Farmers will have to increase their agricultural output by 70 percent before 2050 to feed our ever-growing population. That’s a lot of pressure, leaving no room for error, or worse, equipment failure. When the time comes to plow, cultivate or sow, sometimes the window to do so is shorter than one would like, especially as the population of 2050 hangs in the balance. Now, what’s the first thing that comes to mind when you think of farming? The odds are it’s either a cow or tractor…. but seeing as cows do not run off 6-cylinder diesel engines (not yet anyway) …we will focus on the latter.
It is without a doubt that tractors are the cornerstone of farming. In tandem with other equipment, they trace the contours of the fields year after year to make sure the crops will return as many lbs per acre as humanely possible. Tractors are not cheap either, they are a huge investment, so reliability is key. To that end, I think we need to look at the top 5 to see why they are so popular.
1) Massey Ferguson 8S.265 Dyna E-Power Exclusive
Massey Ferguson is a multi-national manufacturer of agricultural machinery, the company was first created in 1953 when Massey Harris, the producers of some of the world’s first mechanical threshers, and the UK based Ferguson Company joined to create the renowned Massey Ferguson brand that is now a leader in agricultural equipment production worldwide.
Fast forward to 2021, Massey Fergusons 8S.265 Dyna E-power Exclusive won the award of the tractor of the year 2021. This is no small feat; each tractor is judged by a panel consisting of experts from 26 European countries and is up against the very best technology the world has to offer (held at a digital ceremony of course). Let’s take a look into what makes this tractor so great:
This award-winning tractor heads the 8S series, which consists of four models ranging from 205hp to 265hp, all with an optional extra 20hp with their Engine Power Management. Each model in the series appears dressed head to toe in new technology, with innovation seen in the engine, cab, transmissions, and driveline. The tractor is offered in different spec packages, so the owners need only pay for what they need. Massey Ferguson explains that what allows these tractors to stand proud of the rest is their unique Protect-U design, with a 24cm space separating the engine from the cab, minimizing the noise, heat, and vibrations received by the operator.
The “industry-leading” four-pillar cab is said to be the quietest on the market at a mere 68db, and an angled windscreen that allows for more space and visibility for the operator. Inside sports a new Multipad control lever and armrest which allows for connectivity for smart farming with a modern and sleek design. A new digital vDisplay is attached to the right-hand pillar instead of the dash, again, improving visibility from the cab.
New Highly Efficient Transmissions
Now for the interesting stuff, the Dyna E-power’s dual-clutch technology has merged the comfort of a CVT with the efficiency that comes with a semi-powershift. This means a reduction of power loss by around 26 percent at higher speeds which saves about 5% in fuel. The Dyna-7 semi-powershift is also available on the MF8s range, providing 28 forward and reverse speeds. This offers the ease and reliability boasted by the Dyna-6, with an extra speed and better shifting while being 15% more efficient. The 8S.265 Dyna E-Power Exclusive sits on a 3.5m wheelbase, comprising of a robust new rear axle that can give 10 percent more tractive power. Along with new hydraulics and PTO, the 8S.265 boasts significantly improved performance and efficiency.
2) Fendt 942
Fendt is a German manufacturer of agricultural equipment with around 350 years of history, so it would seem they are very established indeed. While we don’t have time to explain their entire history, the brand was founded in 1930 by a man named Xaver Fendt and taken over by AGCO in 1997. The 942 also won tractor of the year 2019 in Croatia, so let’s take a look why:
Engine and Transmission
The main attraction can be seen in the driveline department, where Fendt has opted against the 7.8 liter Deutz engine they previously used. Instead, each model sports a six-cylinder, 9-liter MAN lump that some say was built specifically for this tractor. The key benefit of this is a low idle speed that sits around 650rpm and service intervals that have now been extended to 1000 hours. Fendt has stated their hands were tied, as they needed power outputs of more than 400hp, therefore swapping the engines was a necessity.
Although, the designers were also persuaded to pick MANS’s compact motor as the tractor can sit on 60-inch trackwidths while not needing any of the modifications needed for the North American market. Regarding transmission, the TA 300 Vario transmission proved its worth on the 1000 series and appears more of a heavy-duty setup than the ML 260 chosen for the old 900 models. The gearbox casing and ratios remain the same, but the axels are longer and the final drives larger. These modifications allow the 60kph top speed to be achieved at a 1450 rpm down from 1750 rpm as seen on the 900s.
