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Published September 24, 2012, 10:50 AM

Four on the floor

Despite the dry year in 2012, the longer-term trend has been toward wetter planting seasons.

By: Mikkel Pates, Agweek

FARGO, N.D. — Despite the dry year in 2012, the longer-term trend has been toward wetter planting seasons.

That’s one of the factors driving the design of farm equipment. Case-IH unveiled its new Steiger “Rowtrac,” at the Big Iron farm show, Sept. 11 through 13. Case-IH has taken the Quadtrac technology and put it into a narrow undercarriage.

Mitch Kaiser, of Racine, Wis., is marketing manager for the Staiger line of tractors for Case-IH, which includes the Quadtrac and Rowtrac models. Kaiser says the company is taking orders now and will start building the machines in Fargo after Jan. 1. They’ll be built in the Case New Holland tractor plant that earlier this year announced it would invest $3 million in a 20,000-square-foot expansion.

Case-IH, one of the brands of CNH, is offering the tractor in 350-, 400- and 450-horsepower. This allows the use of 16-, 18- and 24-inch tracks. Case-IH has gone to an all-new drive wheel, so power can be transferred around to the narrower belts or tracks, Kaiser says.

“A customer can do 20-, 22-, 30- and 40-inch row crop widths now,” Kaiser says. “If they want to lift beets, plant, side-dress nitrogen, or go back and pull a big sprayer, they can do all of that adaptability and flexibility, and also use it for heavy tillage. It allows you to get into the field earlier; cover more acres with less slippage. It offers four positive, integrated tracks.”

Cost

Case-IH is asking 20 percent more money for the new version, compared with standard wheeled versions of the same horsepower. Farmers can get them for about $280,000 to $480,000, depending on horsepower.

”We’ve used the same transmission, the same axles that we use on our 450 Quadtrac and our 500 Quadtrac, but we’ve gone with the new undercarriage that’s narrower,” Kaiser says. “We’ve also made it a better suspension system. We have circular mounts in the undercarriage. We also have new, softer vertical mounts. The undercarriage rides smoother, and it keeps the track on the ground more positively so you get less compaction and you get more traction. You can pull a big 60- or 90-foot planter and only get 1 percent slip, which is virtually nothing.”

The Steiger tractor oscillates up and down 26 degrees, and articulates 38 degrees, giving it full power in the turns, Kaiser explains. Each track is independently driven, allowing each track to travel up 10 degrees or down 10 degrees, for traction and contact with the soil, preventing sliding or skidding, with less compaction.

Increased efficiency

“Customers want to get into the field earlier, because their window and their timeline is getting shorter to get that crop in to get the maximum yields,” Kaiser says. “When they farm bigger acres, they get less days to cover those acres. We’re seeing a drive to more horsepower; get in the ground more efficiently.

“By picking up field speeds — say from 5.5 to 7.5 miles per hour, with a 24-row planter — they can pick up an extra 300 acres a day.”

Increased yields

One trend especially true in the Red River Valley is that farmers are using more 20- and 22-inch rows than in the past. “They want to shade the rows faster, cutting out the weed growth and getting a better yield,”Kaiser says. “They’re increasing population, but doing it by narrowing the rows. They want a tractor that runs between those narrow rows and gives them the maximum traction and doesn’t skid, doesn’t make a berm, and has a nice flat seedbed.”

The new Rowtrac has a unique new cab, with more space and windshield, and “four-tab post” suspension design — four springs and four shocks that all ride independently for greater comfort and less operator fatigue.

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