Called the ZR5, the prototype unveiled at this week’s Husker Harvest Days (Nebraska/US), features a cab positioned over the suspended front axle (patent pending) for a smoother ride, and a zero-radius turning technique clearly gleaned from the lawn mower sector. The result provides better manoeuvrability than a conventional tractor and baler combination, says Vermeer, allowing tight headland turns to be made.

Powered by a 173hp (130kW) Cummins engine, the hydrostatic transmission powers the two rear wheels. The cab provides the operator with an unobstructed view of the swath, but not the pick-up, which is covered by a camera. Vermeer stresses the self-propelled baler is still a prototype, but one with high levels of automation, which includes the baling process, and the ability to automatically make real-time adjustments based on field, crop and operator inputs. The machine also stops automatically when a bale is formed (bale diameter 1.82m/width 1.55m). While it is being tied, quarter-turn technology allows the ZR5 to automatically turn out of the swath and eject bales to the left or right. Positioning bales parallel to the swath allows them to be collected up to a third faster, says Vermeer. The tailgate is opened and closed automatically, after which the machine returns to the swath. All the operator has to do to resume baling is press the start baling button. The zero-radius turning is disengaged on the road, when the ZR5 is steered using the front wheels (top speed 50km/hr). Simple maintenance was a key driver during the development work, and the company says the bale chamber can be removed in a matter of minutes.

Finally, it is a decade since Krone developed the prototype of a self-propelled round baler/wrapper, and a machine that never made it to the production stage. Vermeer says the design may change a bit when evaluating the ZR5 concept further next year, but the plan is to start selling the first units sometime 2019.