tractors are selectable 540rpm and 1,000rpm rear-power take-off speeds, engaged by an independent electro-hydraulic PTO clutch with dash-mounted control switch. A mid PTO can be specified as a factory-built option. Three-point linkage lift capacity is 1,100kg and there is one standard double-acting auxiliary valve. An additional valve can be specified if required. A distinctive feature on all three new MFs is the foldable ROPS.

For 2010 Kubota has unveiled the B2420 - a range-topping 24hp diesel addition to the 12hp, 16hp and 18hp B20 Series launched last year.

Kubota UK Tractor & Groundcare Division sales and marketing manager Dave Roberts explains the philosophy behind the launch: "No two tractor owners are the same when it comes to their requirements and tractor usage.

"However, many of our customers have told us time and again that they need a simple, user-friendly machine that is powerful, reliable and extremely durable and affordable."

The B2420 is just 1m wide, making it suitable for work in confined spaces and with four-wheel drive, a maximum speed of 19.4km/h and nine forward and three reverse gears, the operator can match the power and speed to tackle a wide range of demanding tasks. Capitalising on the machine's versatility, the B2420 has a 615kg lift capacity and two-speed rear PTO. Comfort on the B2420 is enhanced by a full flat operator-deck, angled colour-coded levers, suspension seat and cruise control.

Product innovation

The past 12 months have also seen a number of manufacturers upgrade engines to reduce emission and boost performance. Among them, ARGO Tractors gave its Landini Mistral range the technical makeover.

"Landini compacts have an excellent track-record for performance and reliability. It's a proven product and one that works well in the hands of operators in the amenity grounds care sector," says AgriArgo UK distributor Eamon Howden.

A new three-cylinder engine developing 35hp powers the smallest Mistral while the 44hp, 49hp and 54hp units sport four-cylinder engines. All are Yanmar and reckoned to be more efficient and cleaner.

"With implements that don't need a lot of power, the 'economy' PTO gearing allows the engine to be run at a lower speed to reduce both noise output and fuel consumption," explains Howden. "A third setting relates the speed of the PTO to the forward speed of the tractor, which can be useful for a number of specialist turf maintenance implements."

Also with a greener engine, and to meet an increasing demand for mid-range tractors, Kubota introduced the L4100 - an addition to its standard tractor range - at IoG Saltex last year. Joining the established L3200, the new model is aimed at those wanting a straightforward tractor with power, speed and versatility.

The L4100's E-TVCS (Three Vortex Combustion System), indirect injection, diesel engine generates 41.6hp and is noted for high torque and cleaner emissions and low noise and vibration. Backed by a 42litre fuel tank, it is intended to provide hours of uninterrupted work.

Utilising an eight forward, four reverse speed transmission with Kubota's sliding gear range shift system for seamless directional changes, the new model is useful for loading operations when matched to the LA703 loader.

Four-wheel drive, wet inboard disk brakes and a differential lock are all standard. For rear attachments, the L4100 has a lift capacity of 1,300kg at the link arms.

Contractors and direct labour organisations wanting a groundscare or highways tractor with a high standard of driver accommodation have a new option in the Landini PowerMondial mid-range, which made its debut in the UK last autumn.

Representing a step up from the established Landini Vision (82hp to 99hp) in terms of power and performance, the PowerMondials are available with 92hp, 102hp and 110hp Perkins four-cylinder engines. The Techno spec features a simple 15x15 synchro shuttle gearbox, but the top-specification model also has new T-Tronic creep transmission.

Howden says: "With three change-on-the-go powershifts in each of 12 speeds - giving a total of 48 ratio forward and 16 in reverse - this is a very productive design with the added convenience of a power shuttle."

But it is the MasterClass cab that underlines this tractor's premium specification. A four-post design previously reserved for Landini's six-cylinder PowerMax and PowerMaster tractors, the cab includes auto climate-control air conditioning, an upholstered passenger seat and electronic control of the three-point linkage. "The cab provides roomy driver accommodation and storage, plus a clear view to either side thanks to the lack of 'B' pillars," explains Howden. "It's a feature that also creates a light and airy working environment enhanced by Landini's trademark cab roof window."

New utilities

Suitable for a wide range of commercial, amenity and horticultural applications, John Deere's 5M and 5G utility tractors became available at the end of last year. The all-new 5M Series spans the 70hp to 100hp category and provides a general-purpose tractor powered by the 4.5litre Tier III John Deere PowerTech M diesel engine. Apart from reduced emission levels and good fuel economy, these mid-specification engines provide a two per cent power bulge and a 28hp per cent torque rise for tough tasks.

There is a choice of three transmission options, including a high-spec 32x16 Power Reverser Plus 40km/h transmission that features clutchless shifting of two HiLo gears under full load. Other options are the 16x16 Power Reverser 30km/h or 40km/h transmission and a basic 16x16 Sync Reverser 30km/h. There is a choice of electronic or mechanical three-point hitch controls. Maximum lift capacity is 3.6 tonnes.

Powered by the same type of engine as the 5M Series, the new 5G Series consists of nine models from 80hp to 100hp. In addition to the standard models, which can be fitted with turf tyres for amenity work, there are high ground-clearance, narrow-width fruit/orchard and vineyard models.

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