Specialty Tractors for the Vineyard

By Jessica Spengler

As mechanization of vineyards becomes the norm throughout the world, equipment manufacturers have seen an opportunity to specialize. Tractors, in particular, are being designed to fit down the narrow rows of vineyards and orchards, as well as with higher horsepower, better versatility and ease-of-use. Now is the time for vineyards to re-invest in a new machine, since industry leaders, including John DeereKubota, and New Holland, all sell models specialized for vineyards and orchards. With a little research and guidance, vineyard owners and managers can easily find the best tractor for their specific needs.

Many wine growers may question why they need specialized equipment when they can just purchase a utility tractor for their farming needs. However, the needs of vineyard and orchards extend beyond those provided by standard utility tractors.

“Many producers have specific crops and specific planting which require special tractor dimensions to operate in those fields, orchards, or vineyards. Although a utility tractor might fit some of these requirements, there will usually be modifications required to make the tractor completely fit the application. Our specialty tractors are designed to fit into those specific applications. Our narrow tractors offer spacious narrow cabs to fit perfectly in vineyard applications along with higher hydraulic flow than a standard utility tractor to meet those specialty implement requirements.” said Tyler Pittson, Kubota M-Series tractors product manager.

Nick Weinrich, Product Marketing Manager for John Deere, said the grapes, in particular, are a significant concern. “Producers, no matter their operation, need a tractor to meet their specific farming practice from horsepower, capability, and fit. In the case of vineyards fit, from a dimension standpoint, is the main need. When talking about vineyards and any other high-value crops, the fruit is the most critical subject, since it can easily be damaged, bruised, or even knocked off the plant if the machines operating in the field come in contact with it. This turns into loss revenue to the producer,” he said.

Essential Feedback

Kubota and John Deere have both sought out feedback from vineyard and orchard managers to improve and design the best machines for their needs.

Kubota found horsepower, comfort and versatility to be a high priority. “Through dealer and customer feedback we have learned vineyard and orchard managers are looking for higher horsepower, more versatile tractors,” said Pittson. “We designed Kubota’s M4N/M5N models to meet their specific needs and harvest demands. Take a seat in any one of these new tractors check out the comfort and space of our cab, and you’ll understand why they stand out against the competition.”  Pittson.

The result was their M series line of tractors.

“The M Series models feature updated engines, intelligently revamped operator stations and improved hydraulics. The M Series specialty models also feature highly versatile transmissions designed to provide superior power and efficiency, for the most rigorous specialty environments. The M4N/M5N tractors are equipped with wet hydraulic clutches standard which improves durability, life, and reduces maintenance. The M4N/M5N narrow tractors deliver Kubota’s renowned M Series power and reliability in tractors engineered specifically for work in vineyards, orchards and other narrow environments,” Pittson told The Grapevine Magazine.

The Kubota M-Series Specialty Tractors Lineup includes the M4N-071, M5N-091, M5N-091 Power Krawler and M5N-111 narrow tractors; and the M5L-111 low profile tractor, the M6L-111 low profile tractor, and the M6H-101 high clearance tractor. The M4 and M5 models are equipped with Kubota’s V-3800 Tier IV engine and redesigned operator stations that enhance ergonomics and efficiency. The M5L-111 low profile tractor has standard shielding and a sloping hood to reduce crop damage.

“Another excellent model that we have is our M5N-091 Power Krawler which has wheels in front and tracks in the rear. This model offers superior traction and better stability than the standard wheeled version for those more performance demanding applications. The Power Krawler can be an essential tool for producers located in rocky and hilly areas,” Pittson said. For pricing and finance, visit your local dealer Kubota dealer.

Ease-of-use was at the top of many of John Deere’s customer’s lists of needs. “The largest hurdles producers are facing today is labor and uptime. They need tractors that work when they need them to, and John Deere has the best dealer network and parts availability to keep machines operating in critical times. To help with labor issues, John Deere manufactures tractors that are intuitive to a range of operator skill sets, as well as comfortable to operate to keep the labor coming back,” said Weinrich.

Years of experience and the time spent gaining insight into the needs of vineyards and orchards resulted in John Deere’s 5 Series.

“John Deere offers a variety of tractors that meet the need of narrow row/vineyards, from our six 5G models ranging from 75-100 horsepower, and then our narrow cab offering on our 5M and 5R models ranging from 75-125 horsepower. The 5G’s can get as narrow as 38.7” which is the narrowest offering in the NA market,” said Weinrich. “Vineyards stand to benefit from these by having a variety of offerings to meet their needs, most of which have the best maneuverability, turning radius, power, and hydraulic capacities in the industry, giving them the performance and productivity they need in the critical times, such as harvest.” Starting price for a base 5G 75 horsepower tractor is around $38,500 up to $58,000 for the 100 horsepower.

Getting Attached

The narrowness and ease-of-use of a tractor mean nothing if it cannot accommodate the implements needed to maintain a vineyard. Both John Deere’s 5 Series and Kubota’s M Series offer attachment capabilities for new and existing implements.

“The compatibility of implements with these tractors is high. Vineyards require a number of unique implements and attachments to maintain, manage, and harvest. Most of their current implements and attachments are compatible with our offerings. The 5Gs can have up to seven mid-SCV’s to attach implements and the highest hydraulic flow in the industry for these implements,” said Weinrich.

“The M Series specialty tractors have more hydraulic valve options, ready to accept implements requiring multiple valves with different flow requirements. The new models offer two self-canceling detent deluxe built-in flow control valves, with an option to add up to five total valves on the M4N/M5N. Each tractor features a Category II three-point hitch with easy adjust stabilizers to handle the wide range of specialty implements,” said Pittson.

Keeping Up With Technology

The newest technologies – from touch screens to remote access to guiding systems – have proven beneficial to growers of all shapes and sizes. John Deere, in particular, has embraced these systems, which feature prominently in their 5R series.

“At this time the 5R narrow cab is the most advanced utility tractor offering with integrated AutoTrac guidance and JDLink. Optional JDLink provides remote access for monitoring critical tractor systems and functions. Machine information and programmed custom alerts can prevent downtime by helping customers avoid equipment failures.   When JDLink is combined with Remote Display Access, producers can give their dealer remote access to the machine to troubleshoot potential problems, provide faster repairs or schedule routine maintenance. The 5M’s also offer a field installed JDLink option,” said Weinrich.

Kubota’s M-series includes a touch screen control panel, optional guidance system, and are designed to maximize the operator’s comfort.

“A redesigned cab on the M4N/M5N models features an updated dashboard with a multi-function, multi-view Intellipanel and LED cluster lighting,” said Pittson. “The M4N/M5N steering wheel has 40 degrees of tilt, making it easier to get in and out of the suspension seat. All of our specialty tractors are ergonomically designed, with all main controls located on the right side.  The narrow cabs feature’s a spacious cab, hydraulic shuttle, and an optional air ride seat. These tractors can also easily be fitted with Auto-Guidance systems and controls.”

Choosing Well

As mechanization grows in popularity, vineyard operators see greater efficiency, less fruit variability, happier, healthier workers, and a bigger bottom line. These benefits only occur, however, when the vineyard owner or manager chooses the right model for the size and needs of the vineyard. Knowing the land, doing the research, and talking to a reputable dealer will make that decision much easier.

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