Compatible By Design

AGCO sells more tractors worldwide than any other company on the planet. Now, with its pervasive global reach, and strong commitment to customer support and innovation, it's working on establishing an edge with biodiesel.
By Ron Kotrba | February 01, 2006
If the name AGCO Corp. doesn't ring a bell, chances are you're not a farmer. Surely, even those who've never stepped foot on a soybean field have heard of at least one of the many tractor brands owned by AGCO-like Massey Ferguson, AGCO's largest and most popular line.

"On average, there's a Massey Ferguson tractor sold somewhere in the world every five minutes," says Ryan Schaefer, product marketing specialist for AGCO High Horsepower Tractors. In other words, it's a commanding global corporation to be associated with-and biodiesel now is.

For years, AGCO has been researching, testing and, more recently, advocating the use of biodiesel in blends ranging from B5 to B100 in certain models. Why? That's easy. Supporting biodiesel just makes sense for AGCO.

Deep-rooted global history

AGCO Corp. was formed about 16 years ago, but many of the brand names under its umbrella have been around for generations. According to Todd Stucke, general marketing manager for AGCO-Brand Tractors, AGCO has acquired 22 companies since 1990. "Those companies [include] Massey Ferguson, Duetz-Aliss, Hesston, Challenger, White, Ag-Chem and Fendt-and our latest ones have been Valtra and SisuDiesel," he tells Biodiesel Magazine. "That's what AGCO is. We're strictly focused on ag, and we're worldwide."

AGCO's global corporate headquarters is in Duluth, Ga., and the company has manufacturing plants across the Midwest and worldwide. In the United States, the company's manufacturing presence can be found in Jackson, Minn.; Beloit, Kan.; and Hesston, Kan. The company's European corporate headquarters is in Coventry, England, and AGCO's European manufacturing plants are located in France, Germany and Finland. AGCO also has three tractor manufacturing plants in Brazil.

AGCO bought Finland-based SisuDiesel Inc. in January 2004. "AGCO is committed to the engine business now," says Dexter Schaible, AGCO's senior vice president of product management, engines and global technologies. "We produce one of the most reliable and fuel-efficient tractor engines on the market today-SisuDiesel engines in AGCO's tractors and combines."

Producing one the world's most reliable and efficient tractor engines doesn't happen by accident. It's the result of a strong, forward-thinking corporation striving to meet the needs of its customers and surpass its competition. By no small coincidence, that's where AGCO's interest in biodiesel began.

Testing, testing ...
5, 10, 100 percent

With manufacturing plants all over the world-in countries where biodiesel has already made a presence in the fuels markets-AGCO is set to spread the good word about biodiesel. "It's very important for us to support biodiesel because our customers out there demand it," Stucke tells Biodiesel Magazine. "Do all of them demand it? No, but many of them do. And the question that we get is, 'Is your engine compatible with biodiesel?'"

At the 2005 National Biodiesel Conference in Ft. Lauderdale, Fla., John Deere announced its support of a B5 factory fill, which helped push AGCO to make public its support for the agriculturally derived fuel.

"We have to be competitive in the marketplace," Stucke says. "We want to be leading this competitive edge here-if there is a competitive edge or not-because if our competition is out there saying, 'We can burn 5 percent biodiesel,' then we want to be at 20 percent. And that's where we're trying to lead our design of the engine."

Before AGCO bought SisuDiesel, the two companies were collaboratively working on biodiesel testing in SisuDiesel engines. Preliminary testing began in the late 1990s. "Obviously in Europe there's a lot more rapeseed- or canola-based biodiesel as opposed to soy, so in the late 90s with SisuDiesel, we started testing in Europe with rapeseed and canola biodiesel," Schaefer says.

What the testing team was looking for is what one would expect: biodiesel's effect on the engines. "What we looked for was the performance of the engine running on biodiesel and the service intervals benchmarked against diesel fuel," Stucke says.

