Farmers are the same the world over when it comes to farm shows. Where there is big, new bright, shiny iron is where most will congregate — and the bigger the better.

Most probably will never need the biggest of the big tractors, but that is where they congregate and discuss the latest manufacturers have to offer.

One of the biggest big iron draws at the International Exhibition of Agricultural Machinery Industries (EIMA) in Bologna, Italy was not Italian, but American, John Deere's new 8020 Series tractor featuring the electronically controlled, fully independent front-wheel suspension system. It had hordes around throughout the five-day event.

Deere calls it suspensions system, the new Independent Link Suspension. It is designed to control the hop in the field via front wheel weight management. The engineering is designed to transfer more power to the ground because of overall greater traction.

It was one of about 20 award winners selected by a committee established by the show's sponsor, the Italian Agricultural Machinery Manufacturers Association, to recognize technical innovation.

The Deere tractor, introduced earlier last summer in the U.S., was segregated with the other innovation award winners.

The winning technologies ranged from the huge tractor to a device for changing tension springs on brake drums.

‘Tractorcom’

One of the most unique ones was a “tractorcom” from Andreoli Engineering. It is a self-propelled, low profile, multi-purpose vehicle. It looks more like a car than a tractor. It features crab, all wheel steering and is equipped with power take-off front and rear three-point linkages, a hydrostatic transmission and a steering system for both axles. The enclosed cab is pressurized and equipped with a filtration system.

Another innovation was a tractor mounted pruning tower from Fa.Ma. d Marigonda Gino.

There are two boom cages which can be moved independently by the two workers. Workers position the platforms using electro-hydraulic controls in their cages.

The towers can reach a height of more than 16 feet, adequate for pruning large orchards trees. The booms can be moved independent of each other. The only drawback to traditional pruning towers is that the booms must be lowered to move the tractor.

Steam sterilization

One of the most interesting technologies was not in the innovators circle, but it certainly captured the imagination of Americans. It was a steam sterilization system that promises to replaces methyl bromide.

Using steam to sterilize soil is not novel, but the “Alce Garden” system by Celli in Forli, Italy adds materials like potassium hydroxide, calcium oxide or zerolites to the steam.

According to the company, this creates an exothermic reaction. Soil temperatures reach high temperatures by adding the compounds and the soil stays warmer longer. The result is more effective elimination of soil parasites and weeds on a par with methyl bromide.

The process is enhanced even more when the field is tarped in plastic, much like what is now done with methyl bromide.

Retired University of California Cooperative Extension agricultural engineer John Inman of Salinas, Calif., said the system holds promise as a commercial replacement for methyl bromide.

It has been tested at the University of Pisa in Italy and the company said commercial tests would be done this season in Italy with the goal of introducing the idea into the U.S. in two years.

According to the company, adding the nutrients to the soil also can correct chemical-physical characteristics like modifying pH and supplying nutrients for crops like strawberries, one of the crops most threatened by the eventual ban of methyl bromide.

In trials to control nematodes, the steam/potassium hydroxide system decreased nematode populations by 90 percent compared to control plots. Adding potassium hydroxide reduced nematodes 85 percent compared to steam alone. And, fields can be re-entered almost immediately after treatment.

e-mail: hcline@primediabusiness.com