Case IH Steiger 550 Test Drive

Case IH's Steiger 550 is one of the most powerful tractors in use in Brazil today. The combination of its 558 hp engine and articulated chassis makes this tractor a true giant, capable of working

26.03.2018 | 20:59 (UTC -3)

Case IH's Steiger 550 is one of the most powerful tractors in use in Brazil today. The combination of its 558 hp engine and articulated chassis makes this tractor a true giant, capable of pulling implements of any size.

Testing one of the largest Brazilian tractors today couldn't be easy. The team from Revista Cultivar Máquinas and the Federal University of Santa Maria traveled more than 5.400km, by air and land, and another 60-kilometer stretch of dirt road to reach the interior of the municipality of Comodoro, in Mato Grosso, where the Giant articulated Steiger 550 was working on planting safrinha corn.

The Case IH Steiger 550 tractor that we tested is part of a line, made up of seven models, that the brand offers for large agricultural projects and to meet large demands for larger equipment. The models that make up the line are all called Steiger, with nominal power of 375hp (model 370), 426hp (model 420), 477hp (model 470), and the 550 model, with 558hp, which we tested for this issue of the magazine. Three more models are being launched later this year, Steiger 500, 540 and 620, and the 550 will become Steiger 580. In this way, Case's portfolio for the Steiger line will increase from four to seven members in Brazil with the launch of models 540 and 580. This model, currently 550 and in the future 580, meets the Tier 4B emissions standard, which exceeds the requirements of the Brazilian Proconve MAR-I regulations, in the same way as the future model 620 that will be launched. The smaller ones meet Brazilian requirements, as even in the 470 model, service abroad is for Tier 4 regulations. It should be noted that in Steiger tractors, active regeneration of particle filters is not necessary, as is the case with other brands and models. .
The Steiger series is produced in the United States, at the Case IH factory in the North American state of North Dakota, in the city of Fargo, in Cass County. Since these tractors were brought to Brazil, they have caused a lot of expectation and, in 2017, of the 45 tractors sold in the country, in this power range, 30 were from Case IH and the rest distributed between two other brands. The expectation is that 2018 tractors will be sold in 60.
All Steiger series tractors are full 4x4, with central chassis articulation. With the increase in tractor power, the 4x2 tractor structure with auxiliary front-wheel drive has reached its limit. It is no longer possible to transmit all the power and torque of the engines with a structure that is not integral, with isodiametric wheels and equal weight distribution between the axles. Therefore, for this power range, only this construction type must be considered, otherwise high traction efficiency will not be achieved. In the line, two structures can easily be distinguished, the first called short chassis (includes models 370, 420, 470) and the other, wide chassis, which includes models 500, 540, 580 and 620.

For the test we wanted to do, with high traction requirements, the dealer and the agricultural producer offered us to use the mechanized set made up of the tractor and a 3236-row Case IH 36 Easy Riser seeder. In fact, it is a set of two 18-row seeding machines coupled in tandem. In the version we tested, it was equipped with a double disc type fertilizer furrower, where the estimated power consumption is 8hp/row to 7hp/row when used only as a seeder, without adding fertilizer. In other production areas that the producer maintains in Campos de Júlio, where he uses a machete furrower, the estimated requirement is 13 hp/line. 
In this case, it was easy to prove a truth that is known by users, in which there is a big difference between articulated tractors and tractors with auxiliary front-wheel drive. As the seeder has become one of the most important and used pieces of equipment, it is said that in four-wheel drive tractors the limiting factor for implementing an efficient system is the seeder, while in auxiliary front wheel drive (TDA) tractors the limit is the own tractor.
The information collected during the test was a volumetric consumption of 45 liters per hour, which, given the tractor's operational field capacity, represents a consumption of just four liters of diesel per hectare. Information from the operator indicated that this consumption increases to 60 to 70 liters per hour in other areas where the fixed, boot-type furrower is used.
Due to the reduced travel speed we practiced during the test, between 6km/h and 6,1km/h, and the configuration of the machine, with disc furrowers for fertilizer and seed, slippage was extremely reduced, around 1%, which demonstrated that demand could be increased by adding sowing lines, increasing speed and reducing the total weight of the tractor. However, during the test, we maintained the operational conditions of this area, which in turn repeated the configuration used in the other areas where this tractor was used, where a fixed, boot-type fertilizer furrower is used.
Although the manufacturer recommends that the engine load should be between 80% and 100%, given the low speed at which we conducted the tests it was between 45% and 50%. 
In operation, even for those who were just getting to know how the tractor works, simplicity is the hallmark. To start up, simply press the clutch pedal, move the inverter position from neutral to forward and accelerate the movement using the multifunction control. There are three simple ways to activate the autopilot: using a switch on the console, another on the multifunction control and also using the touch screen on the side monitor. To put the equipment to work, you just have to lower it using a small switch within reach of your thumb. At the end of the journey to perform the maneuver, you can repeat all these movements in reverse or just use the maneuver programming feature.

