Ag Equipment Intelligence

With the requirement to meet stricter air emissions standards, the engines in high horsepower farm tractors continue to undergo one of the most significant transformations in the history of ag equipment.

While the major U.S. manufacturers have made their intentions clear about how they'll meet the new regulations, some of the European tractor makers are just now announcing their intentions. JCB, manufacturer of Fastrac tractors will change its engine supplier, and ARGO, maker of McCormick and Landini equipment, says it will pursue selected catalytic reduction (SCR) technology and reduce the range of tractors it offers.

Cummins engines will continue to power some of JCB's construction products but the British manufacturer's agricultural division is ending a long-standing association with the U.S. engine maker by turning to AGCO Sisu Power for engines to drive its Fastrac high speed tractors.


Although the engine deal is believed to have helped JCB win continued use of AGCO's CVT transmission in top Fastrac models — a power ceiling was imposed in the original agreement — JCB managers insist the Finnish engine maker won the business on technical merit. "Sisu engines utilizing fuel efficient emissions technology provide the right solution for the Fastrac range," says JCB agriculture managing director, Richard Fox-Marrs. "Stricter engine legislation does not have to result in compromised performance; the key is choosing the right Tier 4i (interim) solution to suit the product."

First to get the Tier 4i engines are two newcomers at the top of the tractor range that will replace the current 250 horsepower 8250 Fastrac V-Tronic. The new 8280 engines have pretty much the same peak power as the outgoing model from its 8.4-liter diesel, but the 8310 takes Fastrac through the 300 horsepower barrier for the first time.

Apart from gaining improved fuel consumption and lower noise levels, the tractors utilize the engine's electronic fuel management system for a unique traction aid that eases off the power when the tires begin to lose traction.

Next up, the 3200 and 3230 Xtra models get a 7.4-liter version of the AGCO Sisu engine, which, at some point, will likely go into the 7000 and 2000 series tractors. While making much of the compact cooling package and SCR system of the Sisu engines, JCB is understandably making much of its own four-cylinder Tier 4i diesel.

The Ecomax T4, which is being built by JCB Power Systems following a $127 million R&D program, meets the next level of the standard without any sort of exhaust after-treatment or particulate filtration. Its improved fuel-burn efficiency reportedly also reduces fuel consumption. The new engine will be introduced across the JCB materials handling product range through 2012 with power ratings covering a wider range than before — from 55kW to 129kW (74-173 horsepower).

ARGO Goes with SCR

In contrast to JCB Agriculture's move, Italy's ARGO Tractors will stay with current suppliers Yanmar, Perkins and FPT (Fiat Powertrain Technologies) Industrial for its Tier 4i emissions compliant engines for its Landini and McCormick products. But owners and farmhands who like the beat of a six-cylinder diesel in their tractors will be disappointed by the news that engines of this size are going to be rare below 150 horsepower.

"ARGO Tractors will progressively cease fitting six-cylinder engines in the power bracket below 150 horsepower," says Ruggero Cavatorta, marketing director. "In the 110-150 horsepower range, the emissions solution is complicated but we will start bringing into production four-cylinder engines with SCR exhaust treatment."

Achieving cost-effective emissions control on a relatively low-powered six-cylinder engine is difficult, it seems. Hence the recent appearance of tractors using high power density four-cylinder engines — such as Massey Ferguson's 155 horsepower 5480 Dyna-4 and the Valtra N142 capable of generating up to 160 horsepower.

Big Advantages

An advantage of this approach, notes Cavatorta, is that operators get a highly maneuverable shorter wheelbase machine with high power-to-weight ratio.

At present, 7.6-liter six-cylinder engines serve the ARGO Tractors lineup from FPT Industrial (the former 'Iveco' unit now part of the Fiat Industrial business that encompasses CNH Global), and 4.4-liter four-cylinder engines from Perkins. Yanmar supplies some compact four-cylinder engines for ARGO. This multi-sourcing policy will remain, says Cavatorta, because it allows ARGO Tractors to take whatever it sees as the best solution for its products. In the 110-150 horsepower middle ground, he adds, the solutions are likely to be mixed in terms of both supplier and emissions solution. Below 110 horsepower and above 150 horsepower things are clear cut.

While big-ticket six-cylinder tractors can carry the cost and physical installation of an exhaust treatment system, smaller, lower-priced tractors cannot. For them, most manufacturers agree, exhaust gas recirculation (EGR) to control NOx and filtration to capture the resulting particulates will remain the practical, cost-effective solution.

Between those power outputs, though, expect to see manufacturers competing with both types of technology on high-performance four-cylinder engines.