When we think of self-propelled agricultural machinery, big ticket items such as combines and foragers come to mind. However, there are now some self-propelled hedge-cutters beginning to appear around the country.
The Irish Farmers Journal understands that there are up to 10 of these machines now dotted throughout Ireland, with two more new ones currently being built for a Donegal-based specialist contractor.
The main brand pioneering this type of technology is the Italian firm Energreen. Manufacturing a whole host of verge and hedge cutting, and municipal equipment, we caught up with the firm’s Irish dealer, Green Equipment Supplies, that was demonstrating the ILF Kommunal cutting hedges during the open period.
The Kommunal is described as a multifunction self-propelled machine. It is equipped with a front quick-coupling system that allows it to be equipped with multiple attachments. The unit can be easily adapted to be fitted with a telescopic arm, such as the one we viewed with a hedge-cutter, a three-point front linkage, a front-end loader or a universal front attachment connection with a DIN (German Institute of Standards) plate. At the rear, it comes with three options: a towing hitch, a fixed three-point linkage, or a blower.
It shares many of the same characteristics with a tractor, but is more user-friendly. The multifunction tool is designed around working with a front-mounted attachment, meaning the operator has very good visibility and comfort while working.
The demonstration unit we caught up with was equipped with the Orbital 7 hedge-cutting arm. According to Energreen, it was designed to work on both sides of the road, while maintaining minimum size on the road. This is possible thanks to a 290° rotating unit and a hydraulic side shift that allows the arm to make horizontal movement from left to right, and vice-versa. From the centre of the machine, the arm can reach 7.5m. When fully stretched it can extend into drains/dikes by 5.3m, with a vertical reach of 8.4m. It comes with the choice of two arms and 12 attachments, including power shears, grapples, ditch cleaners and stump grinders.
The quick-change system for the ILF Kommunal has been designed by Energreen around a single operator hooking the attachment onto the unit in the least time possible. All hydraulic couplings are fitted to a connection plate, with an exhaust system to drain the residual pressure to make locking/unlocking easier. Energreen claims that it takes less than five minutes to put on a telescopic hedge-cutting arm, and says you could swap from a hedge-cutter to a front-end loader in 10 minutes.
Front loader option
As mentioned, a front loader with quick coupling can be equipped. The loader is also built by Energreen, and is equipped with hydraulic quick release for a range of attachments, including buckets and pallet forks, etc. With a lifting height of up to 4.6m, lift capacity is rated at 1,600kg.
The Hercules three-point hitch has a lift capacity of up to 2,800kg. It comes with the option of a PTO, and can be supplied with equipment such as a front shredder or a snow blower from the factory. Keen to build a machine that could be utilised all-year round, it can be supplied with tools such as a snow plough on the front linkage and a salt spreader on the rear linkage.
Engine and transmission
The unit is powered by the latest generation of Deutz engines, with 143hp on tap. The four-cylinder in-line liquid-cooled engine with external exhaust gas recirculation meets the latest Stage V emission standards. It’s equipped with a hydrostatic transmission, which is built by Rexroth and offers four-wheel drive. The unit features three different operating modes. Firstly, the standard two-wheel steer (front). Secondly, four-wheel steering, and finally four-wheel parallel steering, or better known as crab steer, which is useful for moving away from an obstacle. The rear axle oscillates by +/-3.5 degrees. A feature known as SCD (Stability Control Device) allows the operator to lock the rear axle oscillation to increase the stability of the machine. The unit comes with a choice of tyres, including off-road and on road tyres.
Inside the cab, Energreen focused on a large windscreen that offers huge visibility. An adjustable steering wheel, a comfortable seat and well laid out controls offer a nice working environment. As expected, the operator controls the machine through a joystick with proportional main controls. It allows you to move up to three arm functions at the same time.
Hedge-cutting contractors who attended the demonstration were very impressed with the manoeuvrability, flexibility and visibility of the machine while working on hedges.
Speaking to one hedge-cutting contractor, he explained: “If price wasn’t an issue, I’d never use a tractor and hedge-cutter again. After spending a few hours on the Kommunal, I found that I was getting 1.5 times the output of a tractor and hedge cutter. After a few days I wouldn’t be surprised if I got near double the throughput, it’s a dream machine. Especially in narrow lanes, the fact you could cut both sides, it’s very manoeuvrable. The only drawback or question I would raise on it is how it would handle wet ground, seeing as its hydrostatically driven.”