The engine and gearbox are connected to this chassis by means of cushions.
The engine and gearbox are connected to this chassis by means of cushions.

One of the distinguishing features of this tractor is the use of a structural chassis, made from cut and molded sheet metal. It is a robust structure, but the tractor modifies the direction of travel by articulating the chassis, where all components are placed independently. The engine and gearbox are connected to this chassis by means of rubber cushions that dampen noise and vibrations, bringing comfort to the operator, less component wear and greater ease of maintenance when these components need to be removed. To complete the chassis, forming a structural assembly, the manufacturer mounted a cast iron front support (bumper), where the front weights and all front engine components are attached.

The engine that equips this model is the FPT Cursor 13, with six cylinders, 24 valves and 12,9 liters of total volume, which provides 558 hp of nominal power, which can instantly reach 614 hp, with the action of Power Boost, which serves to overcome overloads arising from work. With this, overloads resulting from operation, such as hydraulic flow peaks, instantaneous effort on the PTO and terrain obstacles, can be overcome without the engine speed falling and the travel speed being affected.
The maximum torque of this engine with electronic injection is 2.540Nm at 1.400rpm. Particularly in this model, suction is carried out with the help of two turbochargers that act in two stages, the first to react in situations of low speeds and the second for high speeds.
To cool all fluids, the project included a series of radiators, with heat exchangers for the air conditioner (top) and transmission oil (below) placed at the front. Behind these are the engine water heat exchangers in one part and the intercooler in the other. Further back, there is still a new feature, necessary in this type of tractor, which is the fuel heat exchanger, which ensures that the diesel that returns hot from the engine is cooled before returning to the tank.
To access the engine, a large tilting hood was provided, which exposes all engine components for periodic and corrective maintenance. On the front part of this hood, the design included an extensive hollow area for heat exchange.
As this tractor is manufactured for the United States market, it is expected to comply with North American pollution restriction regulations. The catalyst system is SCR light, which uses urea as a catalyst substance. The standard met is Tier 4B, to which the Brazilian requirement contained in the Proconve MAR-I standard is also satisfied.
The company's experience in this period of using this model in the country is that Arla consumption is around 1% to 3%, in most cases 2,1%. The manufacturer believes that the cost of the catalyst substance compensates for the loss of power caused in other systems that do not use urea by reusing exhaust gases.
To power this engine and still maintain autonomy for long working hours, such as those practiced in large production areas, like the one we visited, a 1.760 liter fuel tank was made available. 

The Steiger 550 uses a full powershift transmission, with 16 forward gears and two reverse gears, with automatic drive and a maximum speed of 40km/h. The minimum speed depends on the sensitivity of the multifunction lever movement and may be close to zero. An intelligent system, called APM (Automatic Productivity Management) by the manufacturer, manages the transmission by adjusting the engine speed and selecting the working gear based on the speed pre-set by the operator in the configuration he establishes. Within APM management, three modes can be chosen. The first is for commuting and transport traffic (Road), the second is Field mode, for agricultural operations, with manual management by the operator, and the third, intelligent, integrates information from sensors and establishes the rotation and gear according to the speed.
The gearbox is made up of a set of gears and hydraulic clutch packs. Gear shifting is done by selecting the clutch packages being used, so there are no jerks or jerks when the selection is made, no matter how abrupt it is. In practice, the gearshift is sequential, with the activation through a multifunction control, which allows the forward speed to increase through a simple movement of the lever in this direction. The direction of movement is made by moving a small lever positioned close to the steering wheel and activated by the operator's left hand, which has the possibility of placing it in neutral, forward or reverse position. It is a type of motion inverter.

All models in the series have a high-flow hydraulic pump 428 liters per minute
All models in the series have a high-flow hydraulic pump 428 liters per minute

All models in the series have a high-flow hydraulic pump of 428 liters per minute to meet different customer needs. The implement remote control has six remote control valves (VCRs) as standard, all with electronic control and the possibility of automatically controlling the pressure and flow, when the implements require it with a direct signal line. Tractors for Brazil are equipped with TDP, which although not used very frequently in a high power class, as is

In the case of this Steiger line, it can be used in wagons, in crops that use this transport operation.