The max torque is 1,970Nm and comes at 1,100rpm, which seems a lot better than the 939’s 1565Nm at an unsettling 1500 rpm. The admirable torque output is all thanks to the Fendt ID low-speed concept, which disperses torque to the front and rear axels as per the ground conditions. The front axle receives its torque from the transmission but uses a decoupling clutch to avoid damage at higher speeds. In layman's terms, this thing is always in four-wheel drive when going under 25kph.
One impressive feature in the sphere of hydraulics is that the typical hydraulic setup comprises of two load-sensing pumps - one at 165 liters/min and a second at 220 liters/min and an optional 430 liters/min is also offered. The bigger system comprises two autonomous circuits from a 210 liters/min pump on one side and a 220 liters/min pump on the other. This setup has significantly reduced the vibration that you would usually see by two equal-sized pumps. Having the two pumps on different circuits means the operator can make hydraulic-hungry implements work from a single pump, allowing the less hungry functions to run from the opposite side without compromise.
3) Case IH Quadtrac 620
Case IH has always seemed to lead the way in tractor technology, from being one of the first to mass-produce 4WD articulated tractors to be the very first to introduce a four-tracked articulated high-horsepower tractor. With the many ‘firsts’ under their belt combined, they pioneered in creating both wheeled and tracked articulated high horsepower tractors with CVT. Ultimately, this means that Case IH’s tried and tested technology has come together to bring operators the “ultimate power package”. This met the needs of operators whether they were after-tracked or wheeled high-horsepower tractors.
This tractor is powered by the innovative cursor 13 engine that produces between 469 to a whopping 692 horsepower at maximum power. The inline 6-cylinder 12.9-liter engine contains four valves per cylinder for improved gas exchange and reliability. The Cursor 13 engine that powers this tractor can achieve an impressive 10% power growth at 2100 rpm. Also featured is a two-stage turbocharger system with a detached cooling system that can produce a 40 percent quicker response under load.
A closer look at the two-stage turbocharger tells us that the exclusive dual cooling system improves both fuel consumption and efficiency. This system comprises a smaller turbocharger that is responsible for delivering low-rpm responsiveness and a larger turbo for higher rpm’s. The quadrac doesn’t fall short in the environmentally friendly element either, its highly efficient Selective Catalytic Reduction (Hi-eSCR2) system remains in line with the rather stringent Euro stage V emissions standards. Additionally, you needn’t worry about engine regeneration as additional emissions components are not necessary.
Operators have the option to choose their preferred transmission as Case IH offers both CVXDrive and Powershift transmission. Let's have a look at both:
- Efficiency – the CVXDrive transmission produces uninterrupted power to the field, comprising of four ranges allowing the tractor to be more efficient while supplying the power needed for more strenuous tasks.
- Heavy pulling – The four mechanical ranges equipped with automatic range changes make the quadtrac very efficient. Yet, when it comes to heavy pulling it is more than capable due to 100% mechanic power transfer under 10km/h.
- Speed changes – The CVXDrive makes operating the quadtrac easier even for the most amateur drivers which is a plus if seasonal workers frequent your farm. This is achieved via stepless shifting that also aids its efficiency.
- Comfort – The Quadtrac utilizes Pulse-width modulation to ensure smooth shifting under load that aims to aid momentum and prevent power losses.
- Fuel Costs – To save fuel and generally lower operational costs, operator input is converted into automatic shifting by matching engine power and ground speed.
- Durability – This option comes with larger helical-cut gears and clutch packs that manage years of service while transferring up to 692 horsepower to the ground as needed for large-scale farming.
- Efficiency – The power drive powershift offers 16 speeds while providing 20 percent faster shifting that is designed to be smooth in the hopes to reduce operator fatigue.
