IoG Saltex Preview: Mowers

From zero-turn technology to improved road speed, the new grass-cutting models at IoG Saltex are packed with useful features.

A saving of more than £20,000 is expected over the next five years following the decision to cease outsourcing grass-cutting operations at Pinkwell Primary School. But taking the work back in-house means the Hillingdon school's facilities manager Peter Bristow has had to buy new kit.

"Over the past three years I've looked closely at what we've been paying for grass cutting, and it wasn't long before I did the sums and reckoned we could save a tidy amount if I did the job myself," says Bristow. "But I knew I had to have the right tools for the job; I needed a new pedestrian mower, a trimmer and a backpack sprayer, plus some play equipment – and I knew there was only one place where I could see everything I needed."

Bristow's trip to last year's IoG Saltex enabled him to compare models and resulted in the purchase of a John Deere JX90 mower.

This year, visitors can expect to find a host of new grass-cutting equipment on display. There promises to be something for everyone, whether you are maintaining fine turf or need machinery for conservation sites.

If you want to use a cylinder-type mower to maintain a range of grass lengths from 10mm up to 200mm, check out the wheeled Buffalo machines on Allett's stand. These new models see the conventional rear roller of the Buffalo 20, 24, 27 and 34 mowers replaced by a pair of wheels.

And instead of a front roller there is a pair of height-adjustable anti-scalp rollers. The curved throw-plate has also been removed, so grass is discharged rearwards onto the ground, rather than forwards for collection in a box.

Available as a factory-built option or as a kit to convert existing rear-roller Buffalo mowers, the major benefits of the wheeled models are reported to include improved safety and reduced noise. Allett managing director Austin Jarrett explains: "Enhanced safety is due to the absence of any high-speed lateral stone discharge, while reduced noise levels result from the far lower engine speeds needed to produce a precision cut from the Buffalo's 200mm-diameter, eight-bladed cylinder."

Incorporating an industry-first rotor/flail braking system, the walk-behind mulching flail mower should attract attention on Rapid Tractors' stand. In the event of an emergency, the system is designed to stop the flails from full speed in less than five seconds. The mower also features a simple adjuster for working height, plus a self-cleaning roller. The new Rapid flail mower is offered in working widths of 70cm, 90cm, 110cm and 130cm.

A new brand of mower makes its debut at IoG Saltex as Henton & Chattell attends the show for the first time. The Asuka range of professional wheeled and roller rotaries consists of 48cm and 53cm models powered by Honda and Kawasaki engines and featuring shaft drive. All models have blade-brake clutches and are self-propelled.

On the same stand you can see the Flymo XL500 Plus – a petrol hover mower for the semi-professional and professional user looking for a means of mowing inclines up to 45° – and new Honda-powered Idea rotary mowers from Italy, with 42cm and 47cm cutting widths and ABS or aluminium decks.

Also aimed at slopes, but up to 55°, Ransomes' Spider II makes its debut at IoG Saltex. More powerful and productive than the original model, this unit features a 680cc Kawasaki engine to drive four blades and produce a 1.23m cut.

Anyone wanting to mulch-mow should take a look at the Jacobsen AR522 rotary mower. It has been fitted with Trim Tek cutting decks to ensure the grass clippings are suspended for longer – useful when handling heavy volumes of grass and maintaining a high quality of cut.

Also on the stand, the upgraded Jacobsen G-Plex III greens mower – now with hand-operated parking brake and joystick lift/lower control – and the Jacobsen R-311, launched at the GIS show in New Orleans in February.

Under the Iseki brand, Ransomes Jacobsen is launching two models. The Iseki SXG15 is seen as tackling major compact tractor manufacturers Kubota and John Deere head on.

This highly specified mower has many attributes that Ransomes Jacobsen believes will make it a best-seller – including a rear-discharge system with central blower-less collection and a shaft-driven mower deck with overlapping blade configuration.

Targeted at landscapers, grounds-care contractors and caravan-park operators, Ransomes Jacobsen is introducing the SFH240 out-front rotary mower with a choice of 1.22m or 1.37m rear-discharge cutting decks. The collecting system on this model features a high dump hopper with a clearance height of 1.9m and an offset of 75cm, designed to provide easy access when depositing clippings into waste skips and bins.

