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Versatility and innovation on show at Agritechnica

The mammoth German agricultural machinery show’s popularity displays no signs of diminishing as this year it attracted almost 2,900 exhibitors from 47 countries and 450,000 visitors

The mammoth German agricultural machinery show’s popularity displays no signs of diminishing as this year it attracted almost 2,900 exhibitors from 47 countries and 450,000 visitors, of which 112,000 had travelled from outside Germany. David Williams reports.As expected, most major manufacturers included their flagship models on display but elsewhere on the stands were the more moderate-sized machines likely to sell in much larger numbers to the majority of farmer and contractor visitors. There were also plenty of options for the smaller scale growers including hand tools and walk-behind equipment, and a selection of the most compact materials handling machines for use in the tightest spaces.Alternative fuel and drive systems were a theme on several stands; New Holland displaying a prototype methane-powered tractor and Merlo showing its Hybrid telescopic handler which uses diesel and electric power and which was awarded a gold medal at the event, while Fendt had the next generation of its X Concept tractor on display which uses an electric drive to implements in place of the more usual PTO shaft.Increased interest in energy crops meant precision maize drills were taking centre-stage on the stands of their manufacturers whereas just a few years ago they would have been tucked away at the rear.
Versatility of cultivation products is an area of recent development, manufacturers having responded to the need for equipment which will work across a wider range of soils, and in variable weather conditions by developing implements on which the different cultivation elements can be prioritised to suit. Reduced cultivation too, remains an area of innovation, several more manufacturers having developed strip-till cultivators to add to their ranges.For livestock farms, there were also many new products on show, and most tractor manufacturers were displaying steep-angled and snub-nosed models as well as cabs with improved forward and upward visibility for use with front loaders. New mixer and feeder waggons, as well as muck and slurry spreaders were shown, all with features designed to make them more efficient, or to provide extra capacity.Claas chose the event to launch its Axion 800 CMatic models. The Axion 800 range was launched to the press at an event in France in early July, all with the Claas Hexashift transmission, but the new CMatic specification includes a CVT system, filling a gap in the Claas range which now includes a CVT option on tractors from 140-530hp.
The medal presentation evenings were particularly busy for the manufacturer which was awarded one gold, and six silvers for its recent innovations. Its greatest triumph was the award of Tractor of the Year 2014, for the new Axion 850.Claas is justifiably proud of the results of its investment in its tractor range in recent years, and the company said that there are now in excess of 100,000 of its green tractors out working on farms, its market share having increased from one to seven per cent in 10 years. It is continuing to invest heavily, with 270 development engineers working on its range in France and Germany, and its target for 2018 is to manufacture and sell 25,000 tractors compared to 14,000 this year, which it says is completely realistic.
 Weaving Machinery reported a very successful show, with considerable interest in all its products but especially the Sabre Tine drill. “It has been available for two seasons,” commented Simon Weaving, “and many have been sold by recommendation, to farmers and contractors. Users like its versatility as it can establish the crop using three different techniques. Our tine drill has proved very popular over the years but there was demand for it to be able to direct-drill too, and the Sabre Tine can operate as a conventional or direct-drill. It has narrow tines which are easy to pull, and have tungsten carbide tips for long life, and the seed tube is adjustable allowing the tine to be used for deep work producing a sub soiling effect or for conventional shallow operation with very little soil disturbance.”
The tines are rubber mounted reducing shock loads on the frame and ensuring smooth operation and can be angled forward for more aggressive direct-drilling or tilted back for conventional applications. Seed is fed to the coulters pneumatically and there is an air exhaust at the back of the coulter which ensures rapid movement of the seed down the tube. Electric metering and hydraulic drive are standard and seed rate can be altered on-the-move.
Weaving Sabre Tine drills are available in 3-6m mounted versions with an 8m mounted model due out in 2014.
An option for those wanting to increase work rates is to mount the Sabre Tine on the Weaving Caddy system which provides increased seed capacity reducing time spent refilling.
