360-icon download left-arrow left-doublearrow nav-dot pdf-icon rss-icon search-icon spot-icon subnavi-icon close-icon info-icon

Tractor development then gave us the gift of the Vario gearbox for vineyard tractors, making it easier to work comfortably in the cab.

Rainer Weil, winemaker - Fendt 209 V Vario

Tractor development then gave us the gift of the Vario gearbox for vineyard tractors, making it easier to work comfortably in the cab.

Tried and tested

A wine-growing company relies on lane guidance with Fendt & Reichhardt control technology.

For more than 30 years, the Weil family has enjoyed the benefits of Marktoberdorf's solutions. Both on its own 42 ha of land and for contract work. In the early 1980s, technology in viticulture was increasingly gaining ground. Harvesters now make grape-picking easier. Tractors were used for planting vines, towing the sowing machine behind them. But how do you create a new vineyard in economical way? The answer lies in straight vine rows. Laser and GPS control are among the various methods that Rainer Weil has used throughout his career. “We winegrowers have different requirements for a lane guidance system than arable farmers,” he says, explaining his search for a modern guidance system suitable for viticulture. When replanting, the contractor relies on GPS control for the linear arrangement of the vines in the shape of trellises. But older crops – some of which are still planted by hand – are not always straight and have bends or kinks. And that's where an alternative steering system comes in. One that focuses directly on the vine.

The tractor plays a key role in mechanising work in the vineyard. In the case of this 56-year-old winemaker, he clearly needs reliable, motorised machines. And he has found them in his four Fendt Varios. The technology must be effective and ready for use at all times, because every single row of vines is traversed 20 to 30 times over the course of a year. If you can cut out just one passage, this not only has a positive effect on the bank account, but also saves the environment and the soil. A rethink is taking place. New things are being tried out. Not only in the choice of varieties, but in everyday work. The first step is to combine individual jobs into one task.

Fewer crossings = fewer emissions

Different tools can be added to the tractor, both for plant protection and for foliage work. “You get used to the easy life,” Weil admits openly, which is why he is starting to look for solutions to help. “10 years ago we still had one hand on the gear stick and one foot on the clutch. Tractor development then gave us the gift of the Vario gearbox for vineyard tractors, making it easier to work comfortably in the cab. Why shouldn't winegrowers join the farmers in their automated steering systems?” When the GPS tracking system is used on arable farms, A-B lines are usually set out to accurately steer straight when cultivating the soil. Driving straight is not always feasible in viticulture. With his son Christopher Weil, the 4th generation is now in the starting blocks. A student at Geisenheim University, he takes a break from his studies and gets to work on the family business. He's the one who deals with the details of lane guidance systems for viticulture. He already mastered sensor technology while preparing for his bachelor's thesis. And that knowledge is now coming into fruition. Fendt and Reichhardt have been offering track guidance with ultrasonic sensors for the 200 Fendt series since 2018. This gave the customer the choice between two systems. There's the row-controlled track guidance system with ultrasound, and the position-led track guidance system using GPS. The system must have an open interface in the cab, which integrates the steering valve, the cabling, additional sensors and the safety system.

Centimetre-precision control

Christopher Weil enters the next row of vines and activates the steering system. “They say that two is always better than one. It's similar here with our ultrasonic sensors,” says the young winemaker. Two sensors are mounted on the front right and left of the Fendt 209 V Vario, to detect the distance to the measuring object. They scan the foliage of the vines, which works both in the summer months with a homogeneous leaf mass and in winter with just a rudimentary surface. Now the job automation starts its work, takes over the steering of the tractor so Christopher can take his hands off the steering wheel and concentrate on spraying pesticide at the rear. Gone are the days when you could only turn around quickly to glance at the attached equipment. Is the sprayer boom optimally guided with this multi-row approach? No longer an issue for the wine-growing student, because the Fendt steers through the vine rows with centimetre precision, recording them on both sides and ensuring that the pesticides are applied where needed. Often there is a kink in the trellis or the gaps between the rows might vary. “This would scupper the GPS system, whereas ultrasonic sensors can still deliver,” explains Rainer Weil. That's the advantage of ultrasonic sensors. The sensor angle can be adjusted to allow the PSR Sonic to be used at different growth stages, pruning types and vine spacing in viticulture.

As fantastic as all this is, Weil wants more. He dreams of runout detection and the tools automatically adjusting after the run-out is confirmed in the tractor software. “Every slope has its own peculiarity. New settings have to be made at each run-out,” says Rainer, describing working with front/intermediate axle or rear-mounted implements. He is convinced that further improvements will be made very soon. Faster startup, higher quality of work from third-party workers, easier work and more job safety are the most important objectives for him.