HUMAN INGENUITY shines through in these products we’ve selected as our 2005 FinOvation Award winners. This year’s winners include products that cost only $37 and complex machinery costing $229,000. In total, we’ve picked 21 products that cover the range of farm inputs. You may have helped select the winners. We use reader inquiries to chose top products in the different categories, as well as votes from our Team FIN farmer panel. Here are the best innovations of 2004 designed to help you farm more efficiently and more profitably.

MACHINERY

TRACTORS UNDER 150 HP

MASSEY FERGUSON, now owned by AGCO, drew a large number of votes with its new 5400 utility tractor line in the under 150-hp category. More new utility tractors were introduced to the machinery market in 2004 than any other type of tractor.

Readers like the Massey Ferguson brand name and features of the new line that ranges from 60 to 90 hp. Massey Ferguson's new 5400 series machines are deluxe utility tractors. They feature a roomy glassed-in cab, synchronized manual shuttle with 16 × 16 speedshift transmission and a Cat. II 3-pt. hitch with electronic linkage control. Optional features include an economy PTO, power-shuttle transmission, creep and super-creep speed control, and special packages for improved visibility and implement control. Attachments include loaders, buckets, grapple fork and round bale spear.

Prices range from $29,755 to $70,585. Contact AGCO Corp., Dept. FIN, 4205 River Green Pkwy., Duluth, GA 30096, 770/813-9200, visit www.agcocorp.com or www.freeproductinfo.net/fin, or circle 200.

TRACTORS WITH 150 TO 250 HP

MCCORMICK TRACTORS moved up one size category with the new ZTX series that breaks 200+ hp. The series was released to McCormick dealers in a controlled rollout early last year. Readers showed big interest in the new series that now lets them tackle heavy tillage and row-crop applications.

The new tractors in the series are the ZTX230, ZTX260 and ZTX280, with 185 to 230 PTO hp. All of the models are equipped with a Cummins QSC, 24-valve, 8.3-l engine with full-authority electronics and 24-valve technology. The engine meets Tier II/Stage 2 emission requirements.

The Cummins Accumulator Pump System (CAPS), designed just for this Cummins engine, is installed in the McCormick models. CAPS is a constant-pressure fuel system that controls fuel quantity and injection pressure independent of engine rpm. The result is higher combustion efficiency and an increase in torque. When engine speed is pulled down to increasing load, the engine produces a “power bulge” that increases power output by 15 hp on the ZTX 230 and 20 hp on the ZTX260 and ZTX280.

The ZTX series features a powershift transmission with 18 forward and 8 reverse speeds. The machines also offer a “triple shift” feature that allows an operator to move quickly through the powershift speeds. Standard hydraulics include four electronic hydraulic remotes delivering 40 gpm of flow.

The cab in this new deluxe series doesn't sacrifice comfort or operator performance. A hydraulic cab suspension smooths out the ride for an operator who can drive in climate-controlled comfort.

List prices for the series range from $138,500 to $165,500. Contact McCormick International USA Inc., Dept. FIN, Box 81, Pella, IA 50219, 866/327-6733, visit www.mccormickusa.com or www.freeproductinfo.net/fin, or circle 201.

MACHINERY ACCESSORIES

Growers who dread detaching a combine head to run down the road showed interest in the folding combine head by Harvestec. Common in Europe, folding combine heads are still a novelty in the U.S. But the Canadian company Harvestec hopes to change that with its 8- and 12-row folding corn heads from Europe.

The corn heads fit any brand of Class 7 combine. They feature a two-blade rotary chopper to chop all stalks before they fall to the ground and a large-diameter auger to handle high crop volume.

List price for a 12-row folding Harvestec corn head is $67,800. Contact Harvestec, Dept. FIN, 1124 Mayfair Rd., Oakville, Ontario L6M 1G8, Canada, 905/827-6410, visit www.harvestec.com or www.freeproductinfo.net/fin, or circle 202.

TRACTORS WITH 250+ HP

John Deere upped the horsepower ante last summer when it introduced the new 9620 and 9620T models, both boasting 500 engine hp. These models are the largest tractors the company has ever built.

