Tractor Trends for 2012 and Beyond

By Geof Fowler

More horsepower, higher flow hydraulics, electronic wizardry, more creature comforts, a new take on old technology and new sources of power all coming your way.

With productivity demands pushing large Ag tractor horsepower numbers to the point where peak ratings as high as 660 in 4WD machines and 389 in row-crop machines are no longer unheard of, the big news coming your way is ‘bigger isn’t better’ is out. Already, hydraulic flows as high as 113 gpm, 3PH lift capacities in excess of 10-tons, GPS guidance, field mapping telemetry options, and automated steering are solidly redefining farming today.

2012 will be no different, but what will be particularly interesting to follow is how the trickle down of these technologies will impact smaller utility tractor market all the way down to everyday lawn and garden machines. Read on and we’ll discuss some of the trends we expect to come in 2012 and beyond.

Cummins QSX9 Engine Tier 4iDon’t expect the demand for more power to drive larger implements to wane anytime soon. But with the high price of fuel an everyday reality, expect manufacturers to place considerable attention on efficiency. Tier 4i compliant diesel technology with selective catalytic reduction (SCR) is delivering both. And since a large percentage of the energy from the fuel put into a tractor tank is lost to engine and driveline inefficiencies, the potential to improve fuel efficiency with advanced technologies is enormous. It is quite a marvel when higher horsepower and better fuel economy are no longer at odds with each other.

Laforge Three-Point HitchWith the availability of mega-sized implements for increased productivity, it is no surprise tractor manufacturers have stepped up to the plate with new, more powerful hydraulic systems. Front three point hitches (3PH) area already offered by Case, New Holland and Fendt and aftermarket manufacturers such as Laforge and MK Martin and with more powerful hydraulics offer greater lifting capabilities. And with the OEM manufacturers adding front power take off (PTO) options, expect a new generation of implements to be developed.

Tractor GPSGPS, field mapping, automated steering, and tracking telemetry are all technologies reducing waste (overlap) and increasing productivity. Without these modern gizmos, overlap can be 20% or more. With the aid of computers, overlap waste can be reduced to just a percent or two. The savings in time, fuel, wear and tear is proving these technologies well worth their added cost. Imagine yourself running a 33’-wide hay cutter while the onboard electronics pick the engine rpm, choose the path and communicate with the automated steering—while you follow market prices on a laptop in air conditioned and filtered comfort. Well, that time is today.

John Deere 6R Series Cab TractorCabs, air ride suspension seats, front axle suspension, and automated steering are making for a quieter, more comfortable, and therefore more productive environment. More features and options, better visibility, greater comfort and improved storage are all being engineered into today’s tractors. In the automotive world, Acura offers noise-cancelling technology in its flagship RL model. How long before tractor cabs are equipped with this simple but quiet technology?

Electric Ox TractorElectric tractors aren’t new. In the 70s General Electric, John Deere and several other manufacturers produced electric machines. Though they worked and were certainly more environmentally friendly, electric tractors were expensive and sales acceptance lagged.

Fast forward to today where manufacturers are producing AG-sized diesel-electric tractors where the diesel engine is used to generate electricity to drive electric motors. The advantages are both in fuel savings—as much as 10%—but also in the switch from hydraulic pumps and gear sets to motors and actuators. On golf courses you might see E-plex II greens mowers under the Jacobsen and Ransomes names clipping greens to ridiculously high stimpmeter readings. Canada’s Electric Tractor Corp. is producing the Electric Ox line of tractors for commercial and homeowner use. Look for more manufacturers to jump on this bandwagon and add their own twist—can we say hybrid coming your way soon?

Steyr Natural Gas TractorSteyr, now a subsidiary of Fiat S.p.A., has introduced a natural gas powered tractor that is rated at 136 horsepower (143 peak). The turbocharged mono-fuel CNG engine can also operate on refined biogas which can be of particular advantage for farms having their own biogas plants.

New Holland T6 Tractor2011, from the numbers already in, has shaped up to be good year for tractor sales. With the latest advances and pent up demand possibly created by Tier 4i uncertainties, 2012 has the potential to be even better. Keep an eye out for improvements in the above categories and more, we know we’ll be.