4) Massey Ferguson 8737
Unsurprisingly a Massey tractor will indeed feature in this article twice, because, well…they seem to make very good tractors. The Massey Ferguson 8737 won tractor of the year in 2015. Massey Ferguson stated how they were not surprised that this model succeeded the others as its predecessor the 8690 accomplished the same feat in 2009. It was the first agricultural tractor to utilize efficient maintenance-free selective catalytic reduction technology to keep a leash on exhaust emissions. Massey further explained how “The MF 8737 builds on these very strong foundations, combining well-proven quality with new features to provide even better performance and productivity with outstanding fuel economy.” We love a modest winner. The 8737 is from the 8700 series, and what makes it so popular is as follows:
- The engine used to propel the 8737 is the AGCO Power 6-cylinder 8.4L that is capable of generating between 270 and 405 horsepower.
- It features an all-in-one stage after-treatment technology that utilizes both soot catalyst and current SCR catalyst.
- Maintenance is significantly reduced due to the hydraulic tappet that provides maintenance-free valve clearance.
The series has been kitted out with the “latest Stage V system”, but what exactly does this mean? Simply, some changes have been made. The main difference between the before all-in-one stage V and the latest one is the addition of a new soot catalyst, and a few modifications to the exhaust pipe, that is now narrower than before. This latest system combines a Diesel Oxidation Catalyst, a Selective Catalytic Reduction unit, and a Soot Catalyst. In a nutshell, this all works to ensure the engine provides long-term performance free from compromise.
Engine Power Management
Engine Power Management or EMP are basically transmission electronics that keep an eye on the load and operating conditions within the transmission, PTO and hydraulics depending on the forward speed, transmission load, and PTO activation. All this data is then passed through the electronic engine management system, which adapts the amount and timing of the fuel needed.
When the tractor is set to ‘Auto’ mode, the PTO is severed when a speed of or above 25km/h is reached. The PTO is also disengaged when the linkage is raised and reengaged when fully descended. The transmission controller controls and keeps an eye on PTO usage depending on the load to aid in a smoother take-up. In essence, this increases operator comfort while preventing the tractor and implement from inappropriate engagement.
Best PTO speeds sit at around 1950 rpm (maximum engine power). The gift of a constant power band up to 600rpm and the capability to select the most appropriate ground speed at the chosen engine speed means the ideal ratio of PTO speed, forward speed, and power ensures the tractor remains as efficient as possible.
5) Deutz-Fahr 7 Series
Now, time to step away from the winners of the tractor of the year and instead take opinions from the people who work these farms day in day out. After scouring the many farming forums, one tractor was frequently mentioned…the Deutz-Fahr 7 series.
The 7 series is the product of innovative and intelligent tractor technology constructed in Germany. This tractor provides comfort, intuitive controls, state-of-the-art precision farming systems, and engine and transmission efficiency. The 7 series seems the obvious choice for those wanting to increase productivity both in the field and on the tarmac.
The 7 series is propelled by a completely redesigned engine when it comes to environmental impact and cost. The Deutz 6.1 stage V engine offers more responsiveness, reserve torque, and higher torque at lower rpm's. While doing so, fuel consumption and AdBlue sees a 5% reduction when compared to former generations. The reworked exhaust system boasts SCR after treatment and an additional passive DPF. This has numerous benefits, such as no fuel injection enters the filter, less heat is generated around the unit, and the filter is much quicker to regenerate. Not only does this save on fuel but cost also.
Also aiding the efficiency of this engine is the Electronic Visco fan and revised high-performance cooling system. The cooling system can be opened completely to aid easier servicing and maintenance. The precleaning system seen on the air intake slots stops debris from getting into the air filter, which as you can imagine, significantly reduces service costs.
The 7 series comes with electronically controlled continuously variable TTV transmission technology. The concept has been trialed over recent years but now comes with new software giving users much better performance. Deutz is the only company that offers a 60km/h tractor in such a compact design. All the final speeds can be achieved at reduced engine speed, again, saving you fuel and money.
The TTV transmission runs in four mechanical stages while changing automatically, making it one of the most comfortable out there (let’s be honest, this is probably why it’s a favorite.) With engine and transmission management integrated means a smooth automatic system when mechanical range shifting while four cruise speeds can be saved for efficiency.
Additionally, a brand-new trailer stretch mode provides further safety when on uneven ground. In a nutshell, everything down to the last detail of the TTV transmission system has been created with productivity in mind.