Orange Like A Kumara

Doug and Ann Nilsson have colour co-ordinated crops and tractors. Of their 15 tractors, 13 are Kubota orange, like much of their kumara crop.
 
His father bought their first Kubota in 1980. "We went from old tractors with no power steering and leaking oil like there’s no tomorrow to the Kubota with power steering, easy to change gears, and no oil leaks. We’ve had a good run ever since.” The Nilssons have purchased four new Kubota tractors over the last year: two M126GXs, an M135GX and an L5740. Their oldest Kubota is a 1989 63hp 6030. It’s still hard at it – planting, carrying water, or doing general farm duties.
 
Their 400-acre property, Dunsmore Gardens, is near Dargaville. Growing kumara is an intensive operation and the tractors work hard. "Some growers with less crops have 25 tractors. We make all our tractors work so, for us, it’s better to keep a tractor for back-up rather than trade it in.”
 
The Kaipara clay soil needs a lot of work before kumara cuttings can be hand planted. "If everyone has broken fingernails and bleeding hands we know we haven’t done a good job,” Doug says. "But it’s also the clay and our climate that give Kaipara kumara their unique flavour.”
 
Planting is mid-October to mid-December. Eight people ride on a three-point linkage sled to plant the cuttings. During the planting season two tractors could be planting, while six more prepare the ground, and several others tow water carts to give the newly planted cuttings the regular waterings they require.
 
Harvesting is February to April. One of the Kubotas tows the harvester, which digs the kumara and transfers them to a platform where eight people sort, clean and grade them. 
 
Doug says the colour is one reason he likes Kubota. "They are nice and bright and stand out in the paddock. They don't get lost in the growth.”  
 
The operation employs up to 40 people at a time, and there are a lot of casual drivers and that’s another good reason for Kubota. "I like the simplicity of Kubota; people aren’t scared of them. The cabs aren’t cluttered up with unnecessary stuff so the drivers don’t get confused. Some tractors can look like the cockpit of a 747.” The transmission is part of that. Most of the Nilssons’ Kubotas have three ranges with push-button gear changes.

(From left to right) Ann Nilsson; Tanya Nilsson;
Mark Hansen (Redline Farm Machinery);
Doug Nilsson; Ben Nilsson and
John Moolenschot (Redline Farm Machinery)
  
 
The new Kubota L5740 has been converted to a forklift for loading trucks. It has a hydrostatic transmission – push the toe of the foot pedal for forward, push on the heel for reverse. The Kubotas’ gear ratios also suit the operation. They are slow enough to crawl while towing people on the planting sled and fast enough for a 40kph road speed. "They go slower than a lot of tractors will but now they also have the higher road gear. The ratios are good, they don't have big jumps.”
 
Doug also likes his Kubotas because they are light. "We don't get the same compaction. The brakes are really good and so is the turning radius. They can turn around in a tight area, which is good for headlands.
 
"They’re reliable. They always go and they don't leak oil. We don't want oil on our crops or in the environment. If we stuff up our soil we’re buggered.”
 
Fuel economy is also a big consideration. Doug says the M126GXs and the M135GX are very fuel efficient.
 
Machinery is only as good as the people guaranteeing it, and the Nilssons get good service from Redline Farm Machinery in Dargaville. "We get on well with the local mechanics. You can usually contact someone, whatever the time. A lot of people say they are a 24-hour service but they don't answer the phone. Redline does. If anything breaks down they get it done straight away.”
 
The service from Kubota has also been good. "We've had a few visits from Japanese chaps from the factory. They listen to what you have to say and what you think needs improving. In the past the cabs were too small and noisy; but they’ve listened and corrected. Now the cabs are amongst the biggest for that size tractor and they’re quiet.”
 
Doug has no plans to switch from Kubota. "When I see a herd of cows I like it when they're all the same – Friesian or Jersey. Same with my tractors. I want them all to look the same, so it looks like family.” And orange like a kumara.
 
Kubota is imported in New Zealand by C B Norwood Distributors Ltd.