Tractors, the Companion of Agriculture

This is the article translated from TSUCHIKAU blog. You can find the original post (in Japanese) here: 農業の相棒『トラクター』 | 農業メディア TSUCHIKAU(ツチカウ)

History of Tractors

It is said that the original tractor was a steam-powered tractor developed in England in the middle of the 19th century.

From the latter half of the 19th century to the first half of the 20th century, gasoline-powered tractors appeared in the U.S. and the U.K., but they did not become widespread.

In 1917, the "Fordson Tractor Model F" was launched, which was mass-produced by streamlined operations and was reasonably priced, and it became an explosive hit, not only because of its price, but also because of its ease of operation. The Fordson tractor quickly became popular in the United States.

After 1925, the Fordson tractor evolved rapidly, and by the 1930s, it was almost in its present form. In the 1920s, manufacturers from various countries began to produce tractors, and improvements were made. In 1925, the PTO (power take-off) shaft, which is the shaft used to extract power to drive the work equipment, was introduced.

This was followed by the installation of diesel engines, pneumatic tires, and a three-point linkage mechanism for attaching work equipment. In the 1930s, the tractor took almost its current form, and evolved with the times.

The engine was anti-vibration, forward visibility was improved, and a safety frame called "ROPS" was installed to protect the operator in case of a fall or tumble. Multi-stage speed change and automatic speed change to adapt to various types of work have also become very common.

Structure of a tractor

Engine

Due to the nature of agricultural work, the engine of a tractor is a diesel engine with a large torque.

Front Weight

Since the work equipment is basically attached to the rear of the tractor, the load is applied to the rear. If the front and rear of the tractor are unbalanced, in the worst case, the tractor may fall over and cause a serious accident.

Three-point hitch

This is a device used to attach work equipment to the tractor.

PTO (Power Take Off)

This is the part that transmits the tractor's power to the work equipment.

Tires and tracks

Tractors are basically used on rough roads, unlike roads used by automobiles. For this reason, tires like the one in the image (left) are used. Image (right): These are called "crawlers" and are designed to be resistant to wetlands.

Work that a tractor can do

Since a tractor is a towing vehicle, it can perform almost all major farm work by changing the work equipment it is towed with.

Let's take a look at the different types of work equipment.

Rotary

A rotary is a machine used for "tilling," or leveling the soil to make it easier to plant seedlings and sow seeds. The word "rotary" means "to rotate" and literally means to turn multiple "claws" to cut the soil in the field or rice paddy into small pieces, making it soft and airy.

There are several types of "claws", the most common being the "machete claw", the "Zetto claw" with steel attached to the "machete claw" to increase wear resistance, and the "Tiger claw" with a wider width and superior wear resistance. There are also "tiger claws" that are wider and more wear-resistant.

Naturally, the nails will wear out with continued use. "When the nails are worn out, tillage performance decreases, fuel consumption worsens, and the machine becomes overloaded. "When the width of the claw is reduced to about 2 cm, it is a good time to replace it.

Drive harrow

The drive harrow is a work tool used in rice cultivation to grind the soil into small pieces, stir it up, and level the surface of the rice field before planting rice.
The width of the machine is wider than that of a rotary, so the work rate is higher, and the machine is equipped with a leveling plate to level the surface evenly. The "claw" is a specialized claw for raking that is shorter than the rotary claw and can embed weeds into the soil.

Basically, it is a work machine dedicated to raking, but some farmers use it to cover the soil after sowing seeds in the field.

Lime Sower

A lime sower is a kind of fertilizer spreader. Originally, it was a machine for spreading powdered fertilizers such as lime and iodine over a wide area, but now it is also used for granular fertilizers. It consists of a hopper, an agitator to distribute the fertilizer evenly, a feeder, and a device to attach to the tractor.

The most important parts are the agitator and the feeder. If there is a problem, the fertilizer may not be sown evenly, so it is necessary to pay attention to inspections.

Boomsprayers

A boom sprayer is a machine that sprays agricultural chemicals. It is efficient for spraying disinfectants and herbicides in large fields and rice paddies.
There are various types of sprayers, such as the length of the arm called boom, the size of the tank and pump, and the type of nozzle. When using them, it is important to pay attention to the following

  1. If the nozzle is worn out or otherwise defective, the amount of spray will vary.
  2. If the hose is crushed or the conduit is deformed, the pressure to the nozzle will drop and the amount of spray will decrease, so check the conduit as well.
  3. If the spray is not washed off in a proper manner after use, it may cause chemical damage or exceed residue standards. (3) After washing, fresh water is left behind, so next time you start work, spray fresh water in the air.
  4. Be sure to wash the boom as well, as leaving the remaining chemicals on the boom can cause nozzle clogging.

In any case, since we are dealing with a drug, we need to be very careful.

Mulcher

Mulcher is a shaping and cultivating machine with a mulching function.
The height of the ridges is different depending on the crop to be cultivated. There are two types of mulcher, one for flat ridges and the other for high ridges, so it is necessary to use them differently. The mulcher for high ridges has its limitations, but it can handle flat ridges to some extent.

The mulcher is attached to a square pipe at the back of the rotary. If you don't have a square pipe, you can use a mulcher made by the manufacturer of the rotary and fix it to the hole in the frame of the shaft case next to the rotary.

Flail mower

A flail mower is a mower that chops grass into small pieces.
It is used not only for shredding fallow fields and green manure, but also for cutting underbrush in orchards such as apple and grape orchards, and for treating stems and leaves of asparagus and burdock.

It is equipped with a blade called a hammer knife, which is not fixed like the claw of a rotary, but moves like a pendulum with one fulcrum point, and it feels like it is knocking off the grass by centrifugal force.

This is a structure that considers the possibility of the flail mower being used in areas with obstacles such as stones and trees, whereas the rotary is designed to till the soil. The blade is not fixed and is free, so if it hits a hard object, it will just bounce back, preventing the blade from breaking or bending. The blade is double-edged, so if the sharpness gets worse, just install the blade in the opposite direction and the sharpness will be restored. When both blades are no longer sharp, you can replace them.

When using the flail mower, remove mulch, ropes and other string-like objects, and cut grass. Otherwise, the mulch will get tangled in the hammer knife, and you will have to do the hard work of removing it.

Snow shoveling

Snow plows are indispensable in areas where it snows. They are used to remove snow from roads and farm roads, and to remove snow that interferes with farm work. However, depending on the amount and quality of snow, it may be necessary to install chains, so it is always a good idea to have chains with you.

The Future of Tractors

Tractors seem to be nearing perfection in terms of both function and performance, but there is no stopping their evolution.

Automatic driving," which is being developed in the automobile world, is now being introduced and spread to tractors as well.

This is a robot tractor that uses GPS (Global Positioning System) to perform agricultural work without a human being on board. The tractor can be controlled by a tablet device.

The engine can be controlled by a tablet device, and the engine speed and speed can be automatically adjusted according to the work conditions.

Of course, the tractor can automatically stop when it detects humans or obstacles in front of it. The on-board camera can also be used to monitor the area around the tractor.

In large-scale farms, two tractors can work together while a manned tractor monitors an unmanned tractor. The time when this kind of scene will be commonplace is just around the corner.

This is the history and near future of tractors. This is a brief introduction to the history and near future of tractors and the work they can do. Tractors are versatile agricultural machines that are indispensable for farming. I hope you have learned about their long history and the possibility of further evolution in the future.

As a tractor fan, I am looking forward to its future evolution and new future.

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