As this tractor is all-wheel drive, it has two moving axles on the chassis. The wheels are inserted using a flange, screwed onto the thru axle, which allows the gauge to be changed.
The entire Steiger line has the same weight package, but it can be configured for each model and situation. At the front of the tractor, the weights are placed on the sides of the front support. There are 22 front side weights, 11 on each side, each weighing 45kg, plus the weight of the bumper. On the wheelsets, two counterweights can be placed per wheel, one weighing 740kg on the outside of the wheel disc and another on the inside, weighing 411kg plus the spool weight, which joins the double wheelset, as there are four tires per axle. 
The tires are the same on both axles, measuring 710/70R42, radial type. In addition to the front weights and the discs placed on the wheels, the manufacturer also provides a support on which 28 weights of 45kg each can be placed at the rear of the tractor, over the hydraulic sockets. This way, the user can work without hydraulic ballast in the tires.
The total tractor weight with the entire configuration can exceed 35 tons. In fact, the tested tractor was weighed on the property and resulted in a total of 36.000kg, resulting in a mass/power ratio of 65kg/hp. The manufacturer, however, recommends that in most cases the weight should be around 30.000kg, with a weight distribution that provides 50% on each axle in the dynamic condition, therefore the largest portion of the weight should be on the front axle, in static conditions.

The cabin of the Steiger 550 is truly a highlight. Named “Surveyor” by the manufacturer, it is equipped with full suspension. It is very similar to the one equipped with the Magnum, but with a larger glass area, suitable for the visibility required by an operator on a tractor that articulates in the center, to carry out maneuvers. 
The cabin's integral suspension is achieved using four shock absorbers, one at each end. In addition to these shock absorbers with their respective spring, the structure has longitudinal rods and torsion bars for stabilization, preventing continuity of vibration absorption movement. 
To the left of the operator's seat there is a large console, with an armrest, access to switches and the multifunction lever, where the manufacturer has made it possible to bring together up to 85% of all the tractor's operating functions. On the multifunction lever, the switches are operated with the right hand, using the thumb and index fingers.
In front of the multifunction lever is the AFSPRO 700 monitor for managing all information and controlling the tractor and on the side, on a higher plane, the PM400 monitor for controlling the seeder functions. The screens are touch sensitive, with USB input, allowing exchange with other equipment, if necessary.
A light signal bar was placed at the rear and outside of the cabin to measure the width of the machine, especially when traveling.

The standard Steiger tractors feature the AFS Guide system, for precision agriculture, with autopilot predisposition, and the AFS PRO 700 monitor. It should be noted that all tractors have a standard pilot with unlocked HP/XP signal, with 372 antenna installed. The user chooses to use the RTX system or the RTK system, contracting directly from Omnistar, through online purchasing. In the region where we tested the tractor in Mato Grosso and other regions, the RTX centerpoint system, which was installed on the tractor, is used in more than 95% of cases.
A necessary advancement in these models is the possibility of carrying out end-of-line programming, with memorization of the functions that the operator wishes to perform in the maneuvering operation.
As other important technological advances, mention should be made of the Automatic Productivity Management (APM) systems and the SCR emissions control system with exhaust gas post-treatment.

The test site was an area of ​​Fazenda São Lucas do Guaporé, owned and managed by Agrícola Zanella, in Comodoro (MT). We had the opportunity to meet and receive support from Mr. Valdemar Zanella, one of the owners, together with his brother, Francisco Zanella, who is also a partner in two other areas. Mr. Valdemar works together with his son, Elton Zanella. The family originates from the city of Águas Frias, in the state of Santa Catarina, where they still reside, spending various periods of the year. During other periods of high work intensity in agricultural production, the family occupies a house on the farm in Campos de Júlio, remaining fully involved in the activity. In addition to this family management, they use the services of an agricultural technician and an agronomist.
The area where we carried out the test was opened for agricultural production 18 years ago, however, due to the transfer of ownership, it had been idle for two harvests, having to be conditioned for production in July 2017, this being the family's first harvest in the area. In addition to this area of ​​6.800 hectares in which we carried out the test, the Zanella family has owned two more areas in Campos de Júlio, since 1984, with eight thousand hectares, of which one thousand hectares are covered with sugar cane. 
The family has been a Case brand customer for several years and has had two tractors for this Case Steiger 550 model alone since September 2017. Mr. Valdemar considers that he has done good business with the Case dealership and considers himself satisfied with the brand. His main enthusiasm is in relation to harvesting machines, which in his opinion and in comparison with others, he considers to be the ones that cause the least damage to the grains and whose product leaves the bulk carrier cleaner. Furthermore, the advantage of having a dealership store close to both areas is a differentiator.