Simon is pictured with the 6m Sabre Tine which is priced at 27,394 delivered in the UK.  Elho product development manager Karl-Erik Haggblom is pictured with the Elho Arrow NK10500 TwinTrac 10.5m triple mower conditioner which, the company says, it believes is the largest available from any manufacturer. An integrated GPS system is standard, and provides automatic headland management, the operator raising or lowering the front mower and the GPS activating the rear mower lift or lower at precisely the same point. The advanced technology included also provides single-button fold and unfold of all three units for road transport.
“Because all the electronics are included within the mower specification, all that is needed is a tractor with a 12-volt supply and a hydraulic pressure and return,” explained Mr Haggblom. “We have made the mower as easy to control as possible and altering the ground pressure remotely on the controller automatically adjusts all three units together.”
Oil filter performance and temperature are constantly monitored and the driver is warned immediately if the filter becomes blocked or if the safe working temperature is exceeded. Each rear section has a 3.7m cutting width but the overall transport width is just 3m, with an overall height of 4m.
A further option, if no conditioner is required, is to mount all three units together, on tractors with a reversible-drive facility, which is claimed by the company to provide almost the same work rates as a dedicated self-propelled mower at a greatly reduced cost.
Also shown on the stand was a rear-mounted 7.3m mower conditioner, the Duett 7300 AutoBalance, designed for use with tractors with a reverse-drive option. The mower uses Canbus communication to operate the hydraulic valves through an Isobus-equipped tractor, allowing the mower to activate the tractor hydraulics through the control unit.
Pressure sensors adjust the ground pressure and level of both sides, and ‘call’ for adjustment when needed.
It was the first time the products had been exhibited outside Finland and the UK importer is Shutts Farm Machinery which is based in Bakewell, Derbyshire.  
Great Plains used the show to launch its YPE-825A Yield Pro planter which is the company’s first to fold to 3m for transport. The Yield Pro system is well-proven in the USA and the new 8- and 16-row folding versions to suit European use were designed and built at the company’s Sleaford, Lincs, UK base. In their Twin-Row arrangement, planters singulate the seed working in their pairs to provide optimal room for plant growth, with timing mechanically controlled from the drive shaft.
Seed tanks are on top of each seeder unit with a capacity of 53 litres, and the seed is gravity-fed. Fertiliser application is an option, and there is an insecticide applicator available too.
In single-row format spacing options are 70, 75, 76.2 and 80cm, and in Twin Row, in which the seeds are placed 10cm either side of a centre line, the spacings are 75, 76.2 and 80cm. Folding is hydraulic, wings folding laterally and forward providing a transport width under 3m except on the 80cm single and Twin Row versions which fold to 3.3m. Several units will be out working this season but full availability is expected during autumn 2014 or early in 2015.
For the Great Plains trailed X-Press cultivator new roller and packer options were shown, increasing the range available to five. Now users can choose between the DD roller, the DD Light, and new options; the V roller, the ML roller and the HD roller. Great Plains UK sales director David Holmes explained that the new V roller is a lower cost alternative to the DD roller, and will suit those drilling soon after cultivation where the weather-proofing provided by the DD roller isn’t required.
Also shown at the event was a very traditional Simba product; re-introduced due to resurgence in demand in recent years. Heavy discs and cultivators were products on which Simba established its reputation and the new 4B disc harrow with 915mm diameter discs, each 12.5mm thick is available in 3.1, 3.8 and 4.6m working widths providing individual blade weights of 380-410kg, and capable of working down to 250mm deep. Main demand for the heavy discs will be from outside the UK, but the company says there will be some farms in the UK for which the discs will be a welcome re-introduction to the range.
Pictured with the massive discs are (l-r) Great Plains UK sales director David Holmes, territory managers Stephen Cook and James Clark, and Great Plains export director Ryan Haffner.  
Pictured celebrating the signing of a new partnership agreement on the Massey Ferguson stand are Massey Ferguson vice-president and managing director for Europe, Africa and the Middle East Richard Markwell (left) with European Council of Young Farmers (CEJA) president Matteo Bartolini. The partnership agreement confirms a sponsorship arrangement in which Massey Ferguson will provide support to CEJA.