Powering the super-sized machines is a 12.5-l (766-cu.-in.) John Deere PowerTech engine that meets Tier II EPA emission levels. In tough conditions, the engine produces a 7% power bulge at 1,900 rpm and a 38% torque rise at 1,600 rpm, which takes it well past its rated horsepower limits. “Their unit-injection system with electronic engine control tailors the torque curve to deliver incredible pulling power,” says Greg Laudick, division manager, marketing, Waterloo Works.

The tractors feature an 18-speed powershift transmission and an automatic powershift (APS) that automatically shifts up or down, based on tractor load. When activated, the APS maximizes the vehicle's pulling performance. Inboard planetary final drives with large-diameter (120-mm) bar axles are featured on the 9620 tractors. The rear axle is pressure lubricated and cooled with the transmission hydraulic system.

List prices are $237,968 for the 4-wd 9620 model and $267,972 for the rubber-tracked 9620T model. Contact your John Deere dealer or contact John Deere, Dept. FIN, 11145 Thompson Ave., Lenexa, KS 66219, 866/993-3373, visit www.deere.com or www.freeproductinfo.net/fin, or circle 203.

PLANTERS

THE NEW KINZE 3650 Twin-Line Conventional planter with individual seed hoppers wins the planter category. This new model features the ability to plant 30- and 15-in. rows with liquid fertilizer, all on the same toolbar. This liquid fertilizer and interplant package is a first for large Kinze planters. The new planter is available in 12-row N (30-in.) and 16-row N (30-in.) sizes.

The liquid fertilizer package features four poly tanks that are mounted across the center section and both wings. The tanks and mounting hardware are installed on a double 5- × 7-in. toolbar frame with heavy-duty hinges. The 4-row (12RN) and 6-row (16RN) wing sections flex 7° up or down when planting and are hydraulically locked for transport. A John Blue piston pump comes with a dedicated, spring-loaded, 7.60- × 15-in. ground drive tire for precise fertilizer distribution.

The Kinze push row units are key to the Interplant System design. The units maximize residue and soil flow between row units while balancing the weight of the row units evenly on both sides of the toolbar.

Suggested retail price for the model pictured is $114,257. Contact Kinze Mfg., Dept. FIN, Box 806, Williamsburg, IA 52361, 319/668-1300, visit www.kinzemfg.com or www.freeproductinfo.net/fin, or circle 204.

COMBINES

The Axial-Flow combine by Case IH continues to draw heavy interest, especially the smaller model that was introduced last May. The new 2377 Axial-Flow combine takes the top spot in the combine category with its AFX rotor, an upgraded grain tank capacity of 190 bu., and 7,947 sq. in. of cleaning system area.

The new 2377 is designed for growers who do not require the large capacity of the 2388 and AFX 8010 models but want similar efficiency and performance. Leo Bose, marketing and training manager for Case IH combines, reports the AFX rotor is key to efficiency. He says, “The tougher the conditions, the more pronounced the advantages in terms of throughput capacity, quieter operation and reduced wear on the threshing components.”

The Case IH 2377 combine is equipped with an 8.3-l (505-cu.-in.), turbocharged, air-to-air aftercooled engine that delivers a 15-hp rise at 2,100 rpm.

Suggested retail price: $177,500 to $229,000. Contact Case IH, Dept. FIN, 700 State St., Racine, WI 53404, 262/636-6011, visit www.caseih.com or www.freeproductinfo.net/fin, or circle 205.

TILLAGE

Tillage has turned into an exact science with the new Krause Dominator. This tillage implement handles five jobs in one pass through a field, substantially cutting fuel, labor and time expense.

Krause designed the Dominator to handle Bt corn residue as well as to improve soil tilth and produce a more level fall seedbed, according to marketing manager David Benson. “The Dominator eliminates the need for stalk shredding or disking prior to fall tillage,” Benson says. The first line of tillage on the Dominator is the residue manager system that positions residue for the 25-in. coulters that follow. Then the coulters cut and size the residue just ahead of the deep till shanks. The shanks handle compaction and improve soil tilth. Next, a disc conditioner cuts clods, mixes soil and residue and then levels the soil. Finally, the optional 24/7 conditioner provides final firming and clod sizing.

Prices start at $31,679 for a 12-ft. model with basic equipment. Contact Krause Corp., Dept. FIN, Box 2707, Hutchinson, KS 67504-2707, 800/957-2873, visit www.krauseco.com or www.freeproductinfo.net/fin, or circle 206.