The test drive was carried out at Fazenda São Lucas do Guaporé, in
The test drive was carried out at Fazenda São Lucas do Guaporé, in

Currently, the family employs 108 employees across the three areas and seeing the impact of their activity on families is also a point of satisfaction. In the test area alone, the company employs 18 permanent employees, in addition to those who move from other areas during work peaks. In addition to employees moving to meet the need for labor, machines are transferred from one area to another, which is 220km away. The intelligent machine sharing system has been successful and helped reduce costs. The exception to the rule are self-propelled sprayers which are area specific. However, sowing and harvesting are done in two areas 220km apart, with the same machinery.
The company's main activity is the cultivation of soybeans during the harvest, introducing corn and beans in the first harvest. This year, in addition to other alternative crops, 50 hectares of chickpeas should be cultivated, to try out a new crop.
On the farm, the working day is 12 hours, starting at 6am and ending at 18pm, where around 70 to 80 hectares are sown per day with each mechanized set.
During the test we took the opportunity to meet two farm professionals. The first is coach Ronaldo Fornara, born in Santa Catarina, who has been working with the Zanella family since 2001 and acts as Agricultural Production manager. He is in charge of the fleet of machines, both maintenance and distribution. According to his experience, the biggest problems faced in the region are the reduced supply of qualified labor to work with large machines. In general, the professionals who present themselves do not have adequate training and need to receive this training in the company. Other widespread problems are poor after-sales service and technical assistance from machine suppliers, who generally have a deficiency in the supply of parts. The pace of work is strong and the demand for machines in terms of number and intensity of use is very high. Those concessionaires that do not have the structure to meet the demands of producers generally fail in the region. To provide all the mechanical services required by the fleet, the farm has four mechanics, lathe and welding services, as well as tools of all types.
The company's agronomist is Cristiano Fellini, graduated from Faculdade de Itapiranga, Santa Catarina, who closely monitors the farm's activities, mainly issues related to the distribution of plants in the area, the assessment of crop losses and the monitoring of pests. and diseases that occur during the cycle. During agricultural operations, he is the one who controls the quality of the operation. He explained that due to soil type and the presence of stone outcrops, in this area where we carried out the test, only discs are used for furrowing, while on the other farm a furrower is used. In his opinion, the fact that the majority of the fleet is from the Case brand makes things easier in many ways.
The third professional we interacted with was operator Marcio Ferreira de Carvalho, who has been working for the Zanella family since September 2016, but who has been an operator for some time and has received operator training and courses since 2008, living in Campos de Júlio since of this time. In his opinion, a major leap in technology occurred from 2010 onwards, improving the quality of the operators' work, especially comfort.
Soy, which is the company's main agricultural product, is planted in a quantity of 250kg of seed per hectare, which gives approximately 250 thousand plants per hectare. In corn, the population in the off-season is 60 thousand plants per hectare, without the need for irrigation, as the region rains almost every day during the crop cycle. Average soybean productivity reaches 80 bags per hectare, which is higher than the region average. With regard to fungal diseases, the 230m altitude of this area contrasts with the 700m altitude of the Campos de Júlio area, modifying the need for treatment, but which on average requires four applications of fungicide for rust.

Maxxicase Dealership
The Case IH dealer that supported us in the test was Maxxicase, which has been operating in the region since 2003. Its owner is Mr. Luiz Alberto Gotardo and the coordinator of the Sapezal branch store is Mr. Altair de Lara, who has been with the company for ten years. 
The Maxxicase company is made up of six stores. The main store is in Tangará da Serra and the branch stores are located in Sapezal, Campos Novos dos Parecis, Diamantino, Cáceres and Pontes e Lacerda.
The main commercial product is the grain harvester, but all types of equipment and products related to agricultural machinery are sold in all stores, mainly tractors, seeders and sprayers.
In addition to Mr. Altair, Mr. Clovis Oliveira was with us, who is the company's AFS specialist and whose mission is to install, train and maintain all of the brand's high-tech equipment. For him, the producer has already become dependent on these high-tech products and, in his opinion, there is no going back to the conventionally practiced system.

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