Richard Markwell commented that both organisations care passionately about the future of farming and both recognise that the industry needs more young people involved. “More than 50 per cent are aged over 50, and just six per cent of farmers are under 35 years old,” said Richard. “We need to help young people gain the confidence to recognise that this industry is a good one to get into. There is a new generation of farmer developing and we need to attract the young into the business. Things are changing rapidly and on the Massey Ferguson stand there is just one machine out of everything displayed which has been shown at Agritechnica previously.
“The partnership between Massey Ferguson and CEJA is a natural one for us. The organisation represents more than one million young farmers across Europe and Massey Ferguson is playing its rightful role in supporting that new generation of farmers,” he added.  The Argo display area included many new models in the Landini, McCormick and Valpadana ranges due to be available for delivery during 2014.
Pictured are the McCormick X7-460 (left) and the X6-430. The X7-460 was test-driven by Farmers Guide at a press launch during October, but only with its standard semi-powershift transmission, and the German show provided the first opportunity to see the tractor with a new ZF-manufactured CVT infinitely-variable transmission, available in 40 Eco or 50kph maximum speed variants and on five of the six new X7 tractors. This is the first time a CVT transmission has been available from Argo, since a prototype was shown as a concept tractor by the company in 2006.
The new X6 series which will replace the current X60 models during 2014, was represented at the show by the X6-430 (pictured right) which is the more powerful of the two models in the range with a 4.5-litre FPT Industrial engine producing 121hp (rated) and 133hp (max). The smaller model has the same engine, but producing 111hp (rated) and up to 121hp (max). The new cab is similar to that of the new larger X7 series and is available with optional suspension. The standard transmission is a 36×12 unit and options include a four-speed PTO. Standard hydraulic oil output is 66 litres/min and an optional high performance 110-litre/min variable flow system is an option.   
Dewulf launched a haulm chopper manufactured for direct mounting on the front of a 2-row potato harvester. “Usually haulm choppers are mounted on the front of the tractor but having it directly in front of the lifters means it follows the rows better, and it is much easier for the driver, allowing everything to be controlled on the same joystick,” explained Dewulf marketing manager Jordy Vandecappelle. The company claims to be the first to offer the haulm chopper to fit a trailed harvester, and said the unit can be supplied on new machines, or retro-fitted to those already in use. Fitted to a new harvester, the haulm chopper adds approximately 8,400-12,500 to the price.   
A new device on show was this axle-less wheel assembly. The underside of the mudguard is lined with small rollers and a ‘wheel’ made of an inflated rubber ship fender, which has no axle, carries the load. Preventing the rubber wheel from ‘escaping’ from under the mudguard is a cross-brace on each side. The rubber fender displayed was made of 5mm rubber and is inflated to 5-7psi with a rated carrying capacity of 4-5t but larger units being developed will carry up to 10t at 5psi. The rubber fenders are said to be principally for no-till farming systems as they require vegetation under the tyres to protect the rubber and prevent soil sticking. They are suitable for short distances on the road, but the company is working on a hydraulic lift system which reduces the weight carried by the ball for road transport, extending their versatility. Appropriately named the ‘FieldBall’ the wheel assemblies are said to be designed for use with large trailers operating in sensitive soil conditions, and the designer, who was testing reaction at the show said there had been considerable interest from farmers, mainly due to compaction problems caused by their existing equipment. Price for the units displayed is said to be approximately 12,500-16,700 per unit. Pictured with the FieldBall are Ulrich Lischka (left) and designer Anselm Lischka.  
JCB displayed new models in almost all its ranges. New styling on its new 4000-series Fastracs attracted considerable interest from visitors, three new tractors due to replace the two-model 2000-series towards the end of 2014. Power will be provided by Sisu 6.6-litre engines and an Agco ML180 CVT transmission will be used. Chassis, axles and all major components are new and the turning circle provided by the four wheel steering is 10m compared to 12m on the present machines. Standard tyre equipment is 540-65R30. Hydro-pneumatic suspension all around provides load compensation for equal weight distribution, and hydraulic performance is improved; a variable displacement 145-litre/min pump replacing the previous 99-litre fixed displacement gear pump. Power outputs of the three models are; 160hp (rated) 180hp (max), 190hp (rated) 210hp (max) and 220 (rated) 240hp (max). All meet Tier 4 final emissions requirements using Adblue, with no EGR or DPF required.  
