Massey Ferguson’s second Vision of the Future event saw the launch of a totally new range of tractors
Massey Ferguson’s second Vision of the Future event saw the launch of a totally new range of tractors; the Global Series, which have been in development for approximately six years and in which the company has already invested 350m dollars. David Williams attended.The event also provided an opportunity for almost 6,000 farmers and European agricultural press to find out about the latest product updates and new models. The first Vision of the Future event was in 2012, at the same location; on agricultural land adjoining an agricultural college approximately an hour north-east of Paris. As well as a representative selection of all the latest products from the company, on static display and working, there was an informative conference during which speakers from companies at the leading-edge of agricultural technology talked about what is happening in the industry and issues which will affect farmers in the coming years. The conference, in the college’s main auditorium, included speakers from Trelleborg, talking about its new progressive traction tyre; Syngenta, describing the benefits of its hybrid cereal crops and from Agco; describing the state of the industry and some of the machinery concepts it sees as possibilities for farms in the future. Global tractorThe big news at the event was the Global Series tractors. At first glance the concept would appear to be the introduction into the range of modernised versions of the incredibly practical and functional MF165 and MF185-era machines of the 1970s, but what Massey Ferguson has done with the new tractors is much more than that. With many of its older machines still operating daily the brand is one of the best known world-wide, providing simple, reliable operation and easy maintenance.Different types of agriculture and local regulations mean no single tractor range specification is suitable for use in every country; in particular the engine emissions regulations which have had a big effect on engine design in recent years, with the most stringent requirements demanded for supply within Europe and the USA. Elsewhere in the world different standards apply and in some countries there are no emission standards to be met. Meeting the most demanding requirements requires advanced fuel injection and exhaust systems and top quality fuel is needed by the precision components. Specialist equipment is needed for repairs and servicing and technicians need specialist training. These factors would make the highest standard specification tractors unsuitable for use in countries where fuel quality is less reliable and where the back-up to keep them working is not available, so a more basic fuel system is needed.The tasks carried out by tractors also vary from country to country and, while the only function of the rear lift arms on some tractors might be to hold the counter-weight for a front loader, or to operate a trailer hitch, small intensive arable farmers might use the same tractor for demanding draft work where lifting ability and precise control are essential. A versatile transmission offering overlap between the gears and a wide range of speeds to suit specialist applications is needed by users in some areas while a simple sequence of speed steps from minimum to maximum will be all that is required elsewhere in the world. Features such as power shuttle for ease of shifting between forward and reverse, providing added efficiency for operating in confined spaces and for loader work are expected now in much of Europe, whereas elsewhere, a simpler, less slick system will provide the performance needed.Massey Ferguson’s new tractors have a modular construction, allowing the company to supply a combination of components to suit the area and type of use. Rather than base the tractors on any existing design, and modernise it to meet current demand, the company has designed the new tractors from the ground up, and more than 90 per cent of the parts and components are totally new; designed and engineered specifically for the tractors. Massey Ferguson director of sales engineering and brand development, Campbell Scott pointed out that the 31 prototype tractors, which have undergone world-wide testing, had endured a total of 44,762 hours to date, operating in more extreme conditions than any previously developed range.They are designed to be built in any country or area where there is major demand, saving transport costs and improving efficiency of supply. The company stresses that the Global Series tractors are Massey Ferguson throughout, even though the first production facility is a brand new purpose-built factory at Changzhou in China to meet anticipated local demand.Eventually the range will include power outputs from 60-130hp, but initially just two models are available; the 82hp 4708 and the 95hp 4709. The first 4708 machines will be for use in Africa and the Middle East while the 4709 will be available first for Turkey, and then for the rest of Europe.The two models were displayed and demonstrated at the French launch with versions showing clearly the range of specifications for different sales areas. For countries with stringent emissions requirements, power for the 4709 is provided by a 3-cylinder 3.3-litre turbocharged AgcoPower engine, using exhaust gas recirculation and a maintenance-free diesel oxidation filter, while power for the African-bound 4708 is from a 4-cylinder 4.4-litre turbocharged engine