GRAIN HANDLING

When Steve and Brent Mast couldn't find the right auger to handle grain unloading from a trailer, they built it. Now the Illinois brothers are producing the Pit Express for other farmers. The drive-over auger is designed to handle grain unloading from trailers. The auger is integrated into the driver-over pit to make it easy to operate and transport. The pit is mechanical and drives off the PTO of one tractor. Weighing 2,200 lbs., the pit is lifted hydraulically for transport.

Suggested retail price is $7,590 for a 10-in. Pit Express and $8,190 for a 13-in. unit. Contact Mast Productions, Dept. FIN, 7208 Hwy. 96 S., Payson, IL 62360, call Steve Mast at 217/656-4334, visit www.pitexpress.com or www.freeproductinfo.net/fin, or circle 207.

CHEMICALS

EQUIPMENT

A UNIQUE DEVICE from Capstan Ag Systems allows accurate anhydrous ammonia application in the field. The N-Ject is a liquid fertilizer application system that uses pulse metering to provide even row-to-row distribution. The system works well in variable-rate applications as well as in no-till and ridge/strip-till fields.

The N-Ject uses a specially designed manifold that condenses, meters and distributes anhydrous ammonia without a pump, flowmeter, cooler, regulating valve or special ammonia tank. It pulses high-speed solenoid valves to meter and distribute anhydrous to each knife. The cold knife flow is routed back through the manifold to cool the incoming ammonia, which becomes liquid. The flow is measured and the information is sent to an electronic rate controller, where the operator calibrates the flow, width and speed and sets the target application rate.

Equipping a 40-ft. bar with N-Ject costs about $10,000. Contact Capstan Ag Systems, Dept. FIN, 101 N. Kansas Ave., Topeka, KS 66603, 785/232-4477, visit www.capstanag.com or www.freeproductinfo.net/fin, or circle 208.

CROP CHEMICALS

SMART NITROGEN called ESN takes the top spot in the crop chemicals category. Agrium, North America's largest fertilizer manufacturer, introduced ESN with its patented polymer membrane, a first for the U.S. corn market.

The membrane releases nitrogen as soil temperature warms. ESN may be applied safely in late fall and early spring because the cool soils delay the nitrogen release. ESN release is synchronized with crop need and remains in the crop's root zone where needed and out of water sources.

Murray Hasinoff, marketing manager for Agrium, reports the use of ESN produces 10 to 12 bu. more per acre than the use of standard urea, anhydrous ammonia or UAN. ESN is easily stored and handled and also requires no unusual or large equipment for application.

Hasinoff adds that ESN will be competitively priced. Contact local retailers or Agrium U.S., Dept. FIN, 4582 S. Ulster St., Suite 1400, Denver, CO 80237, 303/804-4400, visit www.agrium.com or www.freeproductinfo.net/fin, or circle 209.

SEED

TECHNOLOGY

GROWERS PAYING attention to getting the best results from their expensive soybean seed were interested in the new soybean inoculant called Optimize. The new Nitragin product ensures nitrogen uptake and boosts plant growth when soybeans are planted early in cool soils. Optimize is a natural bacterial compound that stimulates the nodulation process independent of temperature.

Dave Fox, Nitragin marketing manager, reports that growers using Optimize experienced higher yield responses than expected. They found that Optimize works well with soybean seed treatments by helping the seed get off to a good start.

The active ingredient in Optimize is delivered with Nitragin's Cell-Tech inoculant in a liquid that is applied on soybean seed. Optimize is compatible with many fungicide seed treatments. Once applied, it remains effective for 30 days.

Contact Nitragin, Dept. FIN, 13100 W. Lisbon Rd., Suite 600, Brookfield, WI 53005, 800/558-1003, visit www.nitragin.com or www.freeproductinfo.net/fin, or circle 210.

TRANSPORTATION

ATVS

John Deere soundly dominated the ATV category with its introduction of three Buck ATV models. The new Buck ATVs with 500-cc engines are designed for hauling, towing and pulling with their semiautomatic, five-speed, gear-on-gear transmissions. Suggested list prices are $6,999 for the Buck, $7,499 for the Buck EXT with a cargo box, and $7,799 for a specially equipped Buck EX. The Trail Buck ATV is designed for off-roading duties, too, with a continuously variable transmission and four-stroke Rotax engine. Prices for the four models range from $6,499 to $7,799.