Top Tractors of 2011

By Geof Fowler

Although the final numbers aren’t in, 2011 is shaping up as a good year for the tractor industry. Leading the increased demand is the large farm tractor segment which after a year of postponed purchases attributed to the added cost of Interim Tier 4 engines (as much as a 9% increase to sticker prices) has bounced back. High horsepower, high flow hydraulics, GPS, field mapping and telemetry options, automated steering and 4WD all are in demand. It won’t be long before we see the trickledown of these new improvements to the Utility (UT), Compact Utility (CUT), Subcompact Utility (SCUT) and even Lawn and Garden (LGT) and Garden Tractor (GT) industry segments. We can hardly wait to see what 2012 will bring.

In 2011 we were treated to a taste of new designs as well as machines from manufacturers who understood they had a good thing going and didn’t tinker with the recipe. In that vein, we introduce you to our pick for the Top Ten Tractors of 2011.

2011 John Deere X324There’s nothing like all-wheel steer (AWS) for maneuvering around trees and obstacles. Combine that maneuverability with features like the powerful V-twin, Foot Controlled Hydrostat, John Deere ergonomics and a long list of attachments/implements and you have a close runner up to the Broadmoor.

2011 Simplicity BroadmoorSimply, a lot of tractor for the money. Automatic Controlled Traction, Vanguard V-twin, Foot Controlled Hydrostat and the best cut in the business. We liked the way it drove and handled and if you have to have a reverse mowing safety feature, Simplicity’s is the most user-friendly in this class. Check out our review of the Broadmoor here.

2011 John Deere X749Runner up: John Deere X749. Another AWS offering from the Moline, Wis. manufacturer. Add full-time 4WD to the AWS maneuverability, a powerful diesel engine, K92 transmission and all the performance along with John Deere refinements you would expect in a tractor of this class. The only negative is the price which with options pushes the X749 well into the realm of the SCUT tractor class.

2011 Kubota BX 1860First, we’ll admit Kubota’s GR2120 was a consideration for this spot and for several thousand dollars less, but the BX 1860 comes with so many larger SCUT features but in a more compact size, we gave the nod to the baby BX. Diesel power, 4WD, standard 3PH and competitive pricing well under the runner up, its no surprise the BX 1860 gets our nod for top choice in this category. Check out our review of the BX 1860 here.

2011 Kubota BX 2360A refinement of the originator of this class of tractor, the BX 2360 is a solid runner up that just needs the niceties engineers injected into our winner. It makes you wonder what the response will be coming out of Kubota’s Osaka, Japan headquarters in the upcoming year.

2011 John Deere 1026RIts no secret this we’re fans of this newly redesigned tractor to the point is was our choice for 2011 Tractor of the Year. And the recipe on paper is simple: Take the highly successful 2305 and add features like radiator cooling for the hydro, position control on the 3PH and a folding ROPS, and you have a machine bringing migraines to the competition’s sales and engineering teams.

2011 John Deere 2520And a close runner up it is as this is one of our favorite tractors. Large enough to do some serious work; small enough to fit in tight spaces. With responsive hydraulics, 20.5 hp at the PTO, John Deere ergonomics, and easy to attach/detach attachments such as the On Ramp Drive Over Deck, this is one CUT that puts an exclamation mark on Utility. Check out our review of the John Deere 2520 here.

2011 Massey Ferguson 1526We just flat out liked this tractor and our September review said as much. And why not? The 1526 comes with a responsive diesel with footpedal throttle control, 3-range hydro, and all the features a leader in this class should have. Throw in competitive pricing and you can’t go wrong with the 1526 if you are in the market for a tractor of this size. The only negative: as of this writing a backhoe was not yet offered.

2011 New Holland T5060Options. That is what sets the T5000 series tractors apart from the competition. When you’re ready to choose the axle, transmission and operator station you’ll be surprised at how many options New Holland offers. Combined with heavy-duty construction and powerful engines with some the highest torque rise specs in the industry, and we’re sure if the T5060 is your tractor choice you won’t be disappointed.

2011 John Deere 5105MWe’ve had the pleasure of spending some time behind the wheel of this model and can’t say enough about the ergonomics and comfort built in to a tractor with 90 PTO horsepower that speaks of its capabilities. Deere designed this class of tractors for high-hour users and to take the day-in-day-out stresses of heavy-duty use. Stay tuned for our upcoming review of this tractor and you’ll see why we named it our pick for top Utility Tractor 2011.

And so you have it; our picks for the top ten tractors of 2011. Sure the list was subjective and the differences from brand to brand each day become more blurred, but if you are in the market for a tractor from one of the five categories we selected for this article, then you can’t go wrong with our pick or the runner up. Happy Tractoring!

