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Better fit for the vineyard: tractor manufacturers introduce narrow models, new features.

The numerous introductions of tractors especially useful for vineyards in recent years aren't just a coincidence. Tractor manufacturers are paying more attention to vineyard applications as they realize it's a profitable market, and some of the biggest names in farm equipment have introduced several new or enhanced models since Wines & Vines last covered this topic in May.

Of course, some tractor manufacturers have long focused on vineyards--notably Kubota, which entered the marker in 1972, and is now ubiquitous in wine country. The biggest farm equipment suppliers, however, concentrated more on commodity crops like corn, wheat and soybeans. Things have changed. "There's definitely greater interest in vineyards and orchards as well," says Owen Frederic, product marketing manager for John Deere Commercial Products in Augusta, Ga.

Part of the reason is that companies like John Deere, the iconic American tractor company, look at markets internationally, not just in North America. Frederic says the market for specialty tractors--including narrow tractors and those with low cabs--is about 6,000 to 8,000 machines in the United States, but it's 42,000 globally. "In years past," he adds, "Deere considered that one or two tractors would do it, but now we're developing new products to meet specialized needs."

Likewise, New Holland, the venerable Pennsylvania farm equipment maker, which is now part of the Fiat group, pays a lot of attention to this market. "They're very focused on vineyards and orchards," New Holland marketing manager Andrew Reinert says of the parent company in Italy.

A busy year

Deere even sells vineyard tractors made to its specificiations from Goldoni Technology of Modena, Italy, under its own famous green paint here in the U.S. In the past, Deere also would leave customizing to third parties, Frederic says, but now the company performs much of that work itself. "If a customer wants it and is willing to pay for it, we want to help him."

It's been a busy year for Deere, which introduced its new, narrow A nursery and F (fruit including grapes) models this year. Most recently, it introduced the 5101EN, a narrow tractor with a 101 horsepower engine, the highest on the market in a narrow, 48-inch wide tractor, according to Frederic. Next year, he says, the company will introduce another machine For orchards. "That's three times the product introductions in this market than in the past."

Frederic adds that the demand for higher horsepower comes as tractors are trying to keep pace with the implements that are towed behind. "You can make fewer passes with a 700-gallon sprayer instead of 500 gallons, or an 8-foot-widc disk rather than 6 feet. You can also use them to pull a ripper." Frederic predicts more use of front power take offs (PTO), which aren't popular here yet but are common in Europe. "With that, you could cut in front while spraying in the back, for instance."

Reinert of New Holland adds that growers would like to grind up their pruned canes since they can no longer burn them easily. "That takes a lot of horsepower," he says.

Crawling uphill

In July, Kubota introduced its Power Krawler, a halftrack, which Pan! Williams, Kubota's product manager, says is doing well. "It's taken off for harvest rentals," in which a grower uses a tractor for the harvest, then can turn it in or buy it as used. He says it's of special interest in certain locations, such as hilly parts of the Napa Valley.

New Holland also makes crawlers, and Reinert says, "We just brought in vineyard crawlers that arc only 46 inches wide." In conventional vineyard tractors, New Holland offers a machine imported from Europe at an even narrower 42 inches wide. Reinert says these tractors seem especially popular in the Northwest, including British Columbia. New Holland's more conventional and popular units are 60 inches wide.

While demand for more powerful, small and versatile tractors comes from the users, a powerful force also is pushing tractor makers: emissions standards. Governments everywhere are trying to reduce emissions, with EPA Tier III now mandated and the next step-up mandated in 2012. "The tougher the standards, the bigger a diesel is needed to reach them," Frederic observes. This is due to compromises required to reduce emissions, as is true with car emission controls.

Reinert adds that a lot of the interest in cleaner tractors is driven by the regulations, especially in California. "The California Air Resources Board is anxious for large fleet owners to upgrade," he says.

Cleaner power?

Interestingly, Reinert has found that some growers want cleaner air around their grapes. All tractor makers are looking at alternatives such as hybrids, natural gas and even electricity, but none make sense at this point. Diesel engines remain ideal with their high torque at low speeds, ruggedness and fuel economy.

There is a lot of interest in biofuel, however. Kubota's Williams notes that the company, like Deere, allows no more than 5% biodiesel at this point, though New Holland says 100% is OK. "The problem is that not all processors of biofuel follow the same standards, and it can destroy O rings and mess up the fuel injection pump," Williams warns. Eventually, just as car manufacturers switched materials to handle ethanol, tractor makers may do the same for biodiesel.


John Deere

In February, John Deere introduced a new line of specialty tractors for vineyards and similar operations. The F-Series (orchard/vineyard tractors) and the A-Series (nursery/greenhouse tractors) are specifically designed to operate and maneuver in the confined work environments and field conditions of specialty crops and plants. In August, Deere introduced the more powerful 6D Series tractors with 100-130 horsepower.

The F series is designed with an excellent turning radius and a low center of gravity. The 76F tractor is only 53 inches wide, and the 85F and 100F tractors are only 57 inches wide to allow for maneuverability in orchards and specialty crop operations. The numbers refer to the horsepower; all of the models are powered by turbo-charged VM Detroit Diesel engines.

The three-point hitch has 5,500 pounds of lift capacity and an adjustable rate control for raising and lowering the hitch; the hydraulic system has a 10 gpm flow rate.