New materials handling products being shown for the first time on the JCB stand included the latest S series loading shovels, designed for agricultural use. The 412S is replaced by a new 413S with increased power and a high-lift option. A 418S replaces the 414S and 416S models with a new chassis and cab. “The cab was in need of updating,” explained JCB product manager for wheeled loaders, Pete Gallagher (pictured). “It is the same cab as fitted to the larger 435S and much larger than that of the 416S. It has improved insulation reducing noise and vibration. It is cooler too, and has air conditioning as standard with climate control an option. Transmission is six-speed with lock-up available in all gears and a variable geometry turbo provides better low speed torque which allows transmission lock-up to occur at very low speeds, improving economy. We updated the equivalent construction industry version recently and, even without the transmission lock-up of the agricultural machine, we have seen 15 per cent fuel savings.”
Productivity is further improved by a higher travel speed, 48kph compared to the previous 40kph, a feature which will be appreciated by contractors moving between work areas. The lock-up feature enables speed to be maintained better on hills, and Pete explained that although engine power is only 13hp more than before, coupled with the transmission it feels considerably more.
Access for maintenance is improved with a single-piece bonnet, steeply angled for a better view to the rear.
Two extra-height options are available, including a super high-lift, which the company explains will be popular for those loading the largest spreaders. The new loader will be available in time for the 2014 silage season with orders being taken from January.
“We had pre-production machines working during the maize silage season this autumn and early feedback from users has been very good, with comments similar to those from users of the new 435S earlier in the year,” said Pete. “The better cab, and the reduced heat transferring to it from the engine have been particularly appreciated.”  In its Loadall telescopic handler range JCB has launched the compact 525-60 which replaces the 524-55 and 527-55 models. It will lift 2.5t to 6m and retains the full-size Loadall cab which, combined with a low boom pivot point, provides excellent visibility and which is particularly important due to the confined areas in which many of these compact machines will operate, explains the company, saying it is likely to appeal to dairy, pig and poultry farmers. Overall height is 1.95m and the new handler is just 1.82m wide. Power is provided by a JCB Kohler engine developing 74hp and a two-speed hydrostatic transmission provides a top speed of 30kph.
A limited-slip differential is fitted to the front axle and there is a rear tow hitch option, with 5t capacity and hydraulic trailer braking available. A single-lever joystick provides fully-proportionate controls and there is up to 90 litres per min of oil flow available.
An option is Varispeed, allowing a pre-set travel speed to be maintained regardless of revs, useful for tasks such as yard sweeping. Air conditioning and an air suspension seat are also options.
Smoothride is also available with automatic activation over a pre-set speed, and the system became standard equipment on all Loadalls sold after Agritechnica.
At the other end of the Loadall range JCB has introduced an additional larger model, the 560-80 which can lift 6t to 8.1m. Powered by a 145hp Ecomax engine it has been introduced to satisfy growing demand from large scale farms, biogas plants and from contractors, and it provides an additional 1t capacity over the previous flagship, the 550-80. “We sold two-and-a-half times as many 550-80 Loadalls as we had expected,” commented JCB Agriculture product and marketing manager Edward Roach, “and believe the capability of the new model will prove popular.” 
Even wider field rolls have been launched by Dal-Bo. UK sales manager Steve Atkin said there is growing demand for bigger sets, and the company has already taken an order from a UK farmer for the latest 18m version. He commented that customers like the Dal-Bo folding system, which he described as ‘simple but brilliant’. “The tractor doesn’t have to move during folding, the action is very smooth and we first introduced it on the 12m, followed by the 14, the 15, the 16 and now the 18m versions,” he said. “The first question we are asked when people look at rolls is; ‘How do they fold?’ and they like the Dal-Bo system.”
A new ring option is available for all Dal-Bo rolls; CrossCombi rings have been introduced due to customer demand and are said to remain clean in work as well as performing well on grass, but Steve said the company expects the most popular choice to remain the traditional Cambridge breaker ring design.  
