Tractor recommendations:

I’ve started to look seriously at tractors, we’ll need one next season, and could use it this one.
Present vineyard is tiny, dead flat and 6’ rows. One a good day I can deal with it with the push lawnmower, echo tiller/weed whacker and backpack sprayer. On a bad day not so much I suspect.
We have dreams of future expansion…

Looking at fundamental choice at $10-20k between new small utility tractor like Kubota 2320 and a used bigger one like a Deere 5310N or NH TN95.

I can’t quite figure out why I’d want > 50hp for pulling anything 48" wide, but that’s what they seem to be making for “vineyard” tractors, and the cab would be nice.

At the risk of starting a religious debate, any reasons why a style would be preferred?

I have local enough Deere, New Holland, and Kubota dealers…

thanks in advance.

Sheldon, we looked at a Kubota 2320 for our vineyard as well (mowing, tilling, and other general use). Ultimately did not buy, and decided to rent a tractor as needed. Not sure if leasing makes sense in your case, but might consider it as an option.

Had we bought, would have purchased the Kubota. Understand numerous tractor supply places rent new tractors for a season, and then sell them off with relatively low hour usage. Might look into this scenerio to get one at a nice discount?

I have a 1240 Massey Ferguson and it works very well. I have 7’ rows but it would be fine for 6’ (assuming no quads). It is 27hp which I don’t think I would go smaller than. The power hogs are flail mowing and roto-tilling. Besides power rating, I would also look at gearing. Mine has 16 speeds (4 ranges x 4 speeds) which I thought was overkill until I used a 8 (2 ranges x 4 speeds) speed New Holland for flail mowing. It was either too fast or too slow, it needed another speed range. Of course there are various power shift style transmission that allow shifting on the fly. These would be nice but for me the extra cost wasn’t worth it and I like the mechanical simplicity of conventional gears.
I’m not really sure how much brand name matter anymore. All tractors of this size seem to be either Italian or Japanese with at most, assembly in the US. I think JD is still trying to get a brand name premium that isn’t really justified anymore. Kubota’s are certainly nice but be aware of the myriad of series they produce. The lighter ones seem geared more toward wealthy homeowners than heavier use in the vineyard. They also seem to be a the top of the price heap. Also, consider the style of tire you want. I run conventional Ag tires because I have soft spots with heavy clay to not get stuck in. The rest of the time I wish I had the Industrial tires with more floatation/less compaction.

Thanks for the responses, I am aware of the harvest returns, and trying to figure out how many PTO HP I need, to steer decision.

So far, I haven’t gotten any sense that the “vineyard” tractors which are sold at >50HP are necessary for anything I would want to do.

We do have clay, and a 48" tiller/spader doesn’t need much more than 30hp…

All things equal (price that is), I would opt for more hp. Sure you can run a tiller on 30 hp, but it sure beats on the little tractor a bunch. Tractor life is much extended when you aren’t running at max capacity. And besides, that little tractor is gonna struggle to get full bins out of the vineyard, especially if you’ve got any slope to it. Much safer on a 50 hp tractor. I’ve got a 30 hp, sure it does about everything I need it to do, but I sure do enjoy how much more work I get done when I borrow my neighbor’s 50 hp tractor.

Just double checked actual numbers.
My tiller is a Howard Rotovator HR7-50HD, 50" wide, rated for 22-32 hp
1240 MF tractor, engine 28.4hp, pto hp is 22.8 hp
So I would agree that you don’t need more than 30hp (engine rating) for your tractor in a small operation. My tractor does work hard while tilling but not excessively so. The Howard is an excellent roto-tiller if you are looking for a recommendation.
The lift ratings of the hydraulics are generally greater with more hp but not completely. This is where the frame series within a given brand come in to play. Heavier frames with heavier hydraulics can lift more than the same engine in a lighter duty frame. I can move full half ton picking bins but just to move around not dump. Best to either go with a 3 point fork for moving full bins, larger tractor, or forklift.
If all things were equal, I would also go more bigger within the size constraint of the vineyard. But bigger costs more, quite a bit when I was shopping.

The argument of more loader capacity is persuasive. Especially if that delays forklift when paired with a powered pallet Jack.

I’m thinking the more powerful tool is the way to go. Reserve power is often useful.

