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Setting standards

DLG’s tractor and equipment test facility in Germany has been evaluating tractors since 1962. It’s Europe’s equivalent of the Nebraska Tractor Test Lab

The sign at the main entrance to the DLG (German Agricultural Soc-iety) tractor and equipment test centre in Gross-Umstadt Germany includes the organization’s slogan. “We establish standards” is its English translation. And that’s not an exaggeration.

DLG is a non-profit, independent organization that was founded in 1885 by Max Eyth, a farmer and engineer, to facilitate information exchange among farmers, allowing them to keep up with the newest innovations in agriculture. Since Max got the ball rolling, DLG has evolved significantly. The organization now runs testing centres that evaluate a variety of agricultural machines and even food products. European farmers and consumers alike look for a DLG evaluation as an honest measure of quality across that entire range of products.

Testing tractors

Testing tractors has been part of DLG’s mandate since 1962. Since then, its been providing the same kind of horsepower information North American farmers look for from the Nebraska Tractor Test Lab. Today, that work is done at the Gross-Umstadt location. But the list of machines tested there has grown over the years to include nearly every type of ag machine on the market along with a variety of other products you’d expect to find on farm, such as things like chain saws and solar panels.

There are other similar test centres in Europe, but DLG’s is by far the largest on the continent.

“We do testing here for tractors and for forestry machines,” says Harald Krämer, a manager at the Gross-Umstadt facility. “We have test rigs for electrical (components) and for cows’ housing materials and so on, all (the products) a farmer uses on a daily basis.” The exact list of products evaluated is a long one. And the customers who bring products in for testing range from manufacturers to individual farmers looking to certify their livestock facilities or feed quality. So there is no shortage of work for the 45 staff members.

“We do 1,200 engineering tests a year and 350 Quality Mark tests a year,” Krämer explains. That makes for a pretty hectic pace of operations. More than a few manufacturers are eager to get those Quality Mark test approval seals on their products to prove they meet an acceptable standard, many of those standards were set by DLG, itself — hence that slogan at its front door.

Because of an agreement through the OECD (The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development), standard tractor horsepower tests done at Gross-Umstadt can now be substituted for the equivalent evaluation at the Nebraska Tractor Test Lab. Which means manufacturers who build tractors in Europe can take their machines to the DLG centre for testing and not have to repeat the process all over again in North America.

And just like at the Nebraska Lab, manufacturers can also contract with the centre to do specific, confidential testing of some aspects of machine performance. DLG refers to this as its Focus Test program. In fact, prototypes across the full range of agricultural products are often evaluated at the centre before they are released to the marketplace.

“The companies want to take a look at their machines compared to others, to take a look at whether they are good or not so good,” says Krämer. “Here we do a lot of (comparison) tests.” One of the most common is for fuel consumption.

The facility

The centre’s load car, which is based on an MAN truck chassis, is capable of putting “power mix” demands on a tractor that combine a drawbar load with simultaneous PTO and hydraulic demands. At the same time, engineers can measure fuel consumption along with other performance data. The German facility has been doing power mix testing on tractors for over 10 years. “All the power mix tests we put on the Internet, so the farmer can see the results,” says Krämer. “So they can see is the red tractor better than the green one, and so on.”

Other comparison tests frequently done by DLG engineers for different manufacturers are in combine performance. By putting combines directly into standing crop, engineers can measure losses and evaluate fuel consumption along with other performance data. These tests, however, usually remain confidential and results are only given to the manufacturer that commissioned the analysis. To get baseline measurements, engineers at the test centre built their own one-off harvester capable of providing accurate crop yield data without losses.

One of the unique services offered by the DLG test centre is evaluation of round or large square bales. The centre’s x-ray system can create a density map of how tightly a bale is packed, providing companies with information on how well different baler designs cope with varying crop conditions. “We test them with an x-ray so we can see the density inside the bale,” explains Krämer.

At its sister location near the city of Potsdam, DLG staff also test tillage equipment, evaluating how the equipment performs and what kind of finishes different implements leave on the field.

To help get the latest information out to farmers, DLG publishes a quarterly magazine. Anyone, anywhere in the world can become a DLG member and receive a copy (in English). It looks not only at developments in farm machinery but all aspects of agricultural production. For more information on that, check out their website at www.DLG.org.

To take a video tour of the Gross-Umstadt test centre, go to the Grainews website, www.grainews.ca, and click on the videos link. †

About the author

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Scott Garvey

Scott Garvey is a freelance writer and video producer. He is also the former machinery editor at Grainews.

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