The other day I saw a vintage tractor chugging up the lane to attend a local village fete. Every few yards it gave a cough and belched black smoke. The driver sat on a pile of cushions to reduce the bone-shaking vibrations. A warm sense of nostalgia, yes, but thank goodness times have changed.
Today operators of machinery, whether working in golf and sports, local authorities or producing fruit and vegetables, are increasingly looking for comfort as well as performance and are seeking to protect the environment from pollution through a reduction in exhaust emissions.
There is a constant expectation for manufacturers to develop and apply the latest technology to deliver operator-friendly, high-performance machines with cleaner engine emissions — and it is an expectation that is being met.
Meeting the green challenge
The new 4066M and 4066R compact tractors from John Deere are meeting the green challenge in several ways, but mainly through the use of fully integrated diesel particulate filter (DPF) technology.
"This innovation results in reduced engine exhaust emissions and maintains the required performance levels to meet a wide range of customer needs," says John Deere UK and Ireland turf division manager Chris Meacock.
The 66hp four-cylinder compact models benefit from the same technology used in John Deere’s larger, agricultural tractors. According to the company, that technology helps to reduce emissions compared to standard non-DPF engines. The ex-factory solution is also designed with service requirements in mind. Except for the usual daily checks and standard servicing intervals, no extra cleaning or manual effort is required to keep the engine running efficiently.
But it is not just about emissions. The 4066M and 4066R models are also easy to operate, having John Deere’s well-established automatic three-range eHydro transmission with TwinTouch forward and reverse pedals. Top model 4066R also features Hitch Assist to give fast and safe coupling with implements and trailers to the rear hitch or three-point linkage.
This year tractor and grounds care specialist Kubota UK has expanded its range of compact tractors with the introduction of the STW Series, providing a step up from existing models and promising new levels of comfort and performance. Kubota business development manager Adrian Langmead says: "We know that fans of our compact range will be impressed with the quick and powerful performance for a wide range of jobs from mowing to front-loader work."
All three machines — the 34hp STW34, 37hp STW37 and 40hp STW40 — feature hydrostatic power steering to perform tighter turns and handle front-loader work while reducing operator fatigue. Standard on this series is Kubota’s Bi-Speed Turning, making turns quicker, smoother and tighter but minimising potential damage to surfaces.
The diesel engines employed in the STW Series offer a higher and stable output of 2,700rpm. The large torque rise is handy when working at low speeds while for those who want to travel swiftly between sites the series offers a class-leading maximum travel speed of 34.1kph
for increased productivity.
For the ultimate comfort, the three new tractors are available with an optional factory-equipped cab. Of four-pillar design, the cab has a large curved windscreen offering a 360° view.
Air-conditioning, front wiper and rear defogger make the machine comfortable to use in all seasons.
Also featuring Bi-Speed Turning and hydrostatic power steering, Kubota’s MK5000 was launched earlier this year to replace the L4100. It comes complete with fully electronic controlled high-pressure Common Rail System engine to deliver high levels of power and a DPF to reduce emission levels.
An all-rounder, the new model should find itself at home in the field or on turf and it boasts cruise control to ease the pressure on day-long drivers. "The MK5000 delivers on versatility and performance. Its ease of use and ability to carry out a multitude of tasks make it ideal for anyone needing a reliable utility tractor that can withstand difficult terrains and ensure tough jobs, especially during extended periods of work," says Langmead.
This year saw New Holland introduce the improved TD4F range of orchard tractors. Based on the TD4000F tractor range, the new series introduced a host of technical and functional features for modern fruit-growing operations. There are three models from 65hp to 88hp, all with new styling, a servo operated power take-off (PTO) and easy-access hydraulic coupling. The top-of-the-range version has an hydraulic power shuttle for smooth and modulated shifting between forward and reverse without clutching.
Another new option with compact dimensions and a narrow tread width, John Deere’s 5G Series line-up consists of four model ranges with 3.2- and 4.5-litre Stage IIIA engines rated 75hp, 85hp or 100hp, plus a choice of two- or four-wheel drive.