Hayter is offering grass-cutting contractors more choice as it shows the Toro walk-behind Mid-Size mowers, previously available with 36" (91cm) or 48" (122cm) rear-discharge decks, but now with a choice of 32" (81cm) rotary or 38" (97cm) flail attachments. The 32' version can be specified with a narrow wheel kit to enable access through gateways.

A main theme on Hayter's stand is zero-turn technology as the company launches the Toro Grandstand. Offering a cross between the mid-size walk-behinds and the ride-on zero-turns, the Grandstand is a stand-on machine. It is available with a 122cm turbo-force side-discharge deck, with Recycler kit as an option, and is powered by a 19hp Kawasaki V-Twin engine. With visibility a main feature, the Grandstand should prove ideal for contractors needing to steer around obstacles and identify changes in terrain.

Yet another new introduction on the Hayter display is the GM7200/7210 ride-on zero-turn. These units can be converted to snow-clearing machines to keep them busy through the winter months.

Zero-turns also star on the Barrus stand as new Cub Cadet front-mount mowers are introduced to combine manoeuvrability and operator view with the comfort of a garden tractor and the accuracy of a front deck. The mowers are aimed at professional gardeners and landowners and benefit from a Synchronised Traction System to maximise hill-climbing ability. Three models make a first appearance: the FMZ 42 and 50 SD both with side-discharge decks and the FMZ 48 RD with rear discharge. The 42' (107cm) model is powered by a 17hp Kohler engine, while the 48" (122cm) and 50" (127cm) units are equipped with 22hp Kawasaki twin overhead valve engines.

Additional features include a large discharge chute for rough terrain. A stan-dard mulch kit is available for sites requiring a clean cut.

Need to get the mowing done fast? Toro Commercial Products may have the answer as the company launches the new Groundsmaster 5900 Series range of wide-area rotary mowers. With powerful engines and cutting widths of 4.9m, the 5900 and 5910 models can cut at a rate of 12.5 acres (5ha) per hour. The company has also improved the Groundsmaster 4000-D, 4500-D and 4700-D mowers by adding a reversible fan that blows grass cuttings away from the engine grill.

Improved road speed – thanks to a modified wheel frame – and increased hopper capacity should boost the work rates of the prototype Groundkeeper GHX, exhibited at IoG Saltex by Amazone. Suitable for large areas and designed to mow, scarify, collect, mulch and roll in one pass, the new model can travel up to 40km/h. Groundsmen's comments will be fed back to the company's team of engineers.

The latest evolution of the FlailDek out-front flail mower makes its official debut on Trimax's stand. The FlailDek FX features a device – the Converter – to enable the mower to be configured to suit grass conditions from short, quality turf to metre-high grass and weeds.

Trimax R&D manager Jim McEwen believes the Converter will prove popular with councils and contractors.

"The FlailDek Series 2 has always excelled on fine turf but there are occasions when you come across infrequently mown areas or long, rank growth," he says.

"With the FX, a minor adjustment gives you the capability to leave a high-quality finish as opposed to simply bashing it down." Working widths are 1.35m, 1.55m and 1.85m.

UNDER WRAPS

Moving to a bigger stand for this year's show, Etesia plans to demonstrate three new products – but no details are likely to be forthcoming before the show.

The latest ProLine mowers, which include front-mounted units, can be viewed on the Broadwood International stand.

For fine turf, from bowling and golf greens to tees and cricket pitches, Dennis is unveiling its latest machine following input by groundsmen.

Ransomes Jacobsen is keeping tight-lipped about its new mower, though it is understood that the lightweight addition to the range is aimed at the municipal sector. Visit the company's stand near to the north entrance to find out more.

IN THE WORKSHOP

Spaldings UK has expanded its professional grass machinery range with the introduction of additional Ransomes spares. The spares are to fit the post- 2003 TG3400/TG4650 mowers with Sport 200 and Magna 250 heads. The range consists of a selection of lift arms for direct replacement of cylinder mower parts.

As insurers become more insistent that equipment is properly secured in order to provide cover, Dennis is promoting MowerSafe. It features a strong barrel lock with "anti-hammer protection" and, as an extra measure, the unit can be bolted to the floor. MowerSafe is suited to machines up to 24" (61cm) wide but bigger models are currently being developed to take those even more expensive 36" (91cm) mowers.


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