The highlight of a press event at John Deere’s Langar, Notts, UK headquarters
Undoubtedly, the highlight of a press event at John Deere’s Langar, Notts, UK headquarters was the first opportunity to see the eagerly anticipated 9RX articulated tracked tractor in the UK, but there was also news of other innovations designed to boost farm productivity. David Williams reports.
The event commenced with John Deere UK marketing manager Chris Wiltshire explaining the current market situation within the UK, as well as the focus for 2016-18, which will concentrate on the introduction of the latest products, following considerable investment during recent years as well as the dealer network’s relationship with new and existing customers. “Having the strongest dealer network is key to our success. Customers want a true partner to offer a solution package to meet their needs and our dealers provide that specialist service and knowledge.”
Chris went on to explain that 2015 has been another successful year for the company in terms of awards for its products and innovation, and that at Agritechnica in November, it would be presented with three Gold and 10 Silver medals.
John Deere tractor updates this year have included the 6R and 6M series; the higher specification 6R range forming the best-selling series in the UK, and he said the new 6155R, which replaces the current most popular model overall; the 6150R, is significant, as it is expected to take over the mantle of best seller, in a market segment which accounts for 25 per cent of annual UK tractor sales.
John Deere’s precision farming solutions packages, under the Farmsight banner, are increasing in popularity with 90 per cent of extra-large farms and 64 per cent of contractors currently using automatic steering systems. “We expect that within three years, 69 per cent of large farms will be using GPS section control on sprayers,” explained Farmsight product sales specialist Oliver Beekes. “Use of technology is increasing rapidly with 87 per cent of UK farms above 200ha using information management and precision farming systems, and 83 per cent are using specific farm weather data. In the past four years alone, we have seen an increase of 44 per cent in the number of farmers using specialist farm records software.”
John Deere has been very successful in its introduction and user take-up of its precision farming portfolio but Oliver said the only way to provide optimum benefits for the future is to open up its range to allow integration with as broad a range of systems from other brands as possible. The ‘MyJohnDeere’ application is a gateway allowing users to connect machines, operations and fields and is also a source of reliable weather data. “We offered ‘connected’ combines first, ‘connected’ sprayers this year and will have ‘connected’ tractors functionality for 2016,” explained Oliver. “We expect ‘connected’ forage harvesters to follow shortly after.”
As reported earlier this year by Farmers Guide (August 15 edition), John Deere has added new models and incorporated new technology into its trailed sprayer line-up.
PowrSpray offers significant advantages for users, with the potential to achieve improved controllability and to save fuel, using two hydraulic-driven pumps. Available on high specification R900i series trailed sprayers in 4,400, 5,200 and 6,200 litre tank capacities currently, PowrSpray offers filling speeds twice as fast as a conventional filling system, and has 50 per cent fewer moving parts, but offers direct rate control adjustment three times faster.
Standard is a 1,200-litre/min main filling pump, while a slightly smaller 1,000-litre/min pump provides the flow for spraying, and one of the main advantages is that even maximum pumping rates are achieved with the tractor engine at idle.
The centrifugal pumps allow agitation during transport between the yard and the field without any risk of pump damage and cleaning the sprayer and pump after applications is made easier with 45 per cent lower residual volume.
Direct Rate Control, which controls the pump speed, is able to adjust between maximum and minimum flow rates within just three seconds, offering flexibility of control unmatched by conventional systems, and providing accurate variation of spray rates for variable rate applications, and headland turns.
Because the pump speed is independent of engine speed, the tractor can be driven in economy modes, with the engine running only as fast as needed to pull the load, which saves fuel, wear and tear and noise.
The system includes Auto Filling, Auto Agitation Intensity, Power Agitation for maximum mixing performance and the Auto Dilute rinsing system. The press day at Langar included a demonstration of the filling speed, with three IBC containers needed to keep pace with the pump’s performance, despite the 6R tractor powering it being run at just an idle.
