Tracking down the machine

Having planted a premium plot of Pinot noir and Chardonnay on an exceptionally steep six-hectare plot three years ago, the team at Denbies Wine Estate, Surrey recently invested in a New Holland TK70-FA tracked tractor which was delivered on 23 April 2018.

“As well as the steep gradient, because we are on chalk and haven’t got a huge amount of top soil it can be rather slippery when it is wet in the vineyard,” said Chris White, chief executive officer at Denbies. “Everything in the new plot had to be done by hand but having the tracked tractor means we can now do the mowing and spraying up there.”

Looking for a second-hand machine, suitable to work in the vineyard, with the right hours, good service history and an air-conditioned cab, Denbies sought help from Ian Phillips at Vineyard Solutions.

Benefiting from 30 years’ experience in the agricultural machinery sector, coupled with knowing what equipment is best for the job from owning his own 20-acre vineyard, Ian was able to find, test and import a machine from Italy which fitted the specification.

“The machine we found for Denbies was low hours but when you are looking for second hand machinery hours aren’t the end of the world,” said Ian Phillips, director at Vineyard Solutions. “It is down to the individual inspection of each machine, you need to make sure that you’re not investing in problems for the future which is why we go out to have a look before importing them.”

As well as benefitting from an air-conditioned cab, Ian was also looking for a machine with rubber tracks, which are quieter in the cab, 540 power take-off (PTO) speed, the right rear hydraulics spools, an external hydraulic power pack with oil cooler, good condition slew clutches and a later model which tends to be easier to drive because it pulls straight as it drives forward.

“We are really impressed with it,” said Chris. “It is excellent at turning because when you get to the end of a row you can just pivot on the tracks. As we had premium land we have planted quite intensively with the rows 1.6 meters wide so that was key. We also assumed it would be slower but once you are in the vineyard it is actually quite fast. It will give us more flexibility to do things we wouldn’t have been able to do in the winter months and we will be using it in other areas of the estate as well because it has been very wet so far this season.”

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