Vermeer continues to put more hours on the clock of its ZR5 prototype, which this autumn has been in the field producing thousands of maize stalk bales. Unveiled at the Husker Harvest Days (US) in September, the novel design combines a 173hp Cummins engine with a hydraulically-powered Vermeer round baler, and a suspended front axle that uses zero-turn technology from the lawn mower industry.

Locating the cab over the front axle not only provides the operator with a comfortable ride, but also with an unobstructed view of the swath (a camera provides the driver with images of the pick-up). An important design brief was to automate as many functions as possible, something the team continues to fine-tune. The machine stops automatically when a 1.82m diameter/1.55m wide bale is formed (other sizes planned). While it is being tied, the ZR5 automatically quarter turns out of the swath. Opening and closing the tailgate and returning to the swath are also automated. All the operator is required to do is press the ‘resume baling’ button.

When it’s time to head to the next field, zero-radius turning is disengaged, and on the road the ZR5 is steered using only the front wheels (max. speed 50km/hr). The design might change a bit, but the company plans to produce a few pre-production units in 2018, with general release expected sometime 2019.