If you’re in the market for a large square baler, the newest machines and latest upgrades are available from sev

eral manufacturers – or on the way. Custom harvesters and commercial growers have been asking for increased capacity and durability, plus simple designs. Here’s what they’re getting in 2012 – and beyond.

Eight Krone BigPack High-Speed large square balers were tested in the U.S. last year; 22 will be tested in fields this coming season. But by 2013, a full line of HighSpeed machines will be available to North American customers, offering increased throughput and capacity, says Kurt Stone, Krone territory product manager.

The BigPack 1270, 1290 and 1290 HDP will roll off production lines with plunger strokes increasing by 18%.

“Our strokes per minute are going to go up from 38 to 45 on certain models – mostly our 3 x 4’ models. Our 890, our 3 x 3’ model, is already running 50 strokes per minute, so it’s not going to change. Its capacity is – there will be improvements on that,” Stone points out.

“Our strokes have been less (than on competitive models), and we’ve always been able to keep up, but we weren’t able to put as many flakes to the bale. Now we should be able to run faster than most of the competition,” he says.

Krone’s 4 x 4’ machine will boast a 36% increase in capacity. “But the strokes per minute aren’t changing – they’re reworking some internal mechanisms on feeding the hay through it to increase that capacity.”

The new series will offer a Variable Fill System that will also increase capacity by compressing enough crop in the feed chamber to completely fill it, Stone says.

The HighSpeed version of the HDP (High Density Press) model, ideal for biomass harvesting, will increase production, the product manager adds. Biofuel facilities will need “many tons. They need something that can bale it (biomass) heavy and bale it fast,” he says.

Another new feature is the PreChop system on the 1270 XC, 1290 XC and 1290 HDP XC models. “It’s a little chopper we put on the front of the baler that will cut straw material up into a finer particle size or stem size before it goes into the baler.”

Monitor upgrades allowing GPS and crop mapping, as well as bale scales, moisture sensors and ID tagger systems, will be available, Stone points out.

The Hesston by Massey Ferguson Extra-Density 1270XD baler produces 3 x 4’ bales 9’ in length and 15% more dense than bales made with the MF 2170 standard baler. Its bales are 30% more dense than those made from MF balers built before 2010, says Dean Morrell, hay and forage marketing manager, Agco Corp.

The machine is ideal for the biomass market, to harvest cornstalks, miscanthus and other biofuel crops, he says. “That’s where an Extra-Density baler will make you a more profitable operator, to bale more weight in the bale.”

Changes include beefed up baler drives “from the pto all the way back through the baler. We went to heavier shear bolts, a bigger clutch and our flywheel is twice the size of our current baler’s.” A higher-capacity gearbox was also added.

“Then we changed the connection arms and the crank arms. We still use the bale cage, but we’re pinching hay at a different angle.” Heavy-duty tension cylinders and plunger arms, with an increased baler load, are also new features. Plunger strokes per minute are 47.

With the heavier machine, operators will have to invest in 550- to 600-lb (knot-strength) twines, Morrell advises.

The Claas Quadrant 3300 Roto Feed offers increased bale density and design simplicity, says Matt Jaynes, Claas product coordinator.

With the 3 x 4’ baler’s new prechamber design, “we can actually measure the top and the bottom of the flake so we get more consistency in our bale. So we have better bale density,” he says.

“We’re all gearbox and driveshaft,” adds Jaynes of the baler’s simple design. “Even up to the knotters, it’s all driveshaft, so everything stays in time. There are fewer wear parts on the machine as well.”

He gives credit to the machine’s long bale chamber – 10’ – for added bale density, as well. “It holds the bale longer. When the plunger is striking the flake against the bale, it doesn’t slide through the chamber as easy, so we can compress those flakes more.” It offers 46 piston strokes per minute.

The monitor also tells the operator each flake size, so as field density changes, the baler can be speeded up or slowed down to keep a consistent flake size.

The single-tie knotter was redesigned to take the tension off the twine as it ties the knot to avoid twine fractures, Jaynes says. Its extremely large bill hooks and twine discs also help prevent fractures.

The baler can handle dry alfalfa to silage to cornstalks to straw. Jaynes was running it in biomass this winter, he adds.

Operators offered a lot of input into the machine’s design. “They wanted the least amount of maintenance possible with the longest durability possible. And that was the big target with this baler.” A rotor-cut version will be available in the U.S. in 2013.