Manufacturers focus on efficiency
Multifield sports complexes have acres of turf that must be kept in tournament-ready condition. New introductions from Toro focus on wide area mowing with diesel-powered machines focused on precision and performance. The Toro Groundsmaster 4000-D features three offset cutting decks for an 11-foot cut. The 4100-D has an out-front deck for a 10.5-foot cut. Key for sports field managers is the ability to mow an uncut circle without using wheel brakes to quickly mow back and forth without missing a blade of grass. Both machines are equipped with the SmartCool system, which automatically reverses the cooling fan to blast chaff and debris from the intake screens. Two models (Groundsmaster 4010-D and 4110-D) add a climate-controlled safety cab.
Recent expansion of Cub Cadet Commercial’s Tank S series adds a clean and efficient diesel model in the Tank S D and a fuel-efficient liquid propane option in the Tank S LP. Both machines include patented Synchro Steer technology, which features a steering wheel instead of lap bars for complete control over all four wheels to provide increased stability on tough slopes.
Hybrid mower options combine reduced fuel usage with quiet operation and fewer possible hydraulic leak points. John Deere recently introduced two new hybrids built on the same platform as their PrecisionCut fairway mowers. The 7500 E-Cut Hybrid Fairway Mower is powered by a 37.1 hp engine. The 8500 E-Cut Hybrid Fairway Mower provides exceptional power and traction with 43.1 hp engine. Both feature electric reels, the hallmark of hybrid mowers. Multiple options within each model increase the versatility of these mowers.
This past February, Jacobsen began full production of its new riding greens mower, the Eclipse 322, offering three models: a gasoline hybrid, a diesel hybrid and an all-electric, battery-powered machine. These units are designed to lower operating costs, increase productivity and provide cutting consistency on all types of turf.
In the hybrid versions, a choice of gas or diesel internal combustion engine is linked to a 48-volt, 5.8 kW continuous generator, which provides electric current to power the traction motor and the reel drives. In the all-electric version, six 8-volt, deep-cycle lead acid batteries are used to power the 2.2 kW AC traction drive motor and the three .97 kW DC reel drives. All three models are free of hydraulics. Like the company’s Eclipse 100 series walkers, the ride-on versions feature advanced electronics including Frequency of Clip control.
Clark Cox, sports field manager for the University of South Carolina, has opted to go the all-electric route for mowing the USC baseball field. With a campuswide green initiative underway, Cox wanted to demonstrate support from the grounds side with a more eco-friendly approach.
Cox says, “It’s odd to see a piece of power equipment that size running on electric power and doing what it’s doing. It’s so quiet, the only thing you hear is the reels turning. Really big for us is the peace of mind. There’s no worry of hydraulic leaks, no oil leaks, no petroleum product on the field.”
The Eclipse 322 is plugged into a charger outlet overnight, just like an electric golf cart. That’s been a time-saver for Cox and crew. He says, “Because the stadium is on campus, we can’t keep a big fuel tank on-site. We’d have to make a gas run to fill several 5-gallon containers at the fuel pump and keep them at the facility.”
For sports field managers, compact tractors teamed with attachments tackle much of the workload for everything from day-to-day maintenance to special projects. Advancements in this category offer increased versatility.
KIOTI recently extended its offering of 35 to 50 hp tractors in its main range DKSE series. The wide selection of engine horsepower, transmission and ROPS/cab choices give sports field managers and contractors the choice of 13 model configurations within KIOTI’s DK35SE, DK40SE, DK45SE and DK50SE tractors. These midsized machines are equipped with Daedong water-cooled diesel engines for a balance of power, performance and fuel economy. Rear PTO is standard, with an optional mid-PTO available. Models come with a choice of hydrostatic or the company’s synchro shuttle manual transmission.
Along with the big changes come many little tweaks. Operator comfort is part of the picture with ride-on units of all sorts. Reduced fatigue improves efficiency over the course of the day. Ease of serviceability is another factor that suppliers are emphasizing. Small efficiencies can add up to huge time savings. When new purchases are on the horizon, do your homework and find the best match for your program.
The author is a contributing editor for SportsFieldManagement.