Now that's a tractor. In recent years, small, utility tractors have been accounting for a larger and larger share of farm equipment manufacturer sales as the number of weekend, “recreational farmers” moving into rural areas mushroomed.

But Duluth, Ga.-based AGCO Corp. is staking out a position in the more traditional, high-horsepower tractor market as evidenced by that comment from one of the attendees at the introduction of its new 205- and much-higher horsepower tractors in Atlanta Feb. 3.

Besides tractors that run up to 350 horsepower in its three brands — AGCO Tractors, Challenger and Massey Ferguson — AGCO also unveiled its new e3 Selective Catalytic Reduction (SCR) technology that reduces emissions of nitrogen oxides and particulates while increasing fuel efficiency 15 percent.

“AGCO, this is your time,” said Martin Richenhagen, chairman of AGCO Corp., speaking to more than 1,600 dealers and sales representatives attending the launch of the new high horsepower tractors in the Georgia Dome in Atlanta. “With these new tractors, there is no reason AGCO cannot be No. 1 in the world.”

Earlier, in comments to agricultural media representatives, Richenhagen said he believes agriculture — and AGCO in particular — are well-positioned to weather the downturn that has shaken many segments of the world economy.

“Every year, we are adding another 80 million to the population of the world — that's the equivalent of another Germany,” he said. “Every day, 25,000 people die from hunger. We need to do everything we can to make sure people have enough food.”

Richenhagen said that when he was selected by its board of directors to become AGCO's president and CEO in 2004, the company was spending about $50 million a year for research and development.

“We began pushing our engineers to do more, and we now spend about $200 million on research and development.” (He said the company spent about $50 million bringing the new high, horsepower tractor series it introduced in Atlanta to market.)

The Atlanta event was the largest dealer launch meeting in AGCO's history, said Bob Crain, senior vice-president and general manager for AGCO North America who came to the company from New Holland.

“This is the first major product our dealers can call their own,” said Crain, whose family has been in the tractor dealership business for four generations.

“This project started out with a clean sheet of paper five years ago. Now our dealers are already taking ownership of these tractors.”

The new tractors — the DT Series for AGCO Tractors, the MT600C Series for Challenger and the Massey Ferguson 8600 Series — offer a number of innovations, but the e3 (for energy/economy/ecology) technology may be the biggest attention-getter.

AGCO has chosen the e3 Selective Catalytic Converter technology as its approach to meeting EPA's Tier III emissions standards. The SCR not only significantly reduces Nitrogen Oxide or NOx gases and particulate emissions without any trade-offs in power, productivity or operating costs, but it also delivers up to 15 percent better fuel efficiency.

AGCO engineers say the SCR technology will also put it on the road to meeting EPA's mandate that all engines meet even more stringent Tier IV emission standards by 2014.

The SCR technology treats the downstream exhaust with a new product called Diesel Exhaust Fluid or DEF, which breaks nitrogen oxides into harmless nitrogen and water vapor. Because the exhaust is treated post-combustion, AGCO's engines can perform better, run quieter, stay cooler and last longer, the company says.

DEF, which consists of urea and de-ionized water, has been widely adopted and is currently being used by luxury auto and trucking industry manufacturers, such as Mercedes Benz, Volvo, BMW, Mack and Detroit Diesel. AGCO is working with a number of companies to develop a nationwide distribution system for the product.

“This tractor may well be the one tractor farmers classify as the best they've ever owned,” said Jason Hoult, product marketing manager for high horsepower tractors. “This tractor was developed with enormous amounts of farmer input, and the final product was fine-tuned after hours of on-farm use.”

All three brands will offer different models with new, higher horsepower ratings. AGCO Tractors will have the DT205B with 205 PTO horsepower, the DT225B with 225 PTO horsepower, the DT250B with 250 PTO horsepower and the DT275B rated at 275 PTO horsepower with a maximum 350 ISO engine horsepower.

Challenger and Massey Ferguson will sell MT600C and 8600 Series models with similar horsepower ratings. All will be equipped with Challenger's new TechStar or Massey Ferguson's Dyna-VT continuously variable transmission (CVT) with power management. The CVT technology provides infinitely variable forward speed variations up to 32 mph.

The Power Management feature, which can be activated from the cab with the push of a button, automatically coordinates engine speed with the transmission, helping the tractor operate as efficiently as possible.

“Efficiency can be a very clichéd term,” says Rawley Hicks, another product marketing specialist. “Everyone talks about efficiency with fuel, but we want to expand on that definition. It's not enough that we are giving you good fuel efficiency; we're also making the operator more efficient. This tractor is all about the operator.”