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When I borrowed the Fendt 700 Vario-series demonstrator from the local Crawfords Billingshurst depot I didn’t expect to buy it, but within 30 minutes of it arriving on the farm I just didn’t want to give it back

David Ellin, farm manager, England

When I borrowed the Fendt 700 Vario-series demonstrator from the local Crawfords Billingshurst depot I didn’t expect to buy it, but within 30 minutes of it arriving on the farm I just didn’t want to give it back

Sussex farmer very happy with upgrade to Fendt

“When I borrowed the Fendt 700 Vario-series demonstrator from the local Crawfords Billingshurst depot I didn’t expect to buy it, but within 30 minutes of it arriving on the farm I just didn’t want to give it back,” explained Sussex-based farm manager, David Ellin.

David has managed the 700ha Perching Manor Farm at Fulking in the South Downs National Park for 13 years. The operation includes 240ha of arable cropping plus grass grazing for a 100-head single suckler herd of Angus x Limousin cattle and up to 600 sheep. A large area is enrolled in HLS environmental schemes, and David said that there is a strong emphasis on nature and nature recovery.

The farm is on top of the Brighton Aquifer, and the farm works with Southern Water monitoring the effect of agricultural activities on the water system. Techniques under evaluation include variable rate Nitrogen applications. Cropping is mainly winter wheat, oilseed rape, spring beans and spring barley. Stewardship areas include low input spring cereals, over-wintered stubbles, and fodder crops. Soils on the farm range from shallow chalk over flint on the high ground to black gault clay and greensand down on the Weald. “Our range of soil types means we can’t rely on just one system for everything,” David explained. “The higher land is colder too. We are just four miles from the sea, and it’s almost always windy, so we see a big difference in crop development across the farm.”

In the past, intensive cereal production relied on high inputs, and deep cultivations by a fleet of heavy, high-horsepower tractors. When David started at the farm, he replaced the deep ploughing establishment regime with a minimum tillage system, then six years ago he bought a direct drill with the objective of improving soils, reducing operating costs and reducing the labour requirement. Now David does most of the arable work with the help of one full-time employee whose primary role is looking after the livestock.

Last year when the farm’s 190hp main tractor was due for updating David considered various options. His priority was identifying a tractor with slightly more power, but the tractor also had to be versatile enough for year-around use. He tried a larger tractor of the same brand as his current machine, and three competitor brands, but they were all too big and heavy and lacked manoeuvrability. “I wanted plenty of power for our Horsch Sprinter on the hill, and for ploughing if needed, but it also had to be light for fertiliser applications and spraying. We are under a lot of pressure to complete field work within short weather windows, so I also wanted user-friendly technology to help improve my working efficiency.”

A neighbouring farmer and contractor suggested that a Fendt tractor might suit the farm. “I had always believed that a Fendt would be too expensive to justify but we needed a suitable tractor, so I requested the demonstration. I’m sure that even before the demonstrator was delivered, the Crawfords team members were confident that I would order one.”

FendtONE advantage

The Fendt 724 Vario supplied was the latest Gen 6 version with a FendtONE user interface, and it immediately impressed with its compact size and versatility as well as the exceptional cab comfort. “It ticked all the boxes for me, with plenty of power for working the steep slopes, but also being light and manoeuvrable,” David explained. “I like the cab – the ride quality is excellent which is important as I have a bad back, and because it has a C-pillar the door is a sensible size. We get in and out to open field gates on the hills and in windy conditions a large door is vulnerable to damage. The visibility is exceptional, including the view out of the rear window which makes it easy to hitch up implements and trailers. After the demonstration we were convinced that it was the right tractor, so the Crawfords Area Sales Representative David Murray worked out a price for a tractor which was due into stock. An attractive finance deal meant it was just within our budget, so we placed the order.”

CenterPoint RTX guidance is used, which provides adequate precision for drilling, then subsequent field operations rely on the tramlines created. The FendtONE operator interface allows guidance maps to be displayed on either of the two large touch terminals, or on the dashboard display. “I love the FendtONE concept – it’s easy to use and incredibly versatile,” continued David. “The potential is limitless, but that means there is a lot to learn to get the best from it and I’m still finding out what it can do four months after taking delivery.”

Quick and convenient set-up

One of the most useful features is an implement list stored on the system, along with the settings which were last used. “For me – doing as much as I can on my own it’s a big help and it saves a lot of time. When an Isobus-compatible implement is connected, the settings load up automatically and, if it has been used on the tractor previously, all my preferred settings are automatically applied.

“We use an elderly Horsch Sprinter for direct drilling. The Horsch dealer came to the farm to help me set it up for the Fendt, and we were both quite surprised as it was recognised immediately by the Fendt’s Isobus system, with no software updates needed.”

Tractor knows best

The Fendt 724 Vario is the farm’s first with continuously variable transmission. David describes himself as a stick and throttle tractor operator, so accepting that the tractor knows best regarding the engine speed and transmission ratio took a while. “The TMS system is superb. On the road, the engine just seems to be ticking over even at maximum speed, and for subsoiling where I would select engine revs of 1,800–1,900rpm, the TMS system easily maintained the set operating speed, but at much lower revs. It must save fuel, and after using other tractor brands for more than 30 years, now that I have experienced the Fendt I wouldn’t want to go back.”

Year-around use

The Fendt will work approximately 600 hours per year – more than the farm’s other tractors. “We can’t afford a big tractor just for cultivations, and which remains in the shed the rest of the year,” said David. “Previously we had dedicated tractors for specific tasks, but now the Fendt will take over most of the work. Keeping them will give us extra flexibility, but they will work fewer hours.”

The Fendt came with a full LED lighting pack, and David said that having experienced the benefit - he would now consider it an essential feature. The specification is quite comprehensive, but automatic climate control isn’t included as standard which surprised him.

More comfort and less tiring

“It’s obvious that Fendt thought carefully about users when designing the 724 Vario, and the new FendtONE controls. It cost a little more than other tractors we considered, but I remain very pleased with our decision to buy it. It’s more comfortable and less tiring to operate during long working days and managing the farm will be easier. Each job is automatically recorded by the FendtONE system which will help with our environmental activities, and we will have no problems as we move towards adopting variable-rate seeding in future years.

“After using previous tractors for a few years I’ve always felt the need to update them, but I’m confident that in 10 years’ time I will still be just as enthusiastic about the Fendt 724 as I am now.”