Two John Deere innovations have won awards at the 2014 FIMA show, one of Europe’s leading agricultural equipment trade fairs held in Zaragoza, Spain in February.The FIMA jury gave John Deere’s Hitch Assist system an outstanding innovation award. This new system is designed to make the coupling of implements and trailers to the tractor hitch quicker, easier and safer. The driver only needs to leave the cab once to use a set of external fender-mounted switches to move the tractor backwards and forwards at a maximum speed of 12mm/second and to lift or lower the hitch from outside the tractor.This reduces the set-up time required, particularly for those who need to change implements regularly, as well as the risk of accidents or injuries from repeatedly climbing on and off the tractor. A series of in-built safety checks and warning signals ensure that the process is completely safe to use, and the system is only operational if no-one sits on the tractor driver’s seat.The John Deere Hitch Assist system is a standard feature on the new 4049R and 4066R compact utility tractors, which are aimed at small farms and smallholders, local authorities, greenkeepers, groundsmen and large property owners.In the technical innovation category, the FIMA jury also made an award to John Deere’s Manure Sensing System. Jointly developed with Kotte Landtechnik and Fliegl Agrartechnik in Germany, this uses state-of-the-art near-infrared (NIR) technology to help adjust slurry spreader application rates to match field conditions, which helps to increase productivity and crop yields while minimising input costs.Based on complementary data from yield mapping, soil sampling, N-sensors and other sources, the required application rate (eg target or maximum rate) can be set in the GreenStar 2630 in-cab display before starting work. The NIR sensor is able to measure the key constituents of the slurry being applied (dry matter, total nitrogen, ammonium, P and K) in real time.The system then automatically adjusts the final flow of slurry to deliver exactly the quantity of nutrients required. If a John Deere tractor is used with the spreader, this process can also be enhanced by the Tractor Implement Automation (TIA) system. This enables automatic speed control of the application rate adjustment, based on the tractor’s forward speed.