manufactured under licence.European-specification machines will be fitted with a 12×12 transmission, with an optional extra lower creep-speed range. An 8×8-speed transmission will be standard on the African-bound models. Maximum travel speeds for European models will be 40kph on the 4wd versions and 30kph on 2wd. The mechanical shuttle, fitted to both variants, is operated from a dashboard-mounted lever on European specification models and a large floor-mounted lever on others. The foot pedals are also different; hanging pendant-type pedals for Europe and floor-mounted for other areas. On 4wd versions, drive to the front wheels, engaged on-the-move through an electro-hydraulic selector clutch, is through an enclosed shaft running under the centre of the transmission and engine to the front axle.For Europe, the floor platform is shaped to cover the transmission tunnel, which provides isolation of the operator seat from the main chassis. Other models have an exposed transmission top, and the seat doesn’t benefit from the vibration-reducing isolation, and the floor is made up of separate footstep-type platforms on the left and right. A cab version is expected to make its debt in a few years’ time, likely to be available in standard and low profiles.Hydraulic lift capacity on the 4700 models is 3,000kg, and 540rpm PTO, operated by a 3-position rocker switch, is standard. A 540 Eco version will be an option later. Electronic linkage control is on all models, a sensing pin in the top link providing the signal for draft sensing. The high pressure open-centre hydraulic system is fed by tandem pumps, one for linkage and spool valves, the other supplying the auxiliary hydraulic circuits, to cope with demand from modern implements.The rear-hinged bonnets have a simple release latch at the front, and provide good access for maintenance. The battery is easy to check at the front and, behind it, the cooling radiators slide out for ease of cleaning.Farmers Guide had an exclusive first test-drive on the 4708 4wd. The seat had plenty of adjustment fore and aft to provide ample leg room for the 6ft-plus operator, and all the controls were logically and conveniently located and close to hand. The floor mounted forward and reverse shuttle lever was a bit cumbersome, but European specification models will have the more convenient dashboard-mounted lever which will be a big improvement. The 4-cylinder engine was lively providing good performance in a variety of gears around the test course, but lacked grunt in higher gears when operating at low revs. Steering on the 4wd tractor was light and very predictable, and the turning circle was good, allowing easy manoeuvring around obstacles. The tractor had the more basic floor-mounted pedal layout, but they were light and provided good control, certainly much easier to use than those of older MF models such as an MF165 or a slightly newer MF590, both tractors which the new models could possibly replace on UK farms.The first of the new tractors is likely to be available in the UK early in 2015, with a wider range of models being introduced during the next 3-4 years.”Designing and building a complete new range of tractors has allowed us to use 2015 – rather than 1955 – technology, which would have been the case if we had just updated existing components,” explained Massey Ferguson vice president for sales and marketing in the EAME region, Thierry Lhotte. “Developing the new transmission from scratch has enabled us to design the most efficient possible, and the tractors’ modular construction allows us to supply these totally modern machines for use anywhere; from countries where the exhaust emissions standards are still T0, to those with the most demanding T4-final.”CombinesThe latest combines from Massey Ferguson were displayed, but heavy rain the night before and during the event prevented the planned harvesting demonstrations.The biggest news is improvements to the specification of Activa S and Beta combines, the Activa S benefitting from a new Proline cab, with features taken from the Skyline cab, introduced two years ago for the higher specification Beta and Delta Hybrid models.The Proline cab has improved styling and better access and the controls are updated. The TechTouch 2 terminal, already fitted to the larger machines, provides automatic settings for many crops, automatic adjustment of reel speed and advanced height control, maintaining a constant ground pressure of the header on undulating land. The touch-control colour screen provides easy monitoring of all harvesting functions, while a split display facility allows the operator to keep an eye on multiple functions at the same time. A PowerGrip joystick controller, with finger and thumb buttons for the most frequently used functions, is used to operate the combine, and provides pulse-propulsion, allowing the operator to nudge the lever to increase or reduce speed.Operator comfort is improved with a larger glass area increasing visibility, better insulation reducing noise, and an air-suspension seat providing a better ride. A fridge and storage box is beneath the passenger seat. More lights are provided to improve conditions for working at night.The Activa S is available in 7345 5-straw-walker, and 7347 6-straw-walker versions, with or without rotary separators. The smallest 7345 has 243hp, and the 7347 has 276hp with an additional 30hp available during unloading.Grain tank capacity is 8,600 litres and there is now the option of a PowerFlow header up to 6.8m wide. The