Contact John Deere Commercial & Consumer Equipment Div., Dept. FIN, Box 13603, Research Triangle Park, NC 27709, 800/537-8233, visit www.JohnDeere.com or www.freeproductinfo.net/fin, or circle 211.

TRUCKS

FOR THE SECOND consecutive year, a Ford pickup takes the top spot in the FinOvation truck category. The redesigned F-150, boasting more power with its new 300-hp, 5.4-l V-8 engine, earned the honors. The F-150 has been Ford's bread-and-butter best seller, and the company intends to keep it there with the new design. In addition to an upgraded engine, the F-150 features a cab with four doors and more accents and comfort, a new, stiffer frame and a beefed-up suspension and power train.

Base price: $21,215 to $35,570. Contact Ford Customer Relationship Center, Dept. FIN, Box 6248, Dearborn, MI 48126, 800/392-3673, visit www.ford.com or www.freeproductinfo.net/fin, or circle 212.

ACCESSORIES

A SMALL CRANE designed to lift heavy objects into a pickup bed or utility vehicle earned the award in this category. The Spitzlift will hoist 700 lbs. and pivot 360°. A load control disc brake stops backlash and freewheeling. The universal adapter base attaches to a receiver hitch or mount directly in the bed of a truck. The crane weighs 27 to 33 lbs. and folds down to a compact size.

Prices are $389 for a 3-ft. lift and $399 for a 4-ft. lift. Contact Spitzlift, Dept. FIN, Box 6433, Abilene, TX 79608, 866/774-8054, visit www.spitzlift.com or www.freeproductinfo.net/fin, or circle 213.

LIVESTOCK

ANIMAL HANDLING

PROCESSING CATTLE is never an easy job, but the new Mobil Cattle Doc (MCD) makes it more efficient. The new MCD can be pulled to any pasture or feeding pen and used to process cattle in their own environment to reduce animal stress.

The MCD comes equipped with a loading system, hydraulic processing chute and built-in hot and cold water systems. An auxiliary 4½-hp generator drives the hydraulic system and a processing chute.

Cost of the MCD with manual tailgate and hydraulic chute is about $29,000. The unit with hydraulic chute and hydraulic tailgate retails for about $40,000. The trailer is manufactured by C&S Cattle Handling Equipment, Garden City, KS. Contact Warren White at 806/578-4325, visit www.mobilcattledoc.com or www.freeproductinfo.net/fin, or circle 214.

FEED EQUIPMENT

Automatic bale wagons save time in the hay field. Two new self-propelled wagons introduced by New Holland this past summer make the job seem effortless, thus earning the implements the top spot in the feed equipment category.

The BW28 and BW38 feature a new Stack Command control system located in a comfortable cab. The controls include a large digital display with up to 35 preprogrammed stack patterns and 20 custom patterns. The wagons are equipped with a five-speed automatic transmission and two hydraulic systems with three pumps.

The BW28 retails for $124,425 and has a long frame and load rack that handles a variety of two-tie and three-tie bales. The BW38 retails for $121,195 and handles three-bale-wide stacks of 14- × 18-in. or 16- × 18-in. bales. Contact New Holland North America Inc., Dept. FIN, Belleville, PA 17004, 888/290-7377, visit www.newholland.com or www.freeproductinfo.net/fin, or circle 215.

SHOP

TOOLS

FINALLY, A COMPANY has come to the market with a portable wet-dry vacuum that can handle shop and machine shed cleanup jobs conveniently and quickly. DeWalt's DC500 is the first cordless/corded, portable, 2-gal. wet-dry vacuum designed for contractors. It runs off 12-, 14.4- and 18v battery packs (not included), or it can be plugged into a 120v AC electrical outlet.

The powerful little vac will pick up concrete dust, fasteners, wood chips, drywall and other debris. Using a DeWalt 18v XR+Pack battery, the DC500 has enough run time to collect up to 200 lbs. of drywall dust or 100 gal. of water. For unlimited run time, the vacuum automatically switches to AC power when plugged into an outlet.

DeWalt says it even made maintenance easy with a washable vacuum filter made of Gore, which traps 99.7% of dust particles. To empty any liquid in the tank, a user simply needs to unscrew the cap instead of removing the entire canister lid. The vacuum includes a detachable 6-ft. hose that can be connected to the exhaust port to turn the vacuum into a blower. The vacuum is portable, with a compact design and onboard storage that keeps the hose, cord, wide nozzle and crevice tool together.

