With a boost from the good outlook for cotton and peanuts, the Southeastern market for farm machinery in 2010 seemed solid in January and February.

It no doubt would have been stronger except that tobacco companies delayed making contractual arrangements for this season. But some tobacco farmers expected to increase volume despite the cuts.

So labor-saving machinery — even some large scale units like flue-cured harvesters — were being purchased.

But peanut gear was probably moving best in February. The outlook for the commodity, if not rosy, was at least upbeat: At the end of January, the Georgia Ag Forecast had predicted that prices might increase 5 percent to 10 percent and acres perhaps as much as 10 percent.

Tony Jackson, vice-president of sales and marketing for Kelley Manufacturing Co. (KMC) of Tifton Ga., felt an interest in several tillage tools while exhibiting at the Southern Farm Show in Raleigh, N.C.

A significant percentage of KMC’s sales depend on peanuts, and that helped sales activity in Raleigh gain a little momentum.

“This proved to be a good show when measured by the number of inquiries by people who show an interest in buying,” Jackson said.

The KMC items on display included bed level incorporators, a ripper bedder with gauge wheels and a wide sweep cultivator for a one pass cultivation and fertilizer option. All got a fair share of attention from visitors to the show.

Jackson of KMC said he is optimistic about the rest of the season. “There has been a lot of genuine buying interest. Some caution about the prospects for this season is probably a good idea with the economy the way it is. But we feel good enough to continue with our marketing plan.”

KMC introduced an implement for tobacco at the show: A new cultivator that allows entry into the field soon after transplanting, said Jackson.

"You can break the crust on your tobacco bed and take out weeds without throwing a lot of dirt back at the plant," he said. And you can do it fast. The cultivator can be used at speeds of seven to eight mph.

That wasn’t the only new tobacco machinery that was introduced this winter. MarCo Manufacturing of Bennettsville, S.C., put on display a new mechanical harvester that features an extra high capacity leaf container and very quick change of harvesting headers.

“The 2010 Powell Generation VI requires an hour or less to change the header,” said Tom Pharr, president of MarCo. “The machine is speedier, low to the ground and more aggressive in taking leaf to minimize any clogging. This harvester will appeal to growers with 200 or more acres.”

Surprisingly, considering the chaotic tobacco market, another new tobacco harvester was on display at the Southern Farm Show. Mike Boyette and his brothers at Rock Ridge Farms of Wilson, N.C., showed their prototype four-row flue-cured harvester. It is not a self-propelled unit but is instead an attachment that goes on a Miller Nitro high-clearance sprayer.

One advantage of this harvester/sprayer combination is that there are several uses it can be put to. “It is a very versatile piece of equipment,” said Boyette. “You can spray, top and harvest tobacco and put nitrogen on corn.”

With four-row capability, the harvester will definitely lend itself to large-scale tobacco production.

The soonest the Rock Ridge harvester will go on the market is 2011, said Boyette.

But there was plenty of activity on the used machinery market this winter.

Dean Clubb of Clubb & Clubb Farm, Pleasureville, Ky., who reconditions used equipment — mainly sprayers — and sells it, said sales have been going very well the last few years.

“Good used machinery has been bringing a premium, and I think that connection is growing stronger,” Clubb said. “The good stuff on the used market continues to sell well.”

Clubb’s business would probably have gone better in February except that historically more than half his customers are tobacco growers. The delay in contracting the coming leaf crop slowed things down for him.

There was one thing absent at all the farm shows this year: The bright orange color of the AGCO tractor line.

AGCO Corporation announced in January it is phasing out its AGCO brand of equipment. They will continue to be marketed into 2011, though none are being exhibited now.

Challenger and Massey Ferguson will become the foundation brands within North America, according to Robert Crain, general manager for North America of AGCO. Other AGCO brands such as Hesston, Sunflower, White Planters, SpraCoupe and Fendt will still have a place in the company, he said.

And AGCO remains committed to the Gleaner brand.

“The innovative transverse technology in our silver combines sets us apart, and we anticipate market share growth in this segment,” said Crain. “In fact, there are exciting new enhancements for Gleaner in the not-too-distant future.”

e-mail: cebickers@aol.com