For the nursery and greenhouse markets, John Deere introduces the 20A (nursery/greenhouse tractor), which features a 21 horsepower, two-cylinder Lombardini air-cooled, diesel engine. "This articulated tractor is only 40 inches tall, 32 inches wide and 98 inches long, and has a 45-degree articulated design for tighter turning and better maneuverability in nurseries and greenhouses," Frederic says.

John Deere also introduced versatile general-purpose utility tractors--the 5D, 5E, 5E Limited and 5M Series--ranging from 45 to 105 engine horsepower. The 5M Series ranges in engine horsepower from 65 to 105.


The Kubota M8540 Power Krawler could change the way work is done in vineyards. The new narrow cab crawler, introduced in July, brings the benefits of a rear crawler track to a M8540 narrow chassis, increasing traction and stability and providing less soil compaction. The Power Krawler is engineered specifically for increased traction in rolling landscapes and maneuverability in narrow rows. It features nearly 60% less ground pressure than a typical wheel tractor of this size and is equipped with a 76 PTO horsepower Kubota diesel engine. This model is 54 inches wide and 92.1 inches tall.

Kubota M Series specialty narrow tractors are designed for vineyards, orchards and other confined places; these tractors offer exceptional maneuverability for precision work in narrow locations. The M8540, M7040 and M6040 each measure just 48 inches across, with varying PTO horsepower from 75 to 62 to 55, respectively. They come equipped with Kubota E-CDIS, direct injection, four-cylinder diesel engines for more power and durability. A hydraulic shuttle transmission makes shifting between forward and reverse a smooth and easy operation.

New Holland

New Holland says its TNV-A vineyard tractors are extremely narrow at 42.5 inches, yet they handle demanding applications with ample horsepower and hydraulic flow. Horizontal exhaust, engine side shields, smooth grab rails and fender extensions prevent damage to fruit and vines. Recessed work lights and door handles on cab-equipped models allow operators to drive through overhanging vegetation and branches without damage.

A low center of gravity aids stability on hillside vineyards and slopes. Rim diameters of 24 and 28 inches are available for both 2 WD and 4 WD models. The mid-mount, fold-down roll-bar permits a height of 52.8 inches to the top of the steering dash in order to fit easily under low-hanging vines and trellises. Durable engines deliver up to 91 gross engine horsepower.

New Holland TK-A crawler tractors work where conventional tractors can't--steep terrain, narrow rows and areas where soil compaction is a problem, allowing them to operate efficiently on soft ground in early spring. Growers choose the new TK75VA for power and traction in an extra-compact package. With 75 horsepower and an overall width as narrow as 46.1 inches, it pulls heavy loads in narrow rows.

Exclusive, single-lever Steering-O-Matic steering system enables drivers to use only their left hand to make sharp turns, freeing the right hand to control implements. Steering brakes are not needed.

Three TNF-A narrow tractor models from New Holland combine outstanding power and maneuverability with the narrow width and lower center of gravity needed when working in close quarters. "Crop-friendly" features include a sleek cab (or foldable roll-bar), under-hood muffler, rounded hood, flexible fenders, recessed lighting and front flexible turn signals.

Four-cylinder, 238 cubic-inch engines operate at a low 2,300 rpm for added durability and low noise levels. And, these engines are Tier II emission-certified to go easier on the environment.

Landini Rex

While it retains the name of the previous tractor range, the new Rex series from Landini has been completely redesigned with new features among vineyard specialty machines. The basic transmission combines with a variety of transaxle and front and rear axle solutions with different wheelbase and track dimensions for specific applications:

F: (Fruit) ideal for work in narrow crop rows. GE: (Ground Effects) for use in low orchard/vineyard situations. New Perkins 1100 series three-cylinder and four-cylinder engines compliant with Tier II standard provide high fuel efficiency, low noise levels and reduced emissions, new five-speed transmission with power five, de-clutch control and reverse power shuttle, new suspended platform with ergonomically arranged controls and new digital instrument panels. These models range from 60 to 105 horsepower.

The Landini Trekker F and M are specialized crawler tractors offering enhanced features in terms of performance, ergonomics, functionality and design.

Featuring rounded hood, tear side valances, foldable two-post ROPS and 12-inch track shoes giving a total tractor width of 55.S inches, the Trekker F is ideal for use in limited spaces like vineyards.

A low center of gravity, high tractive capacity, reduced soil compaction and 18-inch track shoes giving a total tractor width of 69 inches allow the Trekker M to work on sloping orchards and open fields in complete safety.

Yanmar rubber track crawler

While not new this year, the recently introduced Yanmar T80 is a first-of-its-kind rubber track agricultural crawler tractor. It is designed for heavy agricultural use in vineyards and many other applications where a standard utility tractor is needed with low compaction and high flotation.

The T80 track tractor (79 horsepower) can tread lightly year-round and employs a steering wheel for easy operation, unlike other small crawlers that use levers. Rubber tracks minimize compaction, limit wear to only the track, optimize operator comfort and road ability; it has a standard cat II, three-point hitch and gear-driven PTO.


* New or enhanced tractor models de signed to work better in vineyards have been introduced since we last covered this topic in May.

* While the market is limited in North America, the potential for vineyard tractor sales worldwide has helped spur innovations.

* New crawler tracks, advanced steering systems and, in some cases, more power, have been added to help grapegrowers.

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Title Annotation:GRAPEGROWING
Comment:Better fit for the vineyard: tractor manufacturers introduce narrow models, new features.(GRAPEGROWING)
Author:Franson, Paul
Publication:Wines & Vines
Date:Dec 1, 2008
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