Suggested retail price for the DC500, including wide nozzle and crevice tool attachment, is $99. Contact DeWalt at 800/433-9258, visit www.dewalt.com or www.freeproductinfo.net/fin, or circle 216.

HAND TOOLS

A UNIQUE TOOL to solve the frustrations of warped and crooked boards took the most votes in the hand tool category. The BowJak is tapped in next to a bowed board, and with the leverage from a pull handle, it straightens the board before it is hammered into place. The operation takes only a few seconds.

The BowJak closes gaps up to 2¼ in. wide and will work in any position because it weighs only 26 oz. It also can be stored with its handy tail hook.

The BowJak is available at hardware stores, home centers and building supply stores.

Price: $37. Contact Vaughan & Bushnell Mfg. Co., Dept. FIN, Box 390, Hebron IL 60034-0390, visit www.vaughanmfg.com or www.freeproductinfo.net/fin, or circle 217.

BUILDINGS AND EQUIPMENT

USEFUL INNOVATIONS rise to the top, like the Perma-Column item we wrote about last winter. The laminated post attached to a ready-made concrete footer ended up with the most votes of any of our FinOvation Award winners. The commonsense design and convenience of the Perma-Column drew big interest. But our readers are not the only ones interested in the columns. Sales have exploded, and the company now has four franchised shops producing Perma-Columns around the Midwest, according to Phillip Stoller of Perma-Column. This is quite a leap for a company that just started in 2002. Stoller reports that the farm market has given the product its best reception. “They know that concrete will outperform wood,” he explains.

A Perma-Column consists of a 10,000-psi concrete column that is buried below grade. A U-bracket welded to the column's rebar structure holds the wood column along with ½-in. through-bolts. The system is sized to accommodate three- and four-ply 2 × 6 columns and three- and four-ply 2 × 8 columns. Prices range from $50 to $100/column.

New this year are replacement Perma-Columns (PC6600) that may be used to replace rotting poles and posts. Price: $60 to $70/post.

Contact Perma-Column Inc., Dept. FIN, 400 Carol Lane, Ossian, IN 46777, 800/622-7190, visit www.permacolumn.com or www.freeproductinfo.net/fin, or circle 218.

FARM AND OFFICE

GPS EQUIPMENT

AN AWARD-WINNING optics system from Denmark wins our GPS category. The Eco-Dan guidance system won Best of Show at the Agromek Farm Equipment Show in Denmark and an AE-50 award in the U.S. Brought first to California, Eco-Dan is used to cultivate crops at 7 mph. Now Local Positioning Systems (LPS) Inc., Salinas, CA, is bringing the system to the Midwest for field crops.

Eco-Dan uses a digital camera and onboard computer to steer field implements. It takes 25 images per second, sends the images to the computer, and directs a side-shifting 3-pt. hitch to adjust the implement accordingly. LPS reports the system is accurate within one-quarter of an inch. Operators may run equipment up to 11 mph with the system.

Retail price for Eco-Dan is $16,500. Contact Brandt Consolidated Inc., Dept. FIN, 211 W. Rte. 125, Pleasant Plains, IL 62677, 800/252-2905, visit www.brandtconsolidated.com or www.freeproductinfo.net/fin, or circle 219.

COMMUNICATION SOFTWARE AND EQUIPMENT

A sharp, color touch-screen monitor designed for precision farming quickly rose to the top of the products in this category. Ag Leader's new Insight monitor has proven to be a top seller, too. David King, Ag Leader marketing manager, says the company doubled sales forecasts for Insight. Growers like the color screen and the maps that show change while it is occurring. While combining, for example, a grower can pull up a hybrid map and paint a yield map over the top of it.

Ag Leader will add more features to Insight in 2005, including direct control of sprayer valves and flowmeter, automatic sprayer boom control and compatibility with Trimble's Autopilot system. Coming soon to Insight will be other features such as direct control of spreaders for granular product application, multiple product application and application reports.

The retail price is $3,995. A complete yield monitor kit with Insight retails for $6,995. Contact Ag Leader Technology, Dept. FIN, 2202 S. Riverside Dr., Ames, IA 50010, 515/232-5363, visit www.agleader.com or www.freeproductinfo.net/fin, or circle 220.