Farm Ireland
Independent.ie

Sunday 26 February 2017

Pics: The new Krone Big X 530 harvester is delivering the goods in Wexford

Jamie Casey

The Big X 530 powers through eight rows of maize at a leisurely 6km/h
The Big X 530 powers through eight rows of maize at a leisurely 6km/h

We recently caught up with Alfie Byrne Agricultural Contracting as they took advantage of the good weather to harvest maize for Pat Kinsella near Marshalstown, Co Wexford. Mr Byrne, based near Bunclody, offers a wide range of agricultural contracting services to his customers in Wexford and surrounding counties. Focusing heavily on tillage and silage operations, Mr Byrne runs an impressive fleet of equipment.

Recent addition

The purchase of a new self-propelled forage harvester is one the most daunting capital outlays a contractor will make. The figures involved are staggering, so you need to be sure the machine offers the best possible solution to your business. Realising the time was nigh to upgrade his trusty Claas Jaguar 850, Mr Byrne spent much of the 2015 season weighing up his options for a replacement.

He duly took delivery of a number of demonstration machines during the first cut of the 2015 season, one of which was the Krone Big X 530. "We were immediately impressed with the performance and specification of the Krone," explained Mr Byrne, so much so that the machine was requested for another demonstration during the second cut.

Operator Alan Gregan is impressed with his new mount —
Operator Alan Gregan is impressed with his new mount — "It's a good place to spend a day," he says

This second demonstration, along with an informative and eye-opening trip to the manufacturing plant to see a harvester being built, was enough to seal the deal. "The Krone offers such high specification, it made our decision easy in the end."

A new Krone Big X 530 was ordered from nearby Krone dealer Jim Power in Tallow, Co Waterford, and delivered in time for the 2016 season. "There were a few items we were apprehensive about before the season began," revealed Mr Byrne, namely the fact that the engine runs at just 1800RPM, and that the transmission is controlled by Fendt style Vario controls, which can take some getting used to.

Alan Gregan operates the harvester for Mr Byrne. "The Vario controlled transmission was awkward to master at first, but offers fine speed control when you get the hang of it," explained Mr Gregan, but added that he found no issue with the hydrostatic control he was more accustomed to on the Claas.

As regards the engine operating at 1800RPM, it is said to have outperformed all expectations. The Big X is fitted with a number of nifty features, one of which stops the feed rollers should the engine RPM drop below a preset value.

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This ensures that the harvester will never stall the drum, which can be a nasty job to clear out, not to mention the severe strain placed on components along the driveline between the engine and chopping unit to physically stall the unit.

Features

Discussing the features that impressed him enough to open the cheque book, Mr Byrne said that the Krone was a very well thought-through machine, designed from the ground up. He explained: "From the pick-up header right through to the rear suspension, every detail has been scrutinised and well-engineered."

The pick-up header comes in for particular praise, with both men agreeing that it offers excellent flotation on undulating ground, reducing the risk of scalping and the inclusion of soil in the chopped crop.

Having passed through the pick-up header, the crop is then fed to the drum through the redesigned feed roller system. There are now a total of six feed rollers compressing the crop; three top and three bottom.

Krone claims this results in a much smoother and more consistent flow of material into the chopping unit, which aids fuel efficiency. The engine can focus on powering the drum at a more constant RPM, chopping through a constant and steady inflow of material, rather than surging through lumps.

A fleet of Broughan and Redrock trailers ensure the loader operator is not idle
A fleet of Broughan and Redrock trailers ensure the loader operator is not idle

Both a stone detector and a metal detector are incorporated into the feed roller system, the sensitivity of both of which can be controlled from the cab. On some occasions, a particularly lumpy swath can play havoc with the stone detector, as a lump entering the feed rollers is sensed as a stone, and rollers stop immediately.

In this case, the sensitivity can be reduced to prevent unnecessary stoppages, particularly in ground you are familiar with and sure of. Chop length can be varied on the move from the comfort of the operator's seat. The Krone offers class leading variation in chop length, which is proving a big hit with customers. "Dairy farmers in particular are requesting a chop length of up to 30mm," said Mr Byrne.

Chopping unit

Having progressed through the feed rollers, the crop enters the redesigned chopping drum. The new drum is now narrower and has a greater diameter than its predecessor. The larger diameter leads to greater momentum in the drum itself, while the reduced width leads to lower power consumption without the expected loss in output thanks to the increased diameter.

The knives are now mounted on off-centre rotating dowels which allow for easier and more accurate alignment of the knives with the shear bar. Should a lump enter the drum, the belly band on the underside is now spring loaded, allowing the lump to pass through without stalling the drum or engine.

The reduced width of the chopping drum has another bonus point, in that it allows oversize tyres to be fitted without making the machine unnecessarily wide on the road.

A redesigned chute also gets praise from machine driver Mr Gregan. "The increased width and length brings a number of benefits," he explained. "The length keeps the trailers further away, reducing the risk of the trailer sliding into the harvester on greasy side slopes. The longer chute helps keep the harvester clean.

"The left-hand side of the machine, particularly the steps and entry platform, remain much cleaner and free of chopped grass, especially when handling dry material on a windy day."

The addition of the 'Varistream' system is also proving popular. The position of the backing plate in the blower unit is controlled from the cab, allowing a variation in the rate at which the harvester blows the material from the chute. This is particularly beneficial when opening up a field of maize or whole crop, as the blow rate can be increased to accurately and cleanly guide the flow of material into the tractor and trailer following the harvester for the opening run.

"Before, you'd have to shovel the maize off the roof of the tractor, but with the Varistream system you don't spill a drop, and even the windows stay clean," said Mr Gregan.

There's a handy system for loading the corn cracker onto the Big X harvester, making it a one-man job. The hydraulically-controlled rear suspension is raised to its highest position, allowing the corn cracker to be wheeled in underneath the harvester from the rear.

A hydraulic scissors jack then reaches down from the underside of the harvester, and lifts the corn cracker up into position.

Room to improve?

"Overall, we are extremely pleased with the performance of the Big X 530," said Mr Byrne. "It is the perfect size for our operation. While the machine did suffer a number of minor teething issues, these were mainly software related and were promptly rectified."

The Big X 530
The Big X 530

Asked for some negative points on the machine, Mr Gregan pointed out that the mirror package leaves some room for improvement, and that the position of the in-cab monitor can sometimes impede his vision to the right-hand side of the eight row maize head, which can be an issue on the headland run. The Krone is also quite wide up around the cab, which can be an issue with low-hanging branches on narrow roads and laneways.

However, he is more than happy to spend his working day at the helm of the new machine. Features such as a quieter cab, citing an easy to navigate in-cab computer and a fantastic turning circle.

When quizzed on how the year has gone in general, Mr Byrne said that it was a "particularly difficult year, and contractors are at their wits end". A combination of poor milk, beef and tillage prices has seen the contractor at the bottom of the pile when the farmer comes to paying out of a diminished pot of cash. "I'm lucky that I've got good credit available from the likes of fuel suppliers and machinery dealers. Without this credit, I would have to shut up shop."

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