Versatile was at the show with a selection of tractors from its range on display. “We have had considerable interest in the 450 DeltaTrack,” explained Buhler Industries director of international sales Todd McMyn (above), “from both contractors and farmers. People are familiar with the Versatile brand name; they recognise the ease of servicing, build quality and reputation and like the simple straightforward design.”
In the UK the recently-launched Versatile DeltaTrack four-tracked articulated tractor is being imported by JPM Agricultural, Lincolnshire, and Todd commented that by the end of the first show day he had received four approaches from UK dealers keen to sell the range of wheeled tractors as well as many enquiries from farmers.
The wheeled range includes models from 190-620hp and on the stand were a relatively small 310hp and a 550hp articulated machine. New models due out in 2015 include a 190hp and a 220hp and the company said that depending on the level of interest in the 310 and the 550, it will consider producing tractors homologated for European use on the assembly line, whereas at present some modifications after production are required.
“We have strong sales in the USA, Canada, Australia and New Zealand, sales are growing in Africa, and we are keen to build the business in Europe too,” said Todd. “Many of the tractors we produce are put to work in extremely harsh conditions and will easily withstand the type of work they will face in Europe. The Cummins engines and Caterpillar transmissions are rugged and reliable, and parts and service back-up is excellent all over the world.”  Updated models on the Manitou stand included the MLT634, MLT735 and MLT741, all three now powered by Deutz 122hp engines meeting Tier 4i emissions requirements. It is the first time the manufacturer has used Deutz engines, which have replaced Perkins and Mercedes power units used on previous models. The new models also feature improved cabs and a re-positioned exhaust to improve side visibility, and are available now.
The company’s MLT840 was launched two years ago, and featured many new innovations, and it is now joined in the range by a larger brother; the MLT1040, which has 4t lift and 10m lift height. Powered by a John Deere 137hp engine it has a three-section boom, the same cab as the MLT840, which has proved very popular with users, and is expected to see significant demand from those engaged in large bale handling.
Previewed on the stand was the MLT960 which is a heavier duty model, lifting 6t to 9m and designed for heavy agricultural and industrial tasks. It has a rigid front axle, and the same cab as the MLT840 but with added strengthening to meet ROPs requirements due to its 11.7t unladen weight.
The MLT960 is the first from Manitou to be driven through a CVT transmission, and the unit chosen for the task, the Dana 318, is well-respected within the industry and will withstand the heavy use, explained Manitou product line manager Jean-Philippe Herel. It has a single range providing travel speeds from 0-40kph, and Jean-Philippe said it provides the high torque needed as well as the travel speed and simple operation. Two operating modes; loading and transport, are provided. The engine is a John Deere unit producing 141hp, and the new handler is likely to be available by summer 2014.   
A topper designed for maize was displayed by Major. Rather than the sharp blades or flails found in its range of grass mowers, the Major Maize Topper features blunt hammerheads mounted on chain links, and the company said the objective when designing the new machine was to destroy the stubble purely by impact.
The hammer action has several benefits according to the company; it destroys the habitat where parasites can over-winter, plus it speeds up the rotting process, allowing water to get in to the roots more easily.
The winged topper is divided into three 1.8m sections which results in a working width of 5.5m. A gear drive transmits the PTO power to six rotors, and no belts are used. Major recommends a 100hp tractor for an operating speed of 8-12kph.
Increasing its versatility, an optional blade kit is available to convert the mower for normal grass use when not needed for maize.  New sprayers on the Agrifac stand included the Mountain Master which provides levelling on slopes up to 20 degrees. “Even on cross-slopes the wheels remain vertical which is a benefit in tall crops such as maize as plant damage is reduced and equal weight distribution between the wheels is retained, maintaining stability,” explained Agrifac UK managing director Andy Carse. At present the levelling system is manually operated but Andy said that automatic levelling will be available during 2014.
Agritechnica also provided the first public showing of the Condor Endurance sprayer which has a 600mm longer wheelbase than the standard machines, and was shown to gauge users’ opinions. It has an 8,000-litre tank, and boom widths up to 54m will be available. The prototype shown has a 365hp engine and a three-section 54m boom,  but full production machines are likely to be to a different specification. Andy said that for the UK, the widest boom option is likely to be a three-section 48m, and the 36m boom will have two sections.
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