I would look at all this carefully and try to figure out how you will use this. A tractor large enough to be a good forklift might be too big for your vineyard. Even with my small tractor, having the loader mounted in the vineyard is often in the way. A larger hp tractor in narrow vineyard configuration is probably going to diminish its abilities as a forklift. For the cost spread, you might find that you get a forklift which is going to be much better for unloading bins from a truck and a small tractor. Rather than load picking bins for my own vineyard, we purchased a large amount of picking tubs (hold 30-40lbs) and haul these back and forth to the destemmer with a trailer. This reduces handling of the grapes and the need to handle picking bins in the vineyard and dump them in the winery. Of course this is only going to work for a couple tons, not a large operation. Anyway, I think there is no one-size-fits-all, its what works for your situation.

Agreed there is no one size fits all, thats why the quandary.

A detachable loader allows better maneuverability, and may suffice in short term for taking 1/2 ton macro bins off incoming trucks, and stacking barrels where the power pallet jack can get them. (storage buildings have 6’ doorwas, 8’ ceilings, so interior forklift not useful)

A smaller tractor (<30hp) will struggle in our soil (you can’t dig without soaking in Summer) based on neighbors experience using 5’ tiller.

Larger HP tends to come in longer wheelbase, larger radius, though thats not a show stopper.

There’s value in a new machine, warranty and low likelihood of downtime, vs a > 1000 hr tool that’s been traded in.

the diverse views expressed are helpful, they’ve given me some perspectives I hadn’t considered.

I 'm leaning towards the used larger model for the ability to pull Cat 2 implements with ease, and have a single machine until we grow to where we can have backup.

I’ve got a fairly small vineyard here at the winery about 2 acres and we use a 12 year old Kubota 21hp diesel tractor (. We run a rototiller, sprayer and mower on it and it’s has run flawlessly for 12 years ( I bought it new) it sure makes quick work of all those things I used to do by hand way back before I had the tractor… Think hard before going above 30hp for your needs… picking bins can always be loaded on a trailer or something instead of forklift attachments…

I’m probably stating the obvious, but if possible, try to demo a few different tractor models at your vineyard before buying. I manage five vineyards all within a couple miles of each other, and I have different tractor preferences for each site.

Just one final thought: Tractors make horrible forklifts. Unloading bins is one thing, but stacking barrels is not advisable. Drop two barrels and that’s a forklift payment. It’s important to see where you’re gonna be in 10 years and purchase accordingly. All that, I would still opt for the 50 hp if it fits in your rows. It doesn’t make sense as some have suggested, to buy a smaller tractor and come up with ways of overcoming its limitations (ie trailors,etc). The bigger chassis is safer, less likely to be overloaded, and can do far more than 2x the work of a <30hp tractor. Less than 30 hp is more the rich homeowner line than the commercial line.

Another vote for larger. I’ve got a 50+hp and a 29hp tractor and I often feel that the 29hp is just barely adequate. It will run a 100 gal airblast sprayer, but it really doesn’t want to do so on any sort of hill. I also feel that it is too small for the loader it has on it just from the perspective of stability.

getting to the buy point soon, looking like a tossup between the Deere 5xxxN and the NH TNFxxx, both seem to be available in my price range with 3-6k hours, 50-90HP, 48" wide

Any specific models/transmissions to avoid?

I have two tractors as well, a 50HP and 20HP. Power is only one aspect of the “work” equation. Weight is the other. It wouldn’t do any good to double or triple the HP on my small tractor. It’s weight (i.e., traction, strength, stability) isn’t sufficient to do significantly more work.

I agree that it makes sense to get the largest, heaviest, most powerful unit that you are comfortable negotiating between your full grown rows (and that you can afford). The subcompacts (i.e., > 25HP) won’t pull a disc heavy enough to work effectively (even a 48" wide one), or accommodate a decent 3pt blast sprayer. On harvest day, all the small tractor will be good for is towing a cart with a couple of 1/2 ton bins. That said, I love using the small tractor for the things it can do because it operates so easily within a 6’ wide interrow.

Speaking of harvest, I am very glad that the loader on my larger tractor is robust enough to handle 1/2 ton bins. I’m solely a grower though, so moving barrels around has never been a consideration.

If you are evaluating loaders, understand that ratings usually apply to pivot points, not to the ends of pallet forks. If you can, test out the loader you intend to buy on some fully loaded 1/2 ton bins to make sure it can handle them comfortably.

