Agriculture has a wide range of vehicles associated with it, many of which you will not see outside of a farm. These vehicles are usually the epitome of purpose-built vehicles.
Farm vehicles are as different as their varied purposes in the agricultural environment, ranging from working the soil to harvesting, livestock management, and transportation. The mechanization of agriculture is an important aspect of providing efficient and productive farming.
The tractor is the vehicle most commonly associated with farming, and for good reason. The invention of the tractor essentially replaced the use of horses on the farm. The versatility and power of these vehicles changed the face of farming and improved efficiency and quantity of production.
Originally, tractors were essentially portable motors used to drive farming implements out in the field. This early form of the tractor was invented in England in 1893 by Willian Tuxford.
The tractor or “mobile engine” was driven out to where the farm implement was located, hooked up to the implement, and used to power the farming implement.
The tractor was detached from the implement and moved on to the next location when the job was done. Tractors have come a long way since those early days, and now, the implement is attached to the tractor, driven to where it is needed, and used in the field.
The term tractor is a very broad term that encompasses many different types of tractors that can be found on farms, from small tractors to very large tractors.
2. Two-Wheel Tractors
Two-wheel tractors are single axle tractors that the operator walks behind to direct and operate the tractor.
Two-wheel tractors are typically used on small hobby-style farms with low acreage and no need for large farming implements. The purpose of these small tractors can be varied, including plowing, seed distribution, and harvesting crops.
3. Compact Tractors
Compact tractors are twin-axled tractors, but their size is compact. They are generally used by homesteaders and smaller farms to perform similar tasks to large tractors but on a smaller scale.
Compact tractors are limited in the implements they can tow but are more efficient and versatile than a two-wheel, single axle tractor.
These smaller tractors are typically used in vineyards, fruit farms, and nut farms to navigate between trees to harvest and maintain the trees. They are typically used to pull trailers around the farm for light-duty work.
4. Two-Wheel Drive Tractors
Two-wheel drive tractors are twin-axled tractors and typically the type of tractor that most people envisage when tractors are mentioned.
Two-wheel drive tractors are used on medium-sized farms and can be used for plowing, harvesting, and operating a wide array of other farm implements.
The front wheels of these tractors are not driving wheels but for steering, with all the power of the tractor coming from the large rear wheels.
5. 4 Wheel Drive Tractors
Large tractors used in areas of particularly soft or muddy fields are generally 4 wheel drive tractors. They are typically larger than most other tractors and have a wide range of tasks on the farm, from plowing to harrowing, leveling, weed control, and harvesting.
The front wheels on these tractors are larger than the front wheels on normal tractors and can be engaged as drive wheels in conjunction with the large rear wheels.
6. Row Crop Tractors
Row crop tractors are designed to drive in the furrows between the rows of certain crops. The spacing of the tractor wheels on the axle ensures the tractor easily spans the rows of growing crops without driving over any of the crop plants.
This minimizes crop damage during seeding, harvesting, and weeding in fields planted with row crops.
7. Track Tractors
Track tractors are tractors in every sense of the word, but they do not have wheels. These tractors are driven by tracks similar to that of tanks.
Track tractors are used where the terrain is particularly difficult or muddy, preventing other wheeled tractors from being of any benefit.
The disadvantage of track tractors is that they are slower than wheeled tractors, but speed is not desirable in difficult terrain.
8. Industrial Tractors
Industrial tractors can be fitted with a wide range of tools useful on the farm. The tractors can be outfitted with interchangeable tools on the front, such as a front-end loader, forklift tines, or a claw.
Depending on the task at hand, the tools can be removed from the front mounting and swapped out for a different tool. The advantage of an industrial tractor is the versatility to use one vehicle for a wide range of industrial-type applications.
9. Combine Harvester
The combine harvester is a farm vehicle that revolutionized the harvesting process on farms. A combine harvester is named as such because it incorporates four different harvesting operations into a single machine.
The reaping, threshing, gathering, and winnowing processes, typically separate, have been combined into a single vehicle. This significantly improves the efficiency of the harvesting process, particularly for grain crops.
The combine header, the section in front of the machine that reaps the crops, can be replaced with different headers to harvest different types of crops.
A trailer pulled by a tractor typically accompanies the combine harvester. The harvested grain is pumped into the trailer via a chute, and the chaff is distributed on the ground as fertilizer for the next crop.
Specialized combine harvesters called hillside leveling and sidehill leveling harvesters are made to harvest crops plated on steel hillsides. These harvesters are typically seen in the rolling hillside farmlands in the Pacific Northwest region of the United States.
Combine harvesters are available in a range of sizes depending on the size of the farm and the fields to be harvested.
10. UTV (Utility Terrain Vehicle)
A Utility Terrain Vehicle, or UTV, is an extremely useful vehicle on a farm. A UTV is similar to an ATV, but it has a load-bay similar to a truck. This is useful for bringing in injured animals, taking feed out to the fields for animals, cleaning up around the farm, and even for hunting and fishing.
