Editor's note: In the 2010 SOURCEBOOK, Farm Equipment editors brought you a special report, “Ag Equipment Firsts,” a timeline and historical account of innovation. Below you’ll find additional coverage of developments in ag equipment in two key areas: Telehandlers and equipment used for vertical tillage.
Telehandlers Appear on the Scene
In the 1970s, telescopic handlers, or telehandlers, were pioneered by the Matbro company at Horley in Surrey, England, which developed them from their articulated cross-country forestry forklifts.
Telehandlers were introduced in the U.S. as a labor-saving device in the early 1980s and eventually migrated to farm use. JCB claims to have invented the telehandler concept, and the company introduced the Loadall in 1978, which appears in the U.S. during the 1980s.
Another innovator, Merlo, launched its first telescopic handler in 1981, the same year that Manitou says its first telehandler was built. Manitou unveiled its first ag-focused telehandler in 1989. Merlo claims to have launched the first side-engined telehandler (1986) and first rotary telehandler (1990). Manitou’s MRT (rotating telescopics) was built in 1990.
In 2008, Manitou North America introduces what it believes to be the world’s largest rough-terrain telehandler, the MHT 10160, which has a 36,000-pound lift capacity
. This was followed by the MHT 10210, a 46,000-pound capacity unit.
Vertical Tillage Emerges
Pinpointing when the first vertical tillage equipment was invented is difficult, as it appears to have evolved over a period of time. The technique is also sometimes referred to as zone tillage.
Brillion Iron Works in Brillion, Wis., began research and testing on a vertical tillage implement in 1998. It began selling the “Zone Commander” in 2000.
Early forms of vertical-tillage tools appeared during a five-year Farm Journal uniform soil density study in Leroy, Ill., which concluded in 2000.
Among the tools tested was McFarlane Manufacturing’s Spiral Reel Stalk Chopper, as well as new tools from Phillips, Phoenix and Precision Planting. Industry sources interviewed by Farm Equipment point to Brillion as having the likely “first” vertical tillage tool.