We’ll forgive you if you haven’t been paying attention to what’s been happening in the world of ag-tech over the past year or two. Essentially, a major trend has become apparent. Namely, the emphasis on more sustainable targeted solutions for vineyard and orchard management. The growth of the Australian agriculture sector adjusted itself for a bumper year in 2020 and with that came an overwhelming effort to increase efficiency on the ground. We’re trying to get more productivity from less acreage.
Wait, haven’t we been trying to do this for decades? The answer is yes, but now the tools are catching up too.
And this shift is being facilitated largely by the increased mechanisation of vineyard processes. But this doesn’t mean buying another, bigger utility tractor brimming with horsepower.
No, far from it.
Specialty tractors for specialty crops
The thing about farming smarter is that your tools need to reflect changing processes in the jobs they can perform. For example, pruning on masse can require a lot from one tractor, but given the right engine, width, and fuel efficiency, this job is made so much easier.
But what’s wrong with my utility tractor?
Realistically, not a lot. But when it comes to improving efficiency over the long term, whether it’s on a larger vineyard, or even a hobby farm, it’s all about how well your tractor is matched to perform the specific tasks required by your crop at any given time.
When it comes to managing your time effectively, certain jobs will demand more oomph and indeed, more versatility. Sure, a utility tractor can definitely fulfil a variety of needs, but if you’re clipping the edges of vines and moving clumsily between rows, the time spent wrestling your machine around can be both costly and tiring.
What to look for in a vineyard tractor
When it comes to choosing the right tractor for your vineyard, there are a number of considerations you’ll want to go over before making the investment. This decision should not be taken lightly. Given how closely linked a tractor’s performance is with farm productivity, you’re going to want to choose the right model that suits your property and keeps your cellar door open and busy. Things like increased fuel economy are mere basics. Here are some things to keep an eye out when looking for a vineyard tractor:
Power - how much do I need?
Generally, aim for 50+ horsepowers. But depending on how hilly your property is and the types of attachments you plan on running, you might get away with less. The question on many farm owner's minds is also how much PTO (power take-off) speed is needed to run an effective vineyard operation. Vineyard tractors need to have a fair bit of power under their belts to haul spray loads up slopes and get the required coverage depending on the crop layout. Making sure the engine is in good condition when buying secondhand is very important. Make sure to check that the PTO speed is geared at the peak engine performance for optimum efficiency.
Dimensions - how wide should I go?
Compact dimensions are key when accessing narrow rows and fitting under tree canopies and orchards. As land costs increase, and water becomes scarcer, planting vine rows closer together is only a natural evolution of vineyard architecture. At the end of the day, it’s the health of the crops that matter most, and having a narrow tractor that works seamlessly between the vines is more important than ever. The challenge of fitting an engine with sufficient power into such a small machine is huge. The Kubota M line achieves this balance of power and dimensions with the likes of the Kubota M7040 and Kubota M8540.
Searching for the best vineyard tractor? Read our Kubota M7040 review here.
Driveline, tyres, and brakes
Operating on loose soils and precious ground cover is part and parcel of daily vineyard operations. Having the right driveline system with effective front and rear axle differential locks can greatly reduce the impact on the ground. Likewise larger softer rubber tyres can reduce ground disturbance and deliver improved vehicle control. Having superior traction can also greatly improve operations in wet and muddy weather.
Cabin and ergonomics
Long days out in the sun, often with chemicals being sprayed in the air can become a health risk if you’re not properly protected by a cabin. Operating long hours in an uncomfortable environment is not fun either. Finding a model with a comfortable interior and ergonomic controls is crucial for the operator’s wellbeing on the job. Compared to your average utility tractor, having an added level of comfort will result in improved productivity.
Every vineyard is different. Choosing the best vineyard tractor will depend on the kind of operation you’re running. Each property will come with its own challenges and opportunities. Luckily, this no size fits all mentality has been recognized by tractor designers and manufacturers. You’ll see it in recent releases like the aforementioned Kubota M line. As demand for specialty vineyard tractors increases, especially in the Southwest of Western Australia, Boya Equip is ready to deliver on a range of compact, price competitive and versatile tractors including the Kubota M line.
Invest in your long term productivity today
If you’re looking to improve productivity in property maintenance, pruning, spraying, trimming, and harvesting then get in touch with our experienced team at Boya Equip and we can talk specialty vineyard tractors and how we can meet your needs.