The idea for this post was crowd sourced (all 2 of us) on Twitter when I mentioned I was going to the Lincolnshire Show. The subject is tractors. Well one tractor in particular. I’m talking about the Steiger STX-440 Quadtrac. You know the beast. It’s manufactured by CaseIH. Also because I know you like this sort of thing I’ve included some photos of tractors down the ages.
Tractors these days are boys toys like no other. I got to sit in the cab although I daren’t touch anything. Partly because it was £200k’s worth of kit pulling another £60k of trailer. I could have been devastating. Mr Bean would have filled a whole series with the ensuing chaos.
In one sense the romance has disappeared from the tractor world. One man cocooned in his climate controlled (not air-conditioned as I was told more than once) cab, his hydraulic seat smoothing out the bumps so as not to distract him from watching his favourite episode of Emmerdale, can plant 100 – 150 acres of rape seed in one day, depending on the soil type. His GPS system, accurate to 2 mm, ensures he covers every inch of field (mixing units here I know) with his ploughing, harrowing, planting weed killing or furtiloizing.
The tractor shown in the photo is one of two used to service the 3,500 acres of Westhall Farm Welton Cliff. Gone is the image of the lone ploughman following behind his horse struggling to plough an acre a day. The STX-440 with a 12/4 plough will do 10 acres an hour. It’s still a one man job mind you and I daresay the ploughman still likes his crust of bread and cheese with a pickled onion, and no doubt a pint or two of his favourite local ale in the Royal Oak, or Rose and Crown, or Frog and Parrott or whatever it’s called these days.
Comms on board are limited to the GPS, a two way radio and a mobile phone. This surprised me. I thought it would be sending back real time data on progress. Instead the system inputs data onto an SD card (I think – I didn’t see it and Neil the tractor driver called it a microchip) which, when “full”, is then plugged into the farm computer for record keeping. Helen Rainthorpe of Westhall Farm has complete data on what has been done to every field on her farm going back 4 generations. Has the EC been going that long?
One of the fields, note, is 190 acres. It’s dimensions are all programmed into the system and all the driver does is turn the machine around when it gets to the end of the field (he must by now have seen absolutely every episode of Emmerdale since the year dot). The speed of progress is programmable and normally determined by what the Quadtrack is towing. If the field has a curve then the STX-440 will naturally follow the curve. There is more, If the field spans two counties which than mean two different lots of paperwork the system recognises this when compiling the data.
I don’t know how much diesel it can take but it needs a huge tank. No miles per gallon here. It’s gallons per mile more like as its Drawbar power (max) is 371.35 hp (276.9kW) consumes 21.8 gallons (82.5l) per hour. Note the 8hp of the Titan steam tractor (photo inset).
If you’re interested the tractor is busy all year round – July until the end of Oct is prime time for wheat for next season. End of Jan to March/April is the time for planting for spring wheat and barley.
In finishing you should note the John Rainthorpe Quadtrac World Record attempt (I have an affinity with world record attempts) – “Most Quadtracs Cultivating In One Field” is taking place at WestHall Farm on 28th July. The event is in aid of Cancer Research – gates open at 11am – record attempt at 1pm. Give them your support – oo arr.