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The latest in the compact tractor market

April 16, 2021 -  By
Kioti developed its tractors so they can be fitted with a variety of attachments. (Photo courtesy of Kioti)

Kioti developed its tractors so they can be fitted with a variety of attachments. (Photo courtesy of Kioti)

Compact tractor manufacturers are constantly challenged to earn landscape professionals dollars. These machines are built to last, so when the time comes to reinvest, manufacturers want to offer machines that appeal to their customers.

With a high demand for easy-to-use equipment that keeps crews productive and hard at work, manufacturers have been busy.

“It’s been a blessing. The demand for product has been overwhelming,” says Joel Hicks, product development manager, Kioti. “I’m sure all the manufacturers are seeing something similar. Go back to February/March of 2020 when the pandemic took hold, you were in a mindset that everything was going to come to a screeching halt, but actually, the opposite has taken place.”

Three companies have recently raised their hands as having new offerings for a hungry marketplace. Some are looking to the future, and others to the past. Here’s a look at updates from three compact tractor manufacturers: Kioti, John Deere and Kubota.

One with nature

Kioti Tractor, a division of Daedong-USA, launched the NS series of tractors. The NS series is designed to meet the need of value-conscious customers who want a powerful and proven tractor. The series includes five models with engines ranging from 45 to 58 hp.

“The NS series is a slightly larger chassis than our DK line,” Hicks says. “(There are) not quite as many bells and whistles on the NS as the NX series.”

Hicks says the NS series is a combination of a throwback to the DKSE line that was available in the mid-2000s, married to the NX line, at a lower price point. He says landscape professionals will appreciate that the power plant of the machine has been proven, since the Tier 4 engine has been out for several years. The NS series models all feature high-capacity hydraulics and power steering, and optional hydrostatic transmission.

The NS series is easy to operate and versatile, Hicks says. He says versatility is “the name of the game.”

“It boils down to having a product and platform that suits their needs but that can also reach into other avenues,” Hicks says. “That’s why it’s important to have good attachments and implements that can go with it.”

In terms of ease of operation, Hicks says Kioti focuses on the ergonomics of the machine so the operator can get on a tractor and feel natural.

“We try to keep things placed convenient to the operator, so when you’re using the machine, you’re not stopping and having to look and say, ‘Where is this? What do I do next?’” he says. “We try to make sure we have semistep decks or completely flat decks so it’s easy to get on and off. We try to keep the pedals where they’re convenient and easy. Hydrostats have taken over the market, under 60 hp, and they’re easy to operate and use for these utility applications. Your hand knows naturally where to go to engage.”

Get smart

In Cary, N.C., the team at John Deere has taken a look at how their compact tractors can connect with an end user’s smartphone to work smarter.

Two apps, Smart Connector and TractorPlus, make it possible to track the location of the tractor. Reduction in overlap while spraying, mowing or plowing are all possibilities.

Both apps connect the compact tractor to the operator’s smartphone through a Bluetooth connection. Operators can track service intervals, diagnostic codes and engine hours. The TractorPlus app communicates the same information as Smart Connector and adds in the ability to order parts, access parts diagrams and the operator’s manual.

John Doyle, John Deere marketing manager, says the apps give the tractor users access to a wide range of useful information, which also includes step-by-step details on machine maintenance and how-to videos.

The Smart Connector app is compatible with most 2-series, 3-series and 4-series Deere CUT models. The app is installed by plugging into the service adviser port on the machine. TractorPlus can be downloaded for free at the iTunes App Store or Google Play.

More power, ROPS

Late last year, Kubota Tractor Corp. announced the launch of the L60LE series. Four models in total comprise the series, two cab models and two rollover protective structure (ROPS) models, with hp ranging from 37 to 42 gross hp. Lift capacity is up to 1,715 pounds with a front loader maximum lift height of up to 105 inches on the series.

Kelcey Richardson, Kubota product manager, said the launch was inspired by customers in need of entry-level affordability, along with either more power or an ROPS version.

The L60LE series is a larger chassis with a Kubota-built diesel engine. The series can be outfitted with a full line of attachments from Land Pride. A wide variety of tire tread types and sizes are available for use as a mower or in industrial work.

Keeping the operator comfortable was a key consideration in the line. Ergonomic features include a wide operator area, suspension seat with swivel, standard tilt steering, electric PTO switch and a full-flat deck with rubber floor mat.

Seth Jones

About the Author:

Seth Jones, a graduate of Kansas University’s William Allen White School of Journalism and Mass Communications, was voted best columnist in the industry in 2014 and 2018 by the Turf & Ornamental Communicators Association. Seth has more than 19 years of experience in the golf and turf industries and has traveled the world seeking great stories. He is editor-in-chief of Landscape Management, Golfdom and Athletic Turf magazines. Jones can be reached at sjones@northcoastmedia.net.

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