What is the future of tractors?

12/1/2015 8:47:34 AM by

A lecture at a recent agricultural technology conference discusses the future of tractors.

What will tractors look like in the future? Roger Stirnimann, a professor at Bern University in Switzerland, discussed the possibilities at Agritechnica, an agricultural machinery exhibition in Germany held last weekend.

As reported by, the machine's future will depend largely on current demand, which is very similar across the U.S. and Western Europe. Stirnimann explained farmers' broad concerns include reliability, performance, efficiency, cost-effectiveness and comfort. More specifically, farmers are calling for future tractors to improve traction efficiency, reduce soil compaction and parts and attachments that will work universally across all brands. For larger tractors, many hope to see operator cabins similar to those in other vehicles, like cars and trucks, including seat and mirror settings that are specific to each driver.

To actualize these requests, Stirnimann said that manufacturers have to develop an efficient design and assembly process with an ability to add customization options as needed. While farmers may have to wait awhile for many of their ideas to come to fruition, for those looking to improve traction efficiency and reduce soil compaction now, they can turn to several new designs that were presented at the conference.

John Deere's new ballast system, the EZ-Ballast, allows farmers to ballast tractors quicker and simpler. The EZ-Ballast is a weight that attaches to the underbelly of the tractor. To install, farmers lay the weight on the ground and drive over it with their tractor. Than, a hydraulic claw lifts and mounts the ballast into place.

Along with tractors, Stirnimann also highlighted tires. Fendt reveled the VarioGrip Pro and Grip Assist. The VarioGrip Pro is an inner tire used within a traditional tire. Once in place, the VarioGrip Pro is able to keep a constant pressure of 116 psi. It can release that into the rest of the tire, allowing operators to inflate the tire from recommended field levels to road levels in 30 seconds.

The Grip Assist, which can be used in conjunction with the VarioGrip Pro will tell drivers what the optimal speed and tire pressure should be based on the weight of the tractor and any payload or attachments.

Lastly, several companies showcased new VF tires. These tires have a very high flexion and can be inflated to pressure levels 40 percent lower than standard tires.

Stirnimann also discussed how emission requirements may change in the future. Currently, the highest rating for engine emissions in both the U.S. and European Union (E.U.) is Tier 4 Final, which applies to engines of 174 hp to 750 hp. Though another, higher tier has not yet been established in the U.S., the E.U. is currently at work developing a "Tier 5" rating.

The proposals, though not yet finalized, seek to continue to reduce particulate matter levels in engine emissions. This will require combining engine and exhaust technologies, including four-valve technology, VTG or two-stage turbocharger, inter-cooing, a diesel oxidation catalyst, a diesel particulate filter, selective catalytic reduction and exhaust gas re-circulation. According to Stirnimann, European truck manufacturers are already using many of these to good effect, and they may soon make their way to the agriculture industry.

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