While Pottinger, and Strautmann, to a certain extent, have had the UK forage wagon market to themselves, Krone is a relative newcomer, having only been pushing forage wagons in the UK since 2010.
Reassuringly though, the German make is top dog in its homeland, which bodes well if it is to be a success in Blighty.
Our test machine was the firm’s MX 350 GL, which it says is aimed at large scale farmers and contractors, with the ability to gobble 24-28 hectares (60-70 acres) per day depending on conditions. It is a dual purpose machine too, as it can be used as a trailer thanks to its open top design.
All drive, except one chain to the pick-up and the floor chains, is via gearboxes and shafts, protected by dog clutches, giving a good amount of heavy-duty confidence. The pick-up reel is also cam-less with just two bearings and Hardox-tipped tines. Krone says this system is more durable compared to cam-track systems and provides even tip speed for better crop flow.
At the rear, it uses twin hydraulic motors, one either side of the machine, to drive the slatted floor. This is said to take strain out of the motors and driveshaft.
As standard, it features a sloping floor at the front which is 100mm lower to aid filling as the crop has less distance to travel upwards, and because the crop is then angled towards the bulkhead it also packs in the load tighter.
Underneath, it uses a pair of axles featuring a clever stability control system which transfers weight via hydraulics and double-acting rams, resulting in even pressure on all four wheels whatever the terrain. It also has a passive rear axle which effectively castors, to give rear axle steering.
Like all the forage wagons in our test, the Krone can be loaded manually or automatically. We stuck with the later for all the machines to see how well each system worked.
The Krone is controlled by the manufacturer’s Gamma control box, which is used with many of its products to minimise the number of boxes required. It features a 250mm (9.8in) LCD screen surrounded by blister buttons which correlate to functions on-screen. And out of all the controllers, we have to say that Krone’s is the best. It displayed plenty of clear, useful information such as how much is on-board, when the floor is moving and knife status. It is also easy to use with clear symbols representing the various functions. It was hard to get it wrong.
If your tractor is IsoBus ready, as ours was, you can also control the wagon via the tractor’s terminal. However, we found it easier using the machines own controller as the tractor terminals where quite small and did not display enough information. This means you end up scrolling through pages to get at the various functions.
Essentially, three modes are used during operation; filling, transport and emptying. When filling is selected (automatic in our case), the machine takes care of automatically moving the floor backwards as the wagon fills up. Once full the machine gives you an audio and visual warning. Transport mode then locks out all hydraulic functions except the passive steering, for safety. And emptying mode automatically takes care of opening the rear door and starting the bed. Once the bed is up and running, bed speed can also be speeded up to discharge faster.
Load density can be altered from the control box too. This is done in two ways; by altering the delay at which point the floor moves from when it is triggered by a sensor at the top/front of the machine, or alter the speed of the floor. The delay can vary from 0 to 10 seconds – the longer the delay, the more material can be packed in. Similarly, the slower the floor moves, the more material gets packed in. Being able to conveniently alter these settings on the move from the cab allows you to quickly adapt to varying crop conditions.
Considering the Krone was slightly larger than the 31cu.m capacity Pottinger and Strautmann machines, the effect on the tractor was hardly noticeable. We found 200hp up-front a good match, with the tractor coping well in most conditions.
According to the manufacturer, this machine is capable of managing 24 to 28 hectares (60 to 70 acres) per day. Frankly, we found in our situation with half the fields next to the clamp and the other half requiring a three mile round trip, the firm was under selling it as we felt 40.5 hectares (100 acres) plus per day in these conditions was easily achievable.
As with all the forage wagons, chop quality was good, perhaps better than expected, giving its theoretical chop length of 37mm.However, we found this was more due to the way the crop was presented to the knife bank, rather than the machine’s chopping system. In our case, the mower conditioner and 7.6m (25 feet) rowing up machine provided an even swath with material presented perpendicular to the knife bank.
Crop flow was good too and the cam-less pick-up provided smooth and quiet operation – the loudest component was the chain on the pto guard. Although, we did find when picking up grass first thing in the morning, the tines tended to miss a little of the crop as the cam-less system lacks that scooping effect. Once the first couple of damp loads were out of the way, it was back to a clean sweep.
The Krone’s knife bank also has the ability to disengage half the knives. Via two knife banks, you can select no knives, 20 knives, 21 knives, or all of them. If you were not too fussy about chop length, you could run one bank of knives until dull then engage the other bank.
Knife bank serviceability is also helped by hydraulically lowering then swinging out the whole unit to one side. Blades can then be easily inspected and swapped if necessary.
The Krone uses four floor chains to drive the slatted floor, with their tension simply screw adjusted from underneath.