PowerFlow header uses a belt to gather the crops, reducing losses considerably and provides a heads-first crop flow to the intake elevator. Massey Ferguson claims output improvements up to 73 per cent in OSR, 15 per cent in wheat and 12 per cent in barley through the system. The FreeFlow standard table is available in widths from 4.8-7.6m.Beta updatesThe larger Beta 7360 5-straw-walker and 7370 6-straw-walker models also gain improvements for 2015. AgcoPower engines provide the power; an 8.4-litre 320hp version fitted to 7370 and 7370PL hillside model provides a 40hp boost during unloading. The 7360 and 7360PL models have a 7.4-litre engine developing 276hp, with an extra 30hp boost available. The engines are equipped with SCR (Adblue) to meet latest emissions regulations. A new option on the latest models is AutoGuide xls automatic steering providing accuracy to within 5cm, and capable of setting up the field layout to minimise short-work for extra efficiency.Telematics are fitted as standard on 2015 models, providing easy harvesting operation monitoring from anywhere, via a computer.The PowerFlow header is also an option on Beta models; with a working width up to 7.7m available. “The PowerFlow tables have been in production for 25 years, and are still probably the best table on the market,” commented Massey Ferguson powered harvesting marketing manager Adam Sherriff.A new 6-row straw chopper, which uses pairs of serrated knives operating against adjustable stationary knives and a dimple plate provides adjustable fineness of chop. An optional twin-rotor chaff spreader is available to spread across the working width up to 25ft, and a further option is electric deflectors to precisely adjust the spread pattern.For hill work the ParaLevel front axle system provides levelling across slopes up to 20 per cent, and a new additional Integrale (i) option raises and lowers the rear of the machine providing auto-levelling up to 30 per cent up hill and 10 per cent down. PL and PLi models all have 4wd as standard.Harvest back-up assuredMassey Ferguson introduced its parts promise ahead of the 2014 harvest season. Covering five, six and eight straw-walker models as well as the flagship Hybrid machines, and operational from 1st June-15th November, the promise is that if a part is not available within 24 hours to get a combine back working, then the company will provide financial assistance of 35 euros/ha, to pay for a contractor, or for the hire of a replacement machine, for example. Introduced to give users the assurance that Massey Ferguson and its dealers could provide the back-up necessary for modern farming operations, the company confirmed that to date, there has been no occasion during which it has had to make any payments, its parts systems having provided the service required.Antarctica againIn 1958, three Ferguson TE20 tractors, running on specially designed tracks, provided the mechanical assistance which enabled Sir Edmund Hillary to make his journey over land across Antarctica to the South Pole.On 15th November this year a team will leave Cape Town to recreate the 2,350km journey, the old Fergies replaced by a modern Massey Ferguson 5610, modified for the expedition by the engineering team at the company’s Beauvais tractor plant. Instead of tracks the 5610 will be on Trelleborg Progressive Traction tyres, and the tractor, leaving Cape Town with 1,000kg of back-up parts, will be maintained twice daily, Massey Ferguson’s Agcommand telematics system relaying performance information back to the 24-hour support team at Beauvais.The team is expected to arrive at the South Pole in early December, encountering temperatures down to minus 40 degrees centigrade and altitudes up to 3,400m on the way.The futureLike other manufacturers Massey Ferguson is looking at what is needed to meet the demands of agricultural users of the future and a rare insight was provided by Thierry Lhotte of some of the concepts which have been considered.The use of an operator-driven lead tractor and an unmanned slave tractor working alongside allows one person to operate two machines, and Thierry talked of some of the benefits. Fendt has demonstrated its Guide Connect twin-tractor system, which involves two tractors both carrying out similar tasks, the first with an operator and the second mimicking the movements of the first. Massey Ferguson showed an illustration of a similar system, but took it a stage further; the second tractor without a cab, able to operate independently of the first tractor when needed. An ‘immersion cab’, incorporating a live display, allows the operator to sit in the cabbed tractor, but have the operating view of the second cab-less tractor, driving it as if he was sitting in the other tractor’s seat. An example application was using the cabbed tractor with a trailer to transport bales, and the cab-less tractor with a front loader to load the trailer. Rather than dismount from the cab, the operator simply remains in his seat, but switches his operating view to that of the second tractor, and loads the trailer by remote control of the driver-less tractor.Also shown was a load-platform tractor design, with an extending chassis allowing large implements such as sugar beet harvesters to be carried, or the chassis to be closed up providing a more compact machine for general tasks. A further feature was the ability to mount a second power unit to provide additional power when needed but which, when removed, could be used to generate electrical power for other uses.