An active pause feature is included, which allows the operator to add the chemicals to the induction bowl while water filling is slowed to a trickle, after which full flow rate is resumed, with automatic cut off activated when the required amount of liquid has been added.
Self-propelled forage harvesters
Three new models have been added to John Deere’s 8000-series range of forage harvesters, following the launch of the series during autumn 2014.
The 8300 is powered by a 13.5-litre 490hp John Deere engine, and fits in to the range above the 8100 and 8200 models while, at the top of the range, new 8700 and 8800 models have been added, with 19-litre Cummins engines producing 761hp and 845hp respectively. The addition of the new models expands John Deere’s offering to eight machines.
Active Fill Control is fitted, which detects the trailer position and senses the fill level, using an intelligent strategy to optimise trailer loading and reduce operator effort. According to John Deere, the average self-propelled forager harvester operator makes up to 6,000 spout adjustments per day, and the new system will reduce time spent monitoring the trailer by up to nine per cent, allowing him to concentrate on optimising the harvesting performance and reducing the risk of spillage. Because the sensor doesn’t rely on daylight to fill, it is equally effective at night and will work in all weather conditions.
A new option, which will be popular with busy contractors, is an automatic PTO connection from the harvester to the header, which means the pick-up can be attached without leaving the cab, apart from to connect the hydraulic services.
Key features of the new models include a longitudinal engine layout, which provides improved airflow through the machine, resulting in less power needed for the cooling system as well as a lower engine mounting position which aids stability.
The 8000-series cabs incorporate an anti-glare control screen similar to that of a mobile phone display, Bluetooth connectivity and climate control.
Header updates include new 9-series grass pick-ups and Kemper 300 or 400-series row-independent rotary drum harvesting units.
Another option for tracked users
A new tracked tractor option will enter the market during 2016, providing competition to the Case IH Quadtrac and Versatile DeltaTrack.
Based on John Deere’s long-established 9R series articulated wheeled tractors, the 9RX features four track units in place of the wheels, and promises low ground pressure as well as optimal use of the power available.
Within the 9RX range are four models; the 9470RX, 9520RX, 9570RX and 9620RX; John Deere 13.5-litre PowerTech PSS engines used in the 9470 and 9520 machines and Cummins QSX 15-litre engines powering the two largest models. Cooled exhaust gas recirculation, enhanced turbocharger technology, a diesel particulate filter and SCR (Adblue) are used on all models to meet Tier 4 final emissions regulations.
The specification is similar to that of the articulated wheeled models but the track units use a huge drive sprocket of just over one metre diameter to engage with the rubber tracks through a 101 degree wrap angle, and provide the drive, while two large idlers and mid-rollers spread the weight along the length of the track on the ground and ensure maximum traction. The idlers are smooth, which means there is nowhere for dirt to build up, explains John Deere, and the front roller is slightly raised compared to mid-rollers for improved ground contact. The two mid rollers are either side of the centre-pivot point, allowing a gradual transition over unyielding ground undulations and reducing shock loads up through the undercarriage structure. Up to 10 degrees of track assembly movement is available front and rear.
The track hubs are sealed for life while the mid rollers require a level check every 1,500 hours. Tracks are made for John Deere by Camoplast and are available in 76cm (30in) or 91cm (36in) widths, the narrower belts maintaining an overall width of under 3m for road work.
Transmission is powershift and uses John Deere’s e18 system which incorporates automatic shifting to match power demands. Efficiency Manager automatically monitors the engine and transmission performance, maintaining the lowest possible engine speed for maximum fuel savings.
Active Command steering is an option which improves manoeuvrability and line-holding ability even at transport speeds up to 40kph.
The cab is the latest CommandView 3, and incorporates a new 4-post suspension system, using a torsion bar at the front to remove unwanted side-to-side movement but permits up to 10cms of vertical travel, providing a smooth ride for the operator and reducing vibration. A premium LED lighting package is an option with halogen lighting supplied as standard equipment.
