The illustrated row-guidance hitch is a simple mechanism that combines articulation and side shift to provide adjustable on-the-go variable draft and position of tools for in-row fieldwork. The hitch adjustments also provide a way to couple with field implements automatically.
Row guidance highly depends on the directionality exhibited for a specific field tool attached to the tractor’s hitch. The current added mass row guidance designs use “pusher” or “steering” systems, which push the rear of the tractor tires into the crop when draft link side loading is high. In contrast, the disadvantage of “steering” guidance systems is that low-directional implements need heavy colters attached to the implement to guide the implement in the rows. This new design does precise row guidance with a built-in tractor row guidance hitch, eliminating additional heavy guidance systems' weight.
The new design eliminates the necessity to select and insert additional heavy guidance system machinery between the tractor’s hitch and the implement to produce selective row guidance. Farm tractors using this novel mechanism can simultaneously side-shift and articulate the field tools on the go, regardless of the level of directionality of the implement. The new design performs better in rows during field operations and maintains lift capacity for heavier implements. Furthermore, the mechanism could provide automatic coupling with field implements, providing better safety for the operator and bystander during implement coupling.
The hitch is attached to the tractor using a pinned (non-rotating along the axle axis) spherical joint. Three actuators simultaneously control the hitch height, terrain-following, and sway. The hitch geometry is controlled by these actuators working together. The hitch can articulate and side-shift to align with a hitch-mounted implement for automatic coupling.
For those interested in more information, the design is explained in detail within US Patent 11,666,126 B2.
There have been mechanisms with swashplates; none, however, have thus far restricted the distance between the planar separation distance to provide a truly articulating and side-shifting mechanism.
The idea could be applied to various tractors with tires or tracks. The guidance could be provided on the go concerning various tractor types; see ISO 730.
Those who appreciate more precise row guidance in the field might be interested in this new development in implement control, positioning, and automatic implement coupling.
The product could use conventional casting, welding, and machining methods. In addition, some software controller logic would enhance the operation for the general user.
The number of components is relatively equivalent to the conventional hitch today. There would be a slight increase in the number of actuators required. The educational component for mechanics may, however, be steeper. There would need to be a paradigm shift to establish confidence in a different way that technicians are used to thinking about row guidance.
A prototype has been developed to validate the concept. An illustration of the prototype is also included in the reference US Patent. The prototype provides for the steer angles with four actuators. Regardless, one can identify that these actuators' possible outcomes are the variable hitch height, terrain-following, and sway.