It’s still about efficiency. Farmers have rarely felt the pinch of rapidly escalating costs and stagnant or falling commodity prices more sharply than now as they harvest 2005 crops and begin planning for 2006.

Heading the list of concerns will be high diesel prices, up $1 or more per gallon from this time last year.

John Deere hopes a new line of more fuel-efficient tractors will take some of the pinch out of that cost/price squeeze.

“We are the only major equipment manufacturer in the agricultural sector to offer a line of tractors with a 2 percent to 5 percent reduction in fuel burn,” says Shan Prendergast, John Deere manager of information and training services.

Prendergast, at a recent John Deere dealer conference in Fort Worth, Texas, where dealers from across North America got a first look at the company’s new 8030 series of tractors and other new equipment, said fuel efficiency will be a key for growers in 2006.

Ron Schwertner, division manager for marketing, says the increased fuel efficiency (compared to the 8020 line being replaced) comes with increased horsepower. The top of the line model, 8530, provides 275 horsepower (PTO) up by 20 HP from the 8520 it replaces.

“The 8530 is the most powerful row crop tractor ever,” Schwertner says.

Other units also increase horsepower over their predecessors. The 8430, at 250 HP, gains 15 HP over the 8420; the 8330 increases to 225 over the 8320’s 215. The 8230, at 200 HP, is 10 better than the 8220 and the 8130, at 180 HP is 10 horses stronger than the 8120.

Three new track units, the 8430T (255 HP), the 8330T (235 HP), and the 8230T (200 HP) also add horsepower over the tractors they replace.

Schwertner says a larger engine, the PowerTech Plus 9.0L, coupled with a 16-speed PowerShift Transmission, provides both increased power and better fuel efficiency because of new designs and integrated systems that improve functionality of hydraulics, rear differential and the cooling system, among other advances.

“The Vari-Cool system allows us to meet new EPA Tier 3 standards (required by January, 2006),” he says.

Schwertner says fuel efficiency increases even more with the optional Infinitely Variable Transmission (IVT).

The IVT adds from 0 percent to 3 percent increased fuel efficiency in heavy load situations, such as ripping. With medium loads, 65 percent to 75 percent of maximum, such as heavy cultivation, the IVT increases fuel efficiency by 3 percent to 5 percent. At light loads, 15 percent to 35 percent as in light transporting, fuel efficiency improves by 5 percent to 10 percent.

“Those improvements are on top of the 2 percent to 5 percent we get with the new engine and the PowerShift transmission,” Schwertner says.

The (IVT) features a right-hand reverser and is base equipment on the 8530 tractor, optional on other 8030 Series wheel tractors, says Cory Reed, factory marketing manager, Waterloo Tractor Works.

“This transmission, a John Deere design, offers smooth, seamless shifts without clutching and unlimited speed choices from .03 to 26 miles per hour. An optional left-hand reverser is available to meet differing customer needs and to enhance overall operation of the IVT.

“With more power, improved engine response, and up to a 43 percent PTO torque rise, the operator will get more efficient performance from these engines. They’re designed to produce higher torque at lower engine speeds, and this means better fuel economy in the field.”

The Vari-Cool system also plays a key role in fuel efficiency. The mechanical-type fan runs only at the necessary speed to meet the cooling requirements of the tractor. This variable speed design allows for greater efficiency in fuel and power.

“By designing our own engines, cooling systems, and other tractor elements,” says Reed, “we can provide integrated technology to reach unprecedented efficiency levels.”

Other new features for the 8030 series include:

• An improved CommandView, quieter cab.

• Optional ActiveSeat suspension system.

• Improved CommandCenter.

• Category 4 Narrow Three-Point Hitch with a convertible Category 4 Narrow (convertible to Category 3) Quick Coupler.

• A new hydraulic system. • 180-gallon fuel tank.

Also, GreenStar Display (GSD) 2100 or 2600 color monitors show critical tractor functions and operator guidance systems such as GreenStar AutoTrac.

Schwertner says the CommandCenter and the GreenStar system improve driver control and tractor efficiency.

“We are excited about our new lines,” says John Lageman, vice president of sales for the United States and Canada. “Dealers are enthusiastic about these tractors, which are replacing the 20 series that brought the most customer satisfaction ever.”

e-mail: rsmith@primediabusiness.com