AutoTrac guidance and JDLink Connect Information management are standard and a 4th generation CommandCenter display is fitted.
Fuel tank capacity is 1,490 litres and Adblue capacity is 83 litres. Gross weight when full of fuel is approximately 28t and there are no extra ballasting options available.
A rear linkage, with up to 9t lift capacity, and PTO are both options, and a Cat 5 drawbar is standard on the largest models while a Cat 4 hitch is standard on smaller models.
Hydraulic performance is impressive with up to six SCVs available factory fitted and up to eight available for fitting by the dealer. Hydraulic flow rates up to 435 litres/min are available, although standard specification includes a 220-litres/min flow rate.
First deliveries of the new 9RX will be in Spring 2016, with production due to start in February. Just one 9RX will be in the UK until then; a top of the range 9620 model complete with rear linkage.
Farmers Guide was invited to attend one of a few early dealer days to which selected customers had been invited. With an 8m Horsch heavy cultivator at the rear, conditions for operating on the heavy Cambridgeshire land were challenging, as heavy rain had fallen during preceding days, and continued to fall throughout the demonstration day.
Despite the weather, the event was well attended and dealers reported considerable interest from potential customers, including many currently running large wheeled tractors as well as tracked machines of other brands.
Chris Wiltshire commented; “The weather was poor during much of the week when the customer days took place but, despite the conditions, the 9RX was able to work at each location. The reception from potential customers exceeded anything we could have hoped for and there was a lot of enthusiasm for the new tractor. We had expected visitors to have a look, see it working and then leave, but many stayed for three to four hours, as they were so interested.
“The main reason for attending was that farmers were looking for larger machinery and there seemed to be appreciation that there is another option in the large crawler market. Excellent back-up is needed for users running a machine like this and customers are confident that we have the support available. There was a great deal of interest in the technical aspects of the tracks and the cab suspension system as users are keen to use a machine which is comfortable on the road and in the field,” he continued.
Chris said the poor weather conditions had made conditions for fieldwork difficult in all but one of the locations, but that the challenging situations showed the benefits of the four-track system.
“Many of those attending were existing John Deere users, many of who are considering upgrading from 8- and 9-series wheeled and tracked machines,” he said. “There was a great deal of interest from users of other brands too, and dealers are going to be very busy now arranging demonstrations on users’ farms during the spring. Most interest was from large-scale farmers although contractors attended too. It seems from the enquiries so far that the best sellers are likely to be the 9520RX and flagship 9620RX, supplied to a high specification with rear linkage and PTO, partly because there is an expectation that these options will increase saleability when the time comes to update.
“The demonstration days have already resulted in one firm order from a farmer who attended an event in Gloucestershire and he and his operator were both very enthusiastic. The 9RX is certainly creating a great deal of interest and we look forward to them becoming available,” he added.
The demonstration provided an opportunity for Farmers Guide to try out the new machine. Performance was impressive, despite the slippery conditions, and the tractor had no problems putting its power to the ground. The site was sloping, and had variable soil conditions between the lower and raised areas, so it was an ideal test for the Efficiency Manager engine and transmission control system.
As conditions altered and the engine load increased or decreased, the software monitored what was happening and shifted the gear up or down as needed. Even with the heavy cultivator at the rear, changes under load were smooth, and barely perceptible to the operator, the main indication being a change in engine note and the in-cab display showing the change in engine speed. Fully programmable, the operator can set the speed at which gear changes occur to suit the application, but the big Cummins engine operated throughout at very low revs.
The cab is spacious and comfortable, with decent sized seats. Noise levels are low and there is little vibration from the track units. Manoeuvrability is good, providing efficient headland turns and the AutoGuide steering easily maintained a straight line while working alternate bouts.
With a starting price of 332,307 for the base 9470RX, and with the flagship 9620RX priced from 388,668, the 9RX machines are a big investment, but will satisfy those looking for high performance to improve timeliness of farm operations.