Also, if you elect to get a loader, a “skid steer” type attachment interface is priceless. It will allow you to instantly connect and disconnect an infinite array of standard loader attachments, include a bucket or pallet forks. It’s is highly likely that by simply removing the bucket (or other attachment) from your loader before you do work between the vine rows, you won’t find is necessary to remove the loader itself (which is a hassle of sorts, no matter what). The skid steer type interface (I can’t remember the common name for it) will allow you to remove whatever attachment you have on the loader quickly, so you can get to your row work right away.

BTW, I love R4 tires for vineyard work (if they don’t increase the width of tractor beyond the maximum you can tolerate).

Finally, I agree with the comment that there is no substitute for an on-site demo of anything you’re thinking of buying. If it’s a larger tractor you’re considering, take it up and down the rows a bunch to make sure you’re comfortable with the size.

Ok it’s looking like a new holland T2410 is the final candidate. 250 hrs <$20k. Attachment priority ?

Sprayer (pto vert booms)
Followed in future by
A spader.

Sheldon, if I’m not mistaken, the T2410 is the successor to the TC55DA. My larger machine is a TC45DA, which has the same frame, tires, etc. as the TC55DA. These machines are 6’ wide. I thought you had relatively narrow rows, and we’re looking for something 4’ wide.

Don’t know about sprayers, but I opted for a rotary cutter over a flail (much cheaper) and I’ve had no regrets.

The disc issue has been a tricky one for me because my small tractor is so underpowered. Once I did a demo with a 75HP crawler and a heavy, expensive ($4K+) 4’ disc, and it worked like a charm. The disc I ended up buying is much lighter, and even when I add extra weight, it doesn’t churn the ground worth a damn. Before you invest in a disc, give it try at your place when conditions are relatively dry and make sure you are satisfied with the result. Because my disc doesn’t work very well, especially later in the season when the ground is harder, I have had to take a pass with a rototiller, which I don’t like to do. Needless to say, before too long, I am planning to upgrade to a 50+HP narrow tractor (wheeled or crawler) and good quality (i.e., heavy) disc.

Henry over at Garton in Stockton assures me this will be 50" with the wheels inverted.

He also suggested the 48" disk with 30gal water barrel weight as the best tool to cut in fall cover crop, where a tiller would tend to to harden below the tilled depth. My neighbors have tillers if needed, but I would hope to not need to use either disc or tiller in the hardpan season, leaving the spring cover crop for weed suppression.

I discussed mowers and sprayers with Gearmore, and their sales guy suggested for cutting high cover crops the flail would work better especially when mulching in pruning residue in vineyard and orchard. He also suggested the boom sprayer for my scale at ~2k vs ~9k for a venturi.

I think the sprayer is the top priority attachement, and I would absolutely shop for a used venturi (or any other fan type) to get into your price range before I settled for a boom sprayer. I would bear in mind that most of the softer materials available for fungal control require really good coverage. If you are reliant on a boom sprayer, you may be forced to used more serious antifungals that have some systemic effect to compensate for poor coverage. You may also find yourself doing more leaf pulling than you would like to compensate for the boom’s inability to penetrate a leaf layer.

Sheldon, I’ve never played with inverting rims and the like, so I was unware that a 2410 could be pared down to 50". I have a regular set up with R4s on my TC45DA, which results in a 72" width.

You probably already know that NH’s narrow model tractors are designed (supposedly) with a lower center of gravity to partially offset the instability of a narrow stance. If you have any slope issues at all, you might want to demo the inverted rim set up on the 2410 before you commit to the purchase.

Aren’t flail mowers 3x the cost of a rotary cutter? They’re alot more trouble to maintain too. You aren’t mowing a golf course, so in terms of the cut, you’ll likely be plenty satisfied with a simple rotary cutter. As far as the pruning residues are concerned, if you invest in the right disc, you’ll be well on your way to incorporating them long before the season is over. Sure, a flail will cause the prunings to be incorporated more quickly, but to me, that advantage alone isn’t worth the high initial cost and maintenance hassles.

Stewart is spot on regarding the sprayer. Ironically, I don’t own one, but I’ve watched and listened enough to know that you want to own the most effective, flexible and reliable unit you can possibly afford. Personally, I feel the same about discs after screwing around with units that I had to add weight to and such, but that’s just me.