Holiday Tractor Gift Guide

By Geof Fowler

The holiday season is here and it’s time to hit the stores to buy that special someone a memorable gift. If your special someone likes to tinker with tractors, why not give them something they can really use? Our list includes ten gift ideas for that special tinkerer in your life that won’t break the bank and if you chose one or more we’re confident your present won’t end up as next years regift.

Banged up and bruised knuckles are a thing of the past with Mechanix work gloves that breathe, protect and keep your hands warm while working in the shop, shed or garage. Buy it here.

This 77-piece socket set from Apollo includes all the tools he will need to tinker all in a neat, organized case. This is sure to be a needed and appreciated gift. Buy it here.

There’s nothing more frustrating on a cold winter morning than a dead battery. The Stanley J309 Battery Booster provides plenty of cold-cranking amps to get that special tinkerer up and going. Buy it here.

This one is a little more expensive, but in this category, you get what you pay for. The 2216-20 multimeter is professional grade through and through and is just the tool to chase down that nasty electrical short circuit. Buy it here.

Back in the day we called them Suicide Knobs and for good reason, but on a slower speed tractor the Good Vibrations Meteor Easy Rider Tight Turn Steering Knob makes for less effort on the job. We especially like the Easy Rider model. Buy it here.

The NorTrak Category 1 Three Point Quick Hitch takes the wrestle out of attaching 3PH implements. It’s not quite a stocking stuffer, but it would look great wrapped and under the tree. Buy it here.

There’s no such thing as enough storage, but this 20” tool box from Larin will go a long way to helping keep what you need close by. Buy it here.

Don’t let debris in your fuel tank spoil the day. This Inexpensive funnel is a great stocking stuffer. Buy it here.

Grease guns never go out of style, but one with a flexible hose will quickly gain favored bench top status after the first use. Buy it here.

Though it’s an inexpensive stocking stuffer, the Milton Tractor Tire Gauge is sure to be a big hit. Buy it here.

2011 Tractor of the Year

By Geof Fowler, Photos by John Deere

With its 2305 model a bestseller and a standout amongst a field of stellar competitors, John Deere raises the bar with the new 1026R and gets our designation as Tractor of the Year (TOTY).

Harlan and Ed couldn’t be more different. Harlan is a self-employed machinist who, along with his wife Rita, raises and boards horses. Ed is an actuary for a major insurance company who teaches at a local community college and, in his spare time, maintains an eight-acre mini-estate. Both sit on our guest judge panel and participated in this year’s Tractor of the Year selection.

Says Ed, who already owed a John Deere 2305: “The 2305 was the perfect tractor—almost. It did everything it was asked of, but there were always little things you wished Deere had included. The 1026R addresses that list and more.”

While Ed and his wife muck stables and put their sub compact tractor (SCUT) through the daily dirty task of maintaining their stables, Harlan maintains his mini-estate with a shiny orange Kubota BX23 that we’re not sure has seen a drop of rain. His views were less from the capability side, although that was important, and more to the ease of use. Says Harlan: “I just want to use the tractor when I need to and not bloody my knuckles in the process.”

But the two from their divergent viewpoints both agreed on ten reasons the all new John Deere 1026R is our 2011 TOTY.

Position Control on the Three-Point Hitch (3PH)
This is a “big” tractor feature that is unique in this class of machine. While any 3PH can go up and down and be stopped at some position in-between, the ability to return to the exact position makes for less time fussing and more precise productivity.

Folding Roll Over Protection Structure (ROPS)
How many garage and shed headers need to be damaged before customer screams for this simple addition are incorporated across the board? Well, Deere listened and acted and we applaud the inclusion of a folding ROPS on the 1026R (and the entry-level 1023E).

Hydro Fan Replaced with Transmission Cooler
Not every SCUT owner takes his or her machine out into the north forty, but getting a stick caught in the little plastic fan cooling the hydrostat is no fun at all. Reports of the repair ranging from “replaced under warranty” to as much as $1000 circulate and make you wonder why a simple oil cooler, which can’t cost much, was a corner cut by all the major manufacturers.

“We use our 2305 in the tight quarters of a stable and twigs and sticks are always working their way underneath the tractor,” says Harlan. “We’ve never broken a blade on the fan, but ours has a few nicks that has us cringing whenever we hear the tick, tick of something contacting the fan.”

Transmission Oil Filter Moved out of Harm’s Way
One of the advantages of a SCUT tractor is its low center of gravity, which makes these machines excellent in uneven and sloped conditions. It does not mean the manufacturers should all put their transmission oil filters in exposed locations also low to the ground. But they did. Deere breaks that mold with the 1000 Series and we whole-heartedly approve.

