With its combination of tracks and tyres, the Magnum Rowtrac appears to offer the ideal solution for both field and road. Geoff Ashcroft spoke to a Wiltshire operator to see if the half-track design is meeting expectations.
Rowtrac delivers almost zero slip and minimal soil damage when cultivating and drilling on Green Drove Farm.
When a fully tracked tractor is simply over the top and a high horsepower wheeled tractor is just not quite good enough, the answer you might be looking for could be a combination of both. This is the conclusion reached by Nick Down, farms manager of Green Drove Farm, Pewsey, Wiltshire, who has invested in a Case IH Magnum Rowtrac.
He says: “We have been waiting for a tractor like this to come along. It was always a fine line to balance power against traction with our wheeled Magnum and we simply do not have the workload to justify a Quadtrac.”
Operator Nick Lockwood (left) and farms manger Nick Down report their Rowtrac delivers enough traction to use available power and maintain forward speeds.
Trading as J.M. Strong and Partners, managed by Velcourt, the 960-hectare (2,372-acre) business has a firm grasp on costs and efficiency. Its arable rotation comprises two-thirds winter sown and one-third spring sown crops, with a diverse rotation to help the fight against grass weeds.
Located in the Vale of Pewsey, farm topography extends from 135-260 metres (442-853 feet) above sea level, serving up some challenging slopes and banks along the way.
Soil types range from Andover series chalks through flint, loam, deep clay and green sands. All of which demand a measured approach to applied ground pressure and managing compaction if yield potential is to be harnessed.
Frontline power was historically a Quadtrac 450 working over a much larger acreage until a business restructure saw a succession of wheeled Magnum 340 tractors take the mantle, backed up by a Puma 200 CVX. Three additional tractors on short-term hire meet the harvest workload.
“We have missed the ability to get power down,” he says.
“We ran the Magnum on 800mm rear tyres to look after our soils, but could only get pressures down to 10-12psi, depending on what was on the back of the tractor.
“We have made the most of water ballast and front end weights too, but it was all a compromise, particularly on the slopes.
“The wheeled tractor’s width posed challenges when moving on local roads too. But we made it work.”
610mm (24in) track unit keeps overall width narrow.
The arrival of the Magnum Rowtrac 340 CVX in July has been something of a turning point for the Wiltshire farm. Shod on 610mm (24in) wide tracks and 650/60 R34 front tyres, overall width is 460mm (18in) narrower, matching that of the farm’s Puma 200 CVX.
“It is a step forward with near zero slip and minimal soil damage,” he says.
“The impression left in the soil by each track is shallower and smaller than that from an 800mm tyre.”
The Rowtrac is the farm’s first Magnum with CVX transmission, which has helped the farm towards improved fuel efficiency.
Rowtrac delivers almost zero slip and minimal soil damage when cultivating and drilling.
“Typically, we are burning about 10 per cent less fuel,” says Mr Down. “Part of which comes from the transmission’s efficiency, with the remainder from better productivity. We are working shorter days to achieve the same output, all from improved traction.”
A predominantly min-till approach to cultivations sees the farm using a 4m Vaderstad TopDown, a 6.6m Great Plains Cultipress, seven-leg 3m Great Plains Flatliner and an 8m Vaderstad Rapid drill.
“We do plough rotationally using a Kverneland six-furrow reversible, though we have yet to try it on the Rowtrac,” he says.
Track unit oscillates, keeping the large contact patch firmly on the ground.
“It was always a challenge ploughing in-furrow on 800 rear tyres, so a 600mm track should be better, though we may need to plough on-land in the future.”
Operator Nick Lockwood has spent time in the cab of a Quadtrac and wheeled Magnum, and he is pleased with the level of performance brought by the Rowtrac when cultivating and drilling.
He says: “This tractor is finally the right match for our 8m drill and the CVX transmission is a huge improvement too.
“The tractor finds the right combination of power and rpm for my chosen target speed. With tracks providing more grip than wheels, forward speeds are now much easier to maintain.”
He says cab comfort and ride quality are still good, though he is mindful of severe changes in surface when running on the road.
“You just need to be a little more aware of what surface you are running over, just like any other tractor which uses tracks.”
600kg of nose weight helps the front tyres to steer more effectively.
He says the Rowtrac has a tendency to resist steering on headlands, which sees 600kg of ballast on the nose to help the tractor’s front tyres work a little better.
With 650 hours under its belt, reliability of the track system has so far been without question.
Mr Down says: “The proof will be in two years’ time when we can compare track life to tyres and see how the Rowtrac’s operating costs stack up.
“But we finally have the traction to make use of all the power and maintain forward speeds. This lets us achieve a much better job when cultivating and drilling.”
Case-IH offers five models of Magnum Rowtrac - including the 310 CVX, 340 CVX and 380 CVX using continuously variable transmissions, with the 310 and 340 also available with a 19x4 powershift box.
Up front, the Rowtrac is a regular Magnum. The back axle and its final drives have been changed to increase output speed to cater for the track units, so its not a retro-fit option for older Magnums.
Running gear includes 610mm (24in) or 760mm (30in) belts, with power applied positively using lugs inside the track, as with the firm’s Quadtracs. Track units oscillate to keep the full length constantly in contact with the ground.
Despite the Rowtrac’s much higher weight than its wheeled equivalent, it offers a larger contact area for better traction and a reduction in ground pressure with it.