Tractor engineers are designing new lighting systems for crop producers who need greater nighttime visibility.
Faced with a need for 360-degree lighting, John Deere engineers used computer software to design and place lights on their newest line of tractors.
“With the new 8R and 8RT Series, the lights within the roof are not adjustable. We've specifically built them to cover a 360-degree pattern around the tractor without having to be adjusted,” said Chad Hogan, John Deere product line marketing manager.
In all, the Standard package comes with 18 lights plus extremity warning lights. Deluxe and Premium packages offer even more lights.
“I would say, the increased demand for AutoTrack on tractors has certainly increased the desire for customers to have better lighting,” said Hogan.
Some crop producers have crews, who are more than willing to drive tractors through the night. While AutoTrack keeps the tractor running straight, the operator still needs to see what's going on - whether there is a deer, a tile line, a big rock, or something else up ahead that needs to be seen.
John Deere engineers also found that tractor operators needed more light to monitor wide or long implements in the darkness.
“We have planters as wide as 120 feet. Not that long ago, a 20-foot planter was a big planter,” Hogan said. “Now operators need better lighting to see clear out to the edges of that wider equipment, plus they are working at faster speeds today.”
John Deere offers a Deluxe lighting package for the new 8R tractors that include four additional halogen lights on the front of the tractor plus a rotary beacon light.
“If you are manually steering the tractor, the Deluxe lights - additional lights on the roof and the beltline of the tractor - help with forward visibility,” said Hogan.
A Premium lighting package includes a rotary beacon light, and two halogen lights on the rear fender are replaced with Xenon High Intensity Discharge (HID) lights. On the front grille of the R Series tractor, two halogen lights are replaced with three HID lights.
Technology has brought lighting a long ways.
Taken too much for granted, the light bulb is still one of the greatest inventions of all time.
Incandescent lights use glass bulbs that hold a gas such as nitrogen or argon. Electricity heats up the tungsten filament resulting in very hot white heat and light.
A halogen light also uses a tungsten filament and is sealed into a bulb, but the bulb is filled with inert gas and halogen gas. Halogen bulbs give light of a higher color temperature, a blue color. The halogen gas combines with the tungsten atoms to allow the filament to last longer than incandescent light.
A Xenon HID uses xenon gas to also produce a slightly bluish light, but does not use a filament. Light is produced by electricity arcing between two tungsten metal electrodes.
The HID bulbs provide extreme brightness and daylight color to define items in the field or farmyard. The Xenon HID light can last much longer than a filament halogen bulb.
The HID bulbs need extremely high voltages to initially jump the electrode gap when first turned on, and that requires an electric starter and a transformer, or ballast.
“The tractor operator will notice a longer beam of lighting in the center for following marker furrows with the HID lights,” said Hogan. “The overall width of the lighting for a non-row-crop operation will be obvious to distinguish tilled from non-tilled passes.”
The John Deere engineers also designed the HID lighting system to use a smaller housing and a remote-mounted ballast, Hogan said. The smaller house increases the rear window view.
Hogan said the Deluxe package is $715 over the base lighting price. That includes four additional halogens and a rotary beacon light. The Premium package is $3,075 above the base price.
“Anybody that is running a lot of work at night, we're seeing a pretty big interest in the HID lighting package,” he said.
Especially during this long fall season, Hogan encourages producers to think about the lighting system on their tractors. There are light kits available for tractors and combines to improve lighting.
He also encourages producers to think about lighting when ordering a new tractor, and to evaluate the lighting when considering the purchase of a used tractor.
“Make sure you choose a lighting package at the time you purchase your tractor that's going to fit your needs. It's much easier to buy the tractor from the factory with the right lighting up front than to go back and add lights later,” Hogan said. “There are kits available, but sometimes adding the HID lights can be difficult on some tractors because of the way the wiring harnesses have to be routed.
“You might not think about lighting when you're shopping, but after you run a few nights, you may find that you need a tractor with a better lighting system,” he added.