The millionth tractor we produced in our Mannheim factory some 30 years ago was a 6400. This tractor is no longer in production, but it would have been comparable in size to our 6120M. They both have the same wheelbase. However, the maximum power of the 6400 was 104 hp, while the 6120M with Intelligent Power Management (IPM) offers 145 hp. If we compare the 6400 with our two-millionth tractor – a 6R 250 – we can still see a few constants. However, great leaps in technical development have been made.
Unique frame design
Our frame construction design has stood the test of time over the past 30 years and is a unique selling point of John Deere tractors. We use a sturdy frame, which makes the tractor lighter but also more robust and stable than other construction concepts. The frame carries components like the engine and gearbox, reducing the load on them when a front loader is attached.
The frame design also offers advantages in production, allowing us to integrate different types of transmissions and engines. This means we can respond flexibly to individual requirements while also manufacturing tractors in Mannheim in six million different equipment variants.
Mechanically speaking, the proven PowrQuad transmission of the millionth tractor is similar to our current Quad transmissions, although the transmissions of today come with more comfort and automation features. The AutoPowr transmission of the 6R 250 offers continuous adjustment of the gear ratio. The driver can also now conveniently operate all important tractor and attachment functions via the ergonomic CommandPro drive lever.
And in performance terms, a lot has changed over the past 30 years. For example, John Deere introduced IPM with the 6010 models. This uses intelligent software to adjust the tractor’s engine power automatically and dynamically to different operating situations to improve fuel efficiency and productivity. If the tractor is working in a field with a wrapping baler combination, it can use this system to deliver more power to the hydraulic pump during the wrapping cycle, which is where it is needed at that time. During power take off (PTO) work, the tractor delivers more power to the PTO shaft. This makes our tractors more efficient and powerful for different purposes.
Connected, communicative and sustainable
The intelligence in our tractors today goes far beyond IPM. Advances in digitalisation have made it possible for tractors to make their operators’ work much easier thanks to a whole range of features, also allowing them to work sustainably over long working days. The 1-Click-Go-AutoSetup feature offers the possibility to easily create work tasks on the computer and send them to the tractor. Once in the field, the driver only needs to confirm the job on the screen for the tractor to execute it within the field boundaries. Of course, the 6400 couldn’t do that, the equipment and the technology was not sophisticated enough. Functions like the AutoTrac guidance or the Section Control, as well as other options for automated precision farming, make work on the tractor much easier today.
Another important step on the journey to the modern tractor was the integration and certification of ISOBUS in 2002. With the ‘USB of agriculture’, farmers could suddenly connect implements from any manufacturer to the tractor easily and control them via a single monitor. Before that, there were already partially electrified implements, but these were quite awkward to connect and drivers would have a jumble of screens fitted in the cab. They also needed to reconfigure their entire setup every time they wanted to use a new implement.
With a slurry tanker equipped with the NIR sensor, the John Deere 6250R can independently adjust the travel speed to dispense a pre-set amount of nutrients.
When used with a wrapper baler, the IPM of the John Deere 6250R provides additional power for the hydraulic drive during wrapping.
Nowadays, the driver can connect a slurry tanker equipped with a near infrared (NIR) sensor and depending on the nutrient content of the slurry and desired application rate, the travel speed of the tractor is automatically controlled. This means the nutrient supply can be adapted to the corresponding yield and soil conditions contributing to groundwater protection and ensuring high crop yields.
Our tractors of today are among the most economical on the market, both on the road and in the field. The technical developments were mainly driven by legally prescribed emission standards. Our tractors for the Western European market, as well as for many other regions, now meet Tier 5 emissions standards, making them almost as clean as cars. To achieve this, we needed to make some design changes, so our tractors are now equipped with an AdBlue system and a catalytic converter, and we have introduced cooled exhaust gas recirculation. This system reduces nitrogen oxide (NOx) emissions from the engine by redirecting some of the exhaust gases back into the engine’s intake pipe, allowing higher pressure in the engine without allowing further oxygen and nitrogen from the air to react to form NOx.
The future of the tractor
Whether the three millionth John Deere tractor from Mannheim will be electric, I couldn’t say. But what is certain is that we are constantly working on the tractors of the future and are already seeing results. At the beginning of the year, we presented our multi-fuel tractor, which can run on a mix of fossil and renewable fuels, at Green Week in Berlin.
We know that the three millionth tractor will set new standards in terms of performance and benefits for farmers, because it will be the result of a combination of proven technologies and constant innovation.