The 5GF, 5GN and 5GV tractors offer an open operator station or redesigned cab as well as a wide range of transmission, PTO and hydraulic options, from entry level to premium. These include a two-wheel drive 12F/12R transmission up to a four-wheel drive 24F/12R PowrReverser, a 540/540E PTO or a 540/1000 PTO including ground drive and a twin-pump hydraulic system with two mechanical SCVs or a triple-pump system with four electro-hydraulic SCVs including seven mid-mounted couplers.
Likely to appeal to strawberry growers and producers of salad, vegetable and other delicate crops, the new Landini 5-D high-clearance 4x4 tractor has been designed to minimise the potential for contact damage and contamination.
"The high-clearance version of the Powerfarm brought a new dimension to growing strawberries in beds, as well as asparagus, because of the added clearance," explains AgriArgo UK product specialist Paul Wade. "The Powerfarm’s successor brings not only a new, more fuel-efficient engine but also more feature options to enable growers to choose the best specification for their particular circumstances."
Among these new options is a two-wheel drive version for those growers who do not need the extra traction of a driven front axle. "The pay-off is the ultimate in ground clearance, which at 700mm is even more than the 684mm that the four-wheel drive version musters," says Wade.
There are also two extra transmission choices — a 16x16 creep option is available in place of the standard 12x12 synchro shuttle unit and there are 24x12 and 32x16 creep transmissions with push-button HiLo powershift and the ease of control that comes with a response-adjustable power shuttle for shifting between forward and reverse.
Operators with implements that can be run at 540rpm should be able to save fuel by selecting the 540/540E PTO combination, which gives the required speed at either maximum power or at almost 30 per cent lower engine revs. For more demanding implements, the 540/1,000rpm combination is still available. There is a choice of open platform or cab.
As part of the wholesale upgrade of the McCormick tractor range, seven new models have been developed for sports and amenity grounds care applications, with transmission and engine combinations plus a spacious cab that should appeal to operators and owner/drivers alike.
The McCormick X4 Series, distributed by AgriArgo, is a small full-size tractor design with power outputs from 64hp to 107hp and a good choice of specifications to suit different tasks and budgets. Notable features include optional creeper gears and ground drive PTO for specialist turf-maintenance machinery, a low-revs Eco 40kph transmission option for fuel-efficient road travel and a new cab design.
"The designers at Argo Tractors have given the McCormick X4 Series cab a lot of attention to ensure it provides a comfortable and practical workplace," says Wade. "It’s quite a challenge making a cab to fit a small tractor that’s in proportion but gives the operator plenty of space and good visibility, but the X4 designers have achieved that."
Latest Deutz engines with simple emissions-control technology feature under the bonnet of the 64hp X4.20C, 69hp X4.30C and 76hp X4.40C but, unusually, the 75hp X4.35C has a Perkins diesel engine to earlier emissions rules, giving it a price advantage over the 75hp X4.40C while engine stocks last.
Service level agreement: offering value and reassurance
Lely UK, sole distributor of TYM in the UK, has introduced a new service level agreement (SLA) between the company and its network of machinery dealers and service centres.
Lely has two service centres of its own, in East Sussex and Cambridgeshire, plus 20 independent authorised service locations and a UK-wide dealer group. The SLA has been created to smooth out potential inconsistencies countrywide, providing a base-line standard of service commitment that end users can access from any authorised service location.
"We have created common goals and values that are a benchmark for supporting the end user of any of the commercial turf products distributed by Lely. Because these can be measured and monitored, we’re able to provide value and reassurance to our customers no matter where they are," says Lely turf division senior manager David Cole.
He explains that the headline commitments that will be of interest to customers involve setting high standards and the spare parts supply process. "The SLA sets targets for service, repair and warranty work being carried out in a prompt and timely manner, and details our standard response goal to customer emergency request for service repairs."
The SLA also applies to Toro Commercial products.