In the world of forage choppers, big is often the choice. But for some operations, small is better. That's why Krone, the German manufacturer of the biggest forage chopper on the planet (the 1,078-hp. BiG X 1100), recently introduced for the North American market four smaller models of the BiG X. They range in size from 480- to 630-hp.
"By offering these lower horsepower machines, we go deeper into the market and serve more customers," Krone North America's CEO Tommy Jones told a group of dealers last month in Florida.
The new models have all the productivity and comfort features of their four bigger brothers (700-, 750-, 850- and 1,078-hp) but are aimed at smaller operations.
"Customers that don't need the high horsepower machines can still experience Krone quality," Jones said.
A dozen years ago, Krone's BiG X machines already were a force in Europe, and the family-owned company sought to extend its reach into the fertile lands of the U.S. and Canada. It sent Dr. Josef Horstmann, general manager for research and development, to take the pulse of farmers on this side of the Atlantic. Farmer and dealer focus groups were clear in this sentiment: The 600- to 700-hp BiG Xs sold in Europe were not big enough for North Americans. Operators said they wanted one big machine, rather than two smaller machines, to quickly harvest the larger fields here. As a result, Krone added more beef to the top of its line, and the first BiG X machines sold in North America ranged in horsepower from the upper 700 range to the behemoth BiG X 1100. "So the North American customer is the reason the BiG X is so very big," Horstmann said.
But times and attitudes change. As the North American forage chopper market matured, it actually showed a preference for smaller machines. In 2014, 58% of all forage choppers sold here were below 700-hp, said Gary Thompson, Krone North America's chief operating officer. "That meant we were only reaching 42% of potential customers."
Hence the new, smaller machines now for sale.
Versions of the new BiG Xs have been sold in Europe for a couple of years. But Krone wanted to test them in North American conditions before releasing them for sale here. Last year it brought machines to the U.S. for extensive testing in California, Florida, Minnesota and Wisconsin. It then shipped them back to Germany for evaluation and refinement. "We did have about 70 different things that needed to be addressed," said Cliff Addison, North American manager product development. The result was a new line of machines, "crafted by German engineering but tested for North America."
Although the new models are based on the proven larger models, engineers right-sized some of the features. Highlights, according to Henrik Feldmann, sales manager, include:
*A crop flow system that is narrower than in previous models but is optimized for lower horsepowers. It has a lower wear rate for longer-lasting parts.
*A new MaxFlow chopping system with knives mounted conveniently with three bolts secure the knives for quicker replacement.
*Great maneuverability. "The machine turns on a beer cap," said Feldmann, using a German expression. New models feature a wishbone suspension on the rear for extra clearance, comfort and maneuverability.
The wheel motors are hydraulic with planetaries. There is one pump for all, but each back wheel has its own hydraulic cylinder for suspension and a speed sensor on each wheel motor for traction control. An operator can set sensitivity by crop to maximize performance. For example, he can set it to reduce crop-damaging wheel slippage in alfalfa or to allow more slippage in corn, which often has muddier conditions.
Right front and left front wheels can have different speeds. The steering sensor on the rear axle reads the angle at which wheels are turning and sends that information to a controller for the front wheels. When you turn to the left, for instance, the right wheel has to turn faster. Going straight ahead, wheels turn at same speed.
*Headers harvest in any condition. New headers come 6- through 12-row bi-fold and trifold configurations. A quick coupler system allows the operator to release the head from the cab and back away after disconnecting two hoses and an electrical connector. Older heads do not now fit the smaller BiG X.
*A new cab design with a wrap-around windshield for better visibility, a more comfortable seat and a user-friendly touch screen info center.
Pricing on the new versions was not available at press time.
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