Landini DT105F Rex

Landini has garnered a third of the world market in orchard tractors. The DT105F Rex is one reason why. Terry Stevenson reports from the far north.

Landini DT105F Rex
Landini DT105F Rex

I headed to an avocado orchard north of Kaitaia to see how Landini tractors performed for Sweetwater Orchard. Running a pair of Rex DT105F specialist orchard tractors, Sweetwater Orchard is the southernmost of four avocado orchards, all under the same ownership, with three larger orchards located further along the narrow Aupouri Peninsula, leading up to Cape Reinga.

A total of six Landini DT105Fs are spread among them. Landini has been making farm tractors for almost a century, and specialist orchard tractors for over 25 years. Enormously successful in this niche, the company has garnered a third of the worldwide market.

Sweetwater Orchard is 81 hectares in size with 38ha planted in avocado trees. Manager Aaron Hayward says the picking season generally runs from August to March. Over winter, the six full time staff keep busy with tree thinning, mowing, weed spraying and mulch laying. During the season a local contactor brings in a gang of five to twelve people for the picking jobs; they use a specialist self-propelled hydro ladder to reach the tops of the avocado trees.

While there are many different species of avocado, Hayward says New Zealand orchards only grow one type, called Hass, due to its excellent shelf life and long fruiting season. The farm’s main markets are New Zealand, Australia and the US, and this season has been a good one for local avocado growers due to inclement weather patterns in Australia.

But growing avocados is no instant money tree, as Sweetwater Orchard was planted ten years ago, only swinging into full production in the last three years! The all-important windbreaks were planted at the same time as the first trees, which have a 7m x 7m spacing - now moving down to 3.5m x 3.5m.

Due to the low rolling nature of the terrain, each block is typically one hectare and contains around 200 individual trees. Once picked, the avocados are sent to a local pack shed where they are graded and packed for export.

Sweetwater Orchard has its own artesian water supply but it hadn’t rained for some two months before my visit, so getting water to the trees is an issue, along with insects such as the six-spotted mite, which live and breed under the leaves. To counter this, the crops are monitored on a weekly basis with samples taken before any decision is made to spray.

Planted four years ago, two to three thousand dollar Kentia palms are a secondary crop for Sweetwater Orchard. They take eight to ten years to mature for resale and generally sell in Auckland.

There are plenty of challenges in running a successful avocado orchard, not the least having the right tractor for the job. One of the most obvious prerequisites for any orchard tractor is that it must fit between the rows without damaging the trees. As well as dimensional limitations, orchard tractors cannot be too heavy otherwise orchardists run into compaction problems around the tree roots.

Landini tractors were chosen by Sweetwater Orchard about three years ago for their reputation. Their tractors require a lot of horsepower to drive their big sprayers and a good clutch that is going to hack the pace and last the distance. They had numerous mechanical problems with their old tractors, and service delay issues being so far away, so they opted for a more reliable brand.

The Landini Rex DT105F is a small tractor with a big heart - our test tractor had done 125 hours in only its first month. Starting with the wide Goodyear tyres, the 2845kg Landini Rex DT105F tractors were designed and built from the ground up exactly for this type of job. And, hauling a two tonne sprayer around a hilly orchard, requires a very good package.

Tasks lined up on any given day for the Sweetwater Orchard Landini’s include insecticide and herbicide spraying, mowing, ripping between rows, hauling picker’s bins, power harrowing, trenching and mulch spreading. Mowing around the trees is one of the orchards biggest jobs, "We could go pretty much mow non-stop with the tractor - just keep mowing every day!" Hayward says. They definitely need the DT105F’s entire 55-degree front wheel steering angle while maneuvering too.

The frame sits much lower than your average farm tractor that lowers (to advantage) the vertical centre of gravity. This is countered however by the narrow 1319mm wheel track which still gives the DT105 a very good centre of gravity compared to a normal size tractor, according to Hayward’s experiences.

The DT105F has two hub placement options on the front wheels, so Sweetwater Orchard moved the front hubs out to the widest lugs to increase the front wheel track by around 60mm. Landini has a similar simple, yet effective, system for the rear wheels, leaving the DT105F with superior all-round stability.

Perkins make very good engines, as I discovered during my previous Powerfarm 85 and Vision 105 Landini tests. The Euro 2 four-cylinder turbocharged Perkins engine is rated at 98hp with a massive (for the tractors physical size) 380Nm of torque – just the ticket to pull those heavy sprayers around.

I found the engine revved freely right up to its maximum of 2400rpm, although there wasn’t much point revving it right out as it didn’t have much more power above 2200rpm. Even with an empty mulch spreader on the back, the DT105F handled the steep (in places) property without too much trouble.

Hayward is also impressed with the engine, "the engine power is fine. If it’s not going to get up a hill it’s going to dig a big hole in the ground."

The 40-forward and 40-reverse speed transmission consists of a four-option high-to-low ratio, five gears off the stick as well as a very handy two-ratio Hi-Lo power shifter. The wet-clutch power shifter made smooth changes each time I used it and I’d say would be used most when spreading the fertiliser and mulch as low-gear loads increase when driving up then down the hills. Also fitted onto the end of the gear lever, I found the electronically controlled push-button clutch was handy to use when driving around the orchard.

Hayward is happy with the transmission range, saying the gear selection is perfect for what they do. While it was easy to find the transmission gates in the higher gears, unfortunately I can’t say the same for first or second. Changing up, it was difficult getting the stick into second, although a little easier going into third but it got harder going down through the box from third to second and very hard to put into first. This was the same with the Vision 105 I tested in 2005.

Stopping with such a heavy loaded trailer is all important and, even though it was empty during my test, I found the Landini oil-immersed brakes were well up to the job and gave great feel - with braking power to spare. At the working end are two hydraulic outlets rated with a high maximum flow of 52 litres per minute while the PTO has two speeds, 540rpm and 1000rpm.

As you’d expect, the cab is small and compact, so it’s no surprise to find it more challenging to climb in and out of. The far north drivers will really appreciate the airconditioning system. While Hayward really likes the sound system, there are other notable features such as the height adjustable steering wheel, a hand operated clutch, selectable 2WD or 4WD and a power shuttle.

Part and parcel with a small tractor such as this, is the compromised position of some controls. The foot accelerator was more awkward to use as it was located a little too much to the right, which I found to not be a problem but it could be for someone who drives it all day. The high/low ratio lever is too long and rubs into the driver’s left leg where it protrudes from the left side of the seat.

Ag and Earth Ltd in Whangarei supplied the Landini tractors, and Hayward speaks very highly of them - "their service department in Whangarei is so good. I rang them this morning and they were straight on the phone organising things and they ledt straight away to come up here."

The Landini Rex DT105F is a powerful and highly maneuverable pocket rocket - just the ticket for an orchard situation.

By Terry Stevenson



Tractor Landini REX 105
Engine Perkins 1104C-44T
Max power (ISO hp/kW) 98.5/72.5
Max torque (Nm) 380
Displacement (cu cm) 4400

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