May 22, 2024

Agricultural Tractor: A Revolutionary Farming Machinery

Although tractors were first developed in the late 19th century, it was in the 1950s when they revolutionized farming practices. This article aims to explore the history, evolution, types and uses of agricultural tractors and how they have boosted farm productivity over the decades.

History of Tractor Development
The invention of the steam engine in the late 18th century laid the foundation for tractor development. In the 19th century, several prototypes of steam-powered tractors were developed but they were not very successful due to technical limitations. It was the American inventor Hiram Moore who built the first successful tractor called ‘Steam Ploughing Engine’ in 1858. However, steam tractors never gained widespread popularity among farmers due to their high cost. The breakthrough came in the early 20th century when gasoline engines replaced steam as the power source. In 1892, John Froelich invented the ‘Froelich Steam Cultivator’ which was one of the first tractors to demonstrate plowing ability.

The gasoline-powered tractors gained steam in the 1920s and manufacturers like Ford, International Harvester, John Deere emerged as leaders. By 1920s tens of thousands of tractors were sold annually in the United States. The demand further increased during World War 2 as large number of farmers in United States entered military services and tractors helped address the labor shortage issue. The post-war era witnessed unprecedented growth in mechanized agriculture worldwide. Tractors became larger, more powerful and versatile. This mechanization played a key role in a global movement from food shortage to food surplus.

Evolution of Tractor Design
Early tractors were mainly wheeled with fixed wheels and limited power take-off (PTO) capabilities. Over the years, tractor design have evolved significantly to match the changing needs of modern agriculture. Following are some key evolutionary changes in tractor design:

– Power and size: Early tractors had power ratings from around 15-30 hp which grew to 40-70 hp models by 1940s. Today’s high horsepower tractors can generate 300+ hp of power. Tractors have also become much larger in size.

– Transmission: Manual transmissions were earliest but multi-speed transmissions and powershift/ hydrostatic transmissions improved productivity. Automated transmissions are now common.

– Drive types: Wheeled tractors were first but crawler tracks gained popularity for soft soils. Now 4 wheel drive and articulated 4WD tractors are leaders for heavy work in wet fields.

– Hydraulics: Advanced hydraulic systems and remotes enable tractors to power complex implements easily. Three-point hitches standardized attaching/ detaching implements.

– Precision Technologies: Auto-steering, machine automation and precision farming technologies have made tractors smarter and improved efficiency. Driver comforts have also significantly advanced.

Types of Agricultural Tractors
Based on intended purpose and design, following are the main types of tractors used in agriculture:

– Compact Tractors: Sub-100 hp tractors for small areas, orchards, vineyards with maneuverability.

– Utility Tractors: 100-150 hp general purpose tractors for various field duties.

– Row-Crop Tractors: Narrow front-end for between-rows work in crops like corn, vegetables. 150-300 hp.

РArticulated Four-Wheel Drive: Unique Agricultural Tractor  frame for soil adhesion. 150-350 hp for heavy pulling and plowing.

– Orchard/Vineyard Tractors: Specialized design to work safely in plantations with narrow aisles.

– Lawn and Garden Tractors: Sub-50 hp machines for residential, commercial landscaping. Ride-on mowers also common.

– Specialized Tractors: Unique tractors for sugar cane harvest, cotton/citrus harvesting, rice transplanting etc.

Uses of Tractors in Agriculture
Tractors perform a variety of important agricultural tasks right from pre-planting to post-harvest activities:

– Soil Preparation: Plowing, disking, harrowing to prepare seedbed through primary and secondary tillage.

– Planting: Seeding, planting of crops, applying fertilizers and chemicals through planters, air seeders etc.

– Cultivation: Weeding and intermediate tillage using rotary hoes, cultivators etc.

– Harvesting: Hay baling, combines, cotton/citrus harvesters are tractor-driven machinery.

– Material Handling: Operating field equipment likeelevators, augers and wagonsfreight and biomass handling.

– Miscellaneous: Tree trimming, spraying, irrigation systems and post-harvest activities like manure spreading.

Impact and Future
Globally over 25 million tractors are used in agriculture currently. Tractors have boosted productivity manifolds by replacing draught animals and manual labor. Mechanical power applications enabled exploitation of economies of scale. Urbanization trends may reduce tractor manufacturing in future but precision technologies would further optimize their utility for sustainably feeding over 9 billion people worldwide by 2050 amid challenges of climate change. Autonomous and robotic tractors also hold promise for the future of agriculture.

Tractors have become backbone of mechanized agriculture, driving increased productivity and efficiency worldwide. Their continuous evolution demonstrates farmers’ ingenuity to adapt latest technologies for meeting global food demands sustainably.

1. Source: Coherent Market Insights, Public sources, Desk research
2. We have leveraged AI tools to mine information and compile it