Platform Integrated Joystick Control
Most manufacturers integrate the selective control valve (SCV) joystick in a way that makes access to the operator’s platform from the right side awkward at best. Some put it on the loader, which makes for a long reach and adds cost and complexity if the owner is going to blow snow, while others incorporate it in the tractor cockpit nicely but use up precious right side real estate. The location of the John Deere 1000 series tractors is a welcome and not at all minor improvement.

Drive Over AutoConnect Mid-Mount Mower
The drive over mid-mount mower we saw coming on the 2000 Series tractors and so was not a total surprise to see it on the new 1000 Series line, but the addition of AutoConnect was. How nice to drive up to and over your mid-mount mower (MMM) and without leaving your seat, drive away and start tackling that growing lawn. Slick is all we can say.

iMatch Auto Hitch
And while Deere has had its iMatch on the market for several years now, changing the attaching of a 3PH implement from a wrestling match to a no-need-to-leave-your-seat affair, the all-new AutoHitch system takes the ease of attaching an implement such as a tiller to an all new level. Need we say slick again?

Engine Temperature Gauge
To us this is a no-brainer, but up until the new 1000 Series tractors, either an outrageously expensive item or an industry oversight. We’ll leave that discussion to others while we praise John Deere for including it here.

Comfort Features
“Tilt steering, adjustable suspension seat with armrests, cruise control, toolbox and 12V outlet for my iPad, now we’re talking,” says Ed. “I’m paying as much for a SCUT tractor as a small car. The comfort features shouldn’t be unavailable or optional. Deere has done what the industry should have done all along with the 1026R and it might just sway me green when it comes time to upgrade.”

MMMs, Backhoes (backward compatible so one can be added at a future date), Box Blades, Disk Harrows, iMatch AutoHitches, Landscape Rakes, Loaders, Manure Spreaders, Material Collection Systems, Overseeders, Broadcast Spreaders, Posthole Diggers, Power Rakes, Rear Blades, Rear Grooming Mowers, Rotary Brooms, Rotary Cutters, Tillers, Front and Rear Snowblowers, Sprayers, Tedders, and Woodchippers. While this long list copied from the Deere 1000 Series brochure isn’t necessarily new, just the vast number of attachments offered for this series tractor is worthy of mention and the final reason the 1026R is our 2011 TOTY.

Tractor Rentals

Sometimes you need a little extra help when things get busy around your farm or property. Picking up a new or used tractor might be the solution, but if you only need help for a short time you should consider Tractor Rentals. Use the Buyers Guides to help you search for a rental tractor of any size for just about any length of time.

Tractor Rentals

Tractor Loans

Tractor Loans are an important part of any new or used tractor purchase. Your tractor loan rates can make a noticeable difference in your monthly payment. Today, consumers have options with many different online tractor loan rates, and tractor financing quotes from the various loan providers.

Tractor Loans

Tractor Insurance

Tractor Insurance is a critical piece of the tractor buying process, and consumers should review their tractor insurance rates on an annual basis to keep informed. The Buyers Guides provide consumers with a selection of tractor insurance providers for online tractor insurance quotes to find the best insurance provider for your tractor insurance needs.

Tractor Insurance

Tractor Repair

Chances are if you’ve got a tractor you’re probably pretty handy with a wrench. However, sometimes a problem is just too complicated or you’re just too busy to do the work yourself – at least without a little guidance. Use the Buyers Guides to get all the help you need for your Tractor Repair.

Tractor Repair

Tractor Tires

Your tractor isn’t going far without tires. If your tires are worn down or damaged and you’re in the market for something new, let the vendors in the Buyers Guides help you find what you need. No matter if you need a radial tire for improved traction, a wide tire with a shallow tread for floatation, or a tire to match a specific implement, our vendors are sure to Tractor Tires you’re looking for.

Tractor Tires

English Farmer Travels to Wedding in Tractor

While most people would opt for a traditional car or perhaps even splurge for a rented limo, a farmer in England surprised many of his guests when he arrived at his wedding in his tractor.

According to a story in the Manchester Evening News, Mark Hazlehurst and his bride Katie Brayshaw decided their wedding would feature a farming theme.

“Right from the start Mark said he’d be going on a tractor and it didn’t really surprise me,” Brayshaw told the Manchester Evening News. “He just loves his job. I have horses and we live on a farm so we thought it would be nice. It’s not every day you see a tractor at a church.”