For a machinery editor, the National Farm Machinery Show (NFMS) in Louisville is an annual hunting expedition. You do some advance scouting, sources tell you where some sleek new equipment can be found in the habitat, you plan your route and off you go, notebook and camera in hand. As with any hunting trip, you keep your eyes open for the unexpected as you walk; you never know what's going to pop up.
The 2016 NFMS had some surprises and some great finds. But overall my haul was smaller than in some years. Maybe manufacturers pulled back because of the farm economy. A couple of companies that in past years have spilled over multiple booth spaces had displays that were a tad smaller this year. The number of media invitations from OEMs seemed off a little.
The hunter wonders: Does it make sense for manufacturers to introduce something new and exciting in 2016 if sales prospects are slim? Or should they roll out innovative products on schedule, figuring: If the new stuff doesn't sell this year, at least farmers are aware it is on the market and will buy when things loosen up? Those are decisions I'm glad I don't have to make.
Some highlights this year:
-- Right out of the box at 8 a.m. on opening day, Great Plains held a press conference to introduce its new AccuShot system for accurately placing liquid -- starter fertilizer, insecticide or fungicide -- directly and accurately in the furrow. AccuShot is the first system I have seen that places prescription amounts of liquid inputs at a location in relation to the seed that is both safe and effective.
Here is how it works with Great Plains' Yield-Pro planters: A sensor in the seed tube alerts a controller that a seed is on its way to the furrow. The controller considers the length of the seed's fall and the ground speed of the planter to calculate the correct time to inject liquid into the furrow. Squirt. The liquid lands a programed distance from the seed. The producer can adjust the amount and location of liquid to be injected.
Great Plains and Capstan Ag Systems co-developed AccuShot, which has limited availability this planting season. Prices range from about $20,000 to outfit a 12-row Yield-Pro single row planter to about $36,000 to outfit a 48-row twin row planter. A total of 12 Yield-Pro planter configurations will accept the AccuShot system.
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-- Case IH's new 2000 Series Early Riser planters are the latest racecars in the corn and soybean planting world. Using Precisions Planting's SpeedTube, the Early Risers can plant accurately at up to 10 m.p.h.
In designing the 2000 Series planters, Case IH engineers also incorporated Precision Planting's vDrive (electric drive seed delivery system), the vSet 2 metering system and DeltaForce downpressure equipment. Engineers made major changes in the frame, the gauge wheels and closing systems. The 2000 Series planters are new from the ground up and will be fully available in time for spring planting 2017.
Pricing depends on options. Here is a sample: 2150 16R bulk-fill, PRO700 vSet electric drive, DeltaForce, wing down force, CleanSweep, markers $206,000.
I found it interesting that Case IH and Precision Planting were working so closely together on this project, even though John Deere bought Precision Planting last year. A spokesman explained that Case IH and Precision Planting had a long-term development agreement that preceded the Deere deal and remains in effect.
-- Fendt engineers designed the new 1000 Vario tractors to be able to do both row-crop work and to pull heavy tillage equipment. Usually those are chores that require vastly different types of tractors. Row-crop tractors are light and nimble; tillage tractors are heavy beasts that often are articulated and/or tracked.
The 1000 Varios cross the job lines, starting with power plants that have the oomph to do either task -- 350- to 500-hp. Tractor base weight is only 30,000 lbs., but by adding wheel weights and using a unique three-point hitch system for loading a block weight on the front of the tractor, the new Fendts can bulk up to about 50,000 pounds.
To handle that power and weight, tractors come with VarioDrive, a stepless system CVT-type system with two transmission outlets to control front and rear axles independently. This means torque can be shifted as needed between axles based on field conditions, what Fendt calls "Intelligent 4WD." For roading, the transmission stops transferring torque to the front wheels when the vehicle reaches 15 mph to eliminate drag and increase efficiency. Max roading speed is 31 mph.
The 1000 Vario comes in four models, which range in base price from $420,000 to $485,000. They are available now for presale with tractors arriving on dealers' lots in November.
-- Raven held an early press event to announce it is getting into the UAV business. At least, it is becoming the worldwide exclusive distribution partner for AgEagle Aerial Systems, which makes fixed wing aircraft that can be used for crop scouting and other aerial imaging chores on the farm.
-- Massey Ferguson introduced three models of the new 4700 Series utility tractors, which range in horsepower from 80 to 100. On top of that line, MF also launched three models of the new 5700 Series mid-range tractors, which are in the 110- to 130-hp category. The new SpeedSteer option on the 5700 Series tractors lets the operator adjust the steering ratio for more or fewer twists of the steering wheel to make loader and headland turns faster and easier.
-- New Holland introduced two models of its new line of T-5 tractors with 107- and 117-hp Tier 4 Final engines. The utility tractors offer Terraglide front suspended axle option and the optional Comfort Ride cab suspension for tight turns and driver comfort. Optional AutoShift improves functionality in loader operations.
-- Michelin has teamed up with Challenger to offer the Central Tire Inflation System (CTIS) on the Challenger MT900 tractors equipped with Michelin MachXBib tires. With the system, an operator can adjust from the cab air pressure to match application and vehicle weight up. CTIS can adjust as many as eight tires.
-- Geringhoff has two new corn heads that offer great harvest flexibility. The Patriot is specifically for twin-row configurations. It has a double-sprocket gathering chain to reduce the whipping effect that can be a problem with conventional corn heads in twin rows. The Freedom corn head uses an angled two-chain system to reduce crop loss and plugging in a variety of harvest conditions. A new gearbox design can handle different row spacings.
-- The White 9800VE Series planter line of planters is loaded with new technology, largely from Precision Planting. The new line has vSet meters, a vDrive electronic drive system and DeltaForce hydraulic downpressure. It even offers a 20/20 Seed Sense monitor and optional FieldView data collection and mapping. The 9800VE Series comes in 30-inch row configuration in 12-, 16- and 24-rows.
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