John Deere took home a Silver Innovation award at Agritechnica this year for its newest idea in tractor ballasting, intended to make getting the right amount of weight on each axle a much simpler job.
Attaching and removing wheel weights is so difficult, no one really bothers touching them once they’re bolted on. But there are times when more or less weight could make a tractor more efficient. Hence Deere’s idea: a quick-attach ballast system.
Engineers have designed a 1.7 tonne underbody weight frame that can be attached to any 7R tractor — or released — in only about five seconds. The company claims maximizing ballast with this system for field operations can improve drawbar pull by about nine per cent. Conversely when the tractor doesn’t need all the weight, such as when pulling trailers — a common job for European farmers — fuel efficiency gains can hit three per cent, because it’s not carrying all that extra heft around.
“The idea here is to be light during transport (operations) and heavy during pulling applications,” says Deere’s Christian Shulz, who was showing the concept at Deere’s display during Agritechnica. “You get 1.7 tonnes attached to the tractor without leaving the cab, in a couple of seconds. This ballast doesn’t change the weight split of the tractor. So if you have 55-45 (axle weight ratio) you won’t change that.”
To allow the ballast to attach in such a short time, the tractor driver simply drives up and over it. When the tractor is in position with the weight underneath, a dedicated hydraulic cylinder is lowered and catches a shoe on the ballast frame. It then raises the weight up, and a second lock is engaged by simply pushing an in-cab control button. It’s that easy.
“It’s really easy to pick up,” says Maximillian Pauge, another marketing rep at the Deere display. “You can drive over it and pick it up with the hydraulics.”
“In the cab, there is one SCV (control) dedicated to this system, which you activate, so it lifts the arm and another lever that locks the cylinder,” adds Shulz.
Deere has just introduced the concept and was looking for customer feedback at the show.
“We’re trying it on 7Rs to see how the acceptance is in the market,” he continues. “We might roll it out on other tractor platforms. We might go down to the 6Rs, but not the 8 Series. They already have enough (ballast).”
The system may be more versatile than expected. “We’ve had a lot of drivers try it already, and they feel they’d like to leave it (the ballast) on for trailers, because the low centre of gravity gives the tractor really good stability when towing,” says Pauge. “That’s not what it was designed for, but that’s the feedback we’re getting.”
The system should be introduced this spring.