Most of AGCO's biodiesel testing occurs in Europe and South America. "Being that we sell a lot of tractors down there in South America, we've been doing a lot of research there," Stucke says. "That's been on our forefront for quite some time now. And in Europe, there are parts of [the continent] where biofuels are very important to the local markets over there, too. So we've been doing research there, and in Austria, we're running some tractors on 100 percent biodegradable fuels. In South America, we're testing them at 100 percent, too."

Schaible made it clear exactly what the company hopes to get out of all these years of running tests and compiling data. "We want to build an engine that can use B5 or B20 so that the tractor doesn't even know the difference," he says.

But something that does know the difference between B5 and B20 is the more stringent Tier 3 emissions regulations affecting the United States and Europe. With Tier 3 emission reduction requirements already in place as of Jan. 1, the targeted emissions reductions-and new technologies needed to achieve those targets-are, for the moment, limiting AGCO's ability to guarantee its 175-horsepower-and-over Tier 3 engines' use of biodiesel to blends of 5 percent or less.

Official positioning

AGCO supports the use of at least B5 in all of its different tractor brands and models. Beyond that, it's up to the level of emissions reductions (tiers) under which each model is manufactured as to how much biodiesel AGCO allows in its tractors while still remaining serviceable under warranty. "Fendt tractors with Tier 2 Duetz engines in Germany, and Massey Ferguson and Valtra tractors with Tier 2 SisuDiesel engines are covered for use of up to 100 percent biodiesel," Schaible says.

The higher the tier, the tougher the emissions reduction targets become. Tier 0, Tier 1 and Tier 2 are the most lax standards-with Tier 0 being the most lax and Tier 2 being more stringent-and applies to older U.S. or European tractors (175-horespower and above) manufactured before Jan. 1, or newer tractors in parts of the world where emissions regulations are behind the curve.

AGCO officially covers under warranty all of its tractor models with SisuDiesel engines falling into Tier 0 and Tier 1 diesel engines across the board, and Tier 2 engines with Bosch P-type or VP30/44 fuel pumps, to use biodiesel up to B100 in those particular models. For blends up to B10 no changes to the service intervals are required. If B11 or greater is used, AGCO recommends changing the oil, oil filter and fuel filter twice as often as needed when using diesel fuel. Tier 3 engines are approved for use with biodiesel blends up to B5. The same goes for all AGCO-owned brands of tractors with Cummins engines, all GT and GTA series tractors, and all ST and STA series tractors-with no change to the service intervals for any AGCO tractor using blends up to B5.

"With our SisuDiesel engines, we ran Tier 2 engine tests with 100 percent biodiesel," Schaible reiterates. "We will guarantee up to B100 in those engines. What we would like to do is put out a letter and officially publish that we will support the use of at least 20 to 30 percent biodiesel-we will warranty the engine."

In Tier 3, things become a little stickier. "With the (Bosch) high-pressure common rail injection systems necessary for Tier 3, Bosch has limited us to blending up to B5," Schaefer tells Biodiesel Magazine. B5 is the maximum that we can use because they're running into issues with soy-based biodiesel polymerizing in that high pressure environment, and that polymerization causes problems with the injection systems." Even so, Schaefer says he's sure this limitation will be overcome in the not-so-distant future.

AGCO expects to bring a strong biofuels presence to this year's National Farm Machinery Show and Tractor Pull in Louisville, Ky., in mid-February. Schaible says he'd like to see an AGCO tractor there with a sticker declaring the company's support for biodiesel. Stucke agrees, saying, "As the marketing manager, what I want to do is put a sticker on the tractor saying, 'We support biofuels,' or 'Biofuel-compatible, filled with B5,' or whatever blend it would be."

There is no doubt that AGCO and biodiesel are a perfect pairing. "I'm a farmer myself," Stucke adds. "And I think we're just on the beginning edges here. I can see in five years that B5 will be standard. I think it is going to be very important-I hope it is because, that way, the crops that I grow are worth a little more money."
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