Owen Frederic, specialty tractor product manager at John Deere in Atlanta, is often the recipient of good-natured ribbing from his counterparts at the world's largest farm equipment manufacturer.
At a company known for huge combines and cotton pickers and gazillion horsepower tractors with four or more tires per axle, Frederic is in charge of marketing a green and yellow model that is just 32 inches wide with a tad over 20 horsepower breathing under its tilt-up hood.
His fellow product managers affectionately refer to Deere's new Model 20A nursery/greenhouse tractor as a “wheelbarrow with a motor.”
It may be small, but it is just as innovative as the new cotton pickers with the on-the-go round module maker. Just as John Deere pioneered the steel plow, Frederic counters the jokes with the fact the company's new lineup of four specialty crop tractors for confined operating spaces like vineyards, orchards and nurseries is the “most significant lineup of new specialty tractors John Deere has introduced in a number of years.”
Frederic admitted many of Deere's past specialty market tractors have been tractors initially designed for one purpose and modified for the orchard and vineyard market.
These new tractors are designed from the ground up for working in vineyards and orchards, said Frederic.
They are made by Italian tractor maker Lombardini to Deere's specifications, according to Frederic.
Models similar to the new Deere tractors have been used commercially in European orchard and vineyards for several years. Deere made as many as 40 modifications to the Lombardini tractors to satisfy the American vineyard and orchard market.
That market is primarily in the West for the four new units. To emphasize that point, Deere will have parts depots only in Stockton and Portland, Ore. as well as its headquarters in Moline, Ill.
The tractors were introduced at Landmark Vineyards in California's Sonoma County in the premium wine country of the North Coast. Landmark is owned and managed by Mike and Mary Colhoun. Mike is the great, great, great grandson of John Deere.
There are three F series for the orchard and vineyard market. They are the 76F at 76 horsepower; the 83-horsepower 85F and the largest of the three, a 96-horsepower 100F. All three are powered by VM Detroit Diesel turbo engines.
These three units feature transmissions with 24 forward and 16 reverse speeds. They work at speeds from one mile per hour to up to 20 miles per hours for transport.
There are no-spin front differentials on the 85F and 100 F models. All three models are equipped with a six-disc oil cooled rear braking system.
The three-point hitch has a 5,500-pound lifting capacity. The hydraulic system operates at a 10 gallon per minute flow rate.
A low profile cab is available on all F-series models. “It is just six feet tall, 20 to 30 inches lower than any other cab,” Frederic pointed out.
The tractor is narrow-enough for almost any vineyard row configuration. The 76F is only 53-inches wide. The larger 85F and 100F units are 57-inches wide.
The 20A nursery/greenhouse tractor has one thing in common with its behemoth four-wheel-drive cousins — it is articulated.
It is also only 40 inches tall, 32 inches wide and 98 inches long. It has a 45-degree articulated design.
The transmission of the smallest tractor made by Deere (other than riding lawn mowers) has six forward and three reverse speeds and mechanical front wheel drive with tractor control as standard equipment.
The front axle oscillates 16 degrees for maximum traction on uneven ground; a 540 PTO and three point hitch with 1,100 pound lift capacity. Both series carry two-year, 2,000-hour warranties.
The top of the line 100F lists for a little less than $41,000. The tiny 20A lists for a little more than $14,000.