UTVs can typically carry a larger payload than an ATV but are more maneuverable than a pickup truck for difficult terrain.
Implements and tools can be hooked up to a UTV to allow for light-duty working of fields and small growing areas and can also be used as snowplows.
These features make them an ideal, versatile vehicle on the farm for a range of tasks.
11. ATV (All-Terrain-Vehicle)
An All-Terrain-Vehicle or ATV has been adopted as a versatile farm vehicle for many tasks on the farm. ATVs can be modified to pull small farming implements behind them, pull trailers and get the farmer into difficult-to-access sections of the farm.
Many farmers use an ATV as a farm runaround vehicle to quickly get from place to place on the farm. The fuel economy of an ATV compared to a truck makes them useful in this role.
12. Pickup Truck
A pickup truck, or simply a truck, is an iconic farm vehicle designed specifically for use by farmers. The load-bay on a pickup truck has many uses for farming tasks, and the robust construction of these vehicles makes them suitable for farm work.
Pickup trucks are used on farms to transport small loads of feed for animals, transport equipment to various locations on the farm, or ferrying animals to different sites on the property.
The advantage of a pickup truck is that it is legal to drive it on public roads, which is not the case for many other farm vehicles.
This gives the farmer the option for collecting and delivering equipment, livestock, produce, and supplies without paying for expensive transport.
Balers are farm vehicles designed for a specific purpose for certain crops. Livestock feed crops such as hay, lucerne, and other similar crops are turned into bales for transport and storage.
A baler is a vehicle that harvests the feed crop and bundles the crop into bales which are tied and deposited in the field. The bales are then collected by a separate vehicle and transported to storage or to customers.
Balers can be a self-powered, purpose-built vehicle, or they can be in the form of an attachment for a tractor.
The baler is loaded with wire or twine cartridges, which it uses to tie the bales as the crop is harvested. Balers produce standardized sized bales, which are manageable for transport and distribution to livestock.
Seeders are farm vehicles used in the planting season. The seeder carries a drum or a trough that holds the seeds to be planted.
The seeder can be set to distribute seeds at specific intervals and distances to ensure even coverage of the plowed field and prevent overcrowding of the crops.
Seeders can be in a variety of formats, from implements that can be hitched behind a tractor to towed by an ATV or even a self-propelled vehicle that an operator drives in the field.
15. Fertilizer Spreaders
Fertilizer spreaders can be an implement attached to a tractor or towed behind another farm vehicle or a self-propelled vehicle for larger farming operations.
These vehicles are designed to distribute granular-style fertilizer across a field evenly. The fertilizer spreader can be calibrated to distribute fertilizers of different grain sizes.
A sprayer is a broad term for a variety of farm vehicles used to spray various liquids onto the growing crops.
Sprayers can be drawn by a tractor, other farm vehicles, or self-powered vehicles. Typically, these vehicles are used to spray liquid fertilizer, insecticides, fungicides, or similar chemicals onto crops.
In some crop farming enterprises, crop sprayers are used to water the crops as an overhead sprayer instead of using other irrigation methods. These crop sprayers are typically connected to a central water supply line, and the sprayer pivots around this central axis to water the crop.
When this sprayer style is used, the field is often planted in a circular pattern rather than in straight rows.
17. Tree Shaker
A tree shaker is a specially designed farm vehicle for farms that produce nuts and some fruit types. The tree shaker vehicle is similar in size to a forklift, but it has a mechanical claw horizontally in front of the machine.
The vehicle is driven up to the base of the tree, and the claw is positioned around the base of the tree, about 3-feet or 1 meter above the ground.
The operator activates the shaker, and the arm with the claw attached shakes the tree to cause the nuts or fruit to fall off the tree.
Some tree shakers have a catchment device, similar to a funnel, to catch the nuts or fruit and store them in a container in the vehicle.
Other tree shakers simply allow the product to drop to the ground. The crop is then harvested from the ground, making it much easier than harvesting directly from the tree branches.
A tree shaker can only be used for crops that will not be damaged by falling to the ground and on trees robust enough to handle this harvesting method.
18. Autonomous Farm Vehicles
In our digital, computerized age, autonomous farm vehicles are no longer the domain of science fiction. Autonomous farm vehicles can be programmed to perform a variety of pre-planned farming tasks.
Autonomous vehicles can be in the form of tractors which can be fitted with different implements for the desired task, or specific task machines such as combine harvesters.
The autonomous vehicle has a computer system and GPS, which can be programmed to carry out predefined tasks within the boundaries of a field as defined in the GPS system.
The field coordinates are captured into the software, and the vehicle is programmed for the specific task; plowing, harrowing, seeding, or harvesting. The farmer ensures the correct implement is attached, the machine is loaded with the right seeds, fertilizer, or pesticide, and the program does the rest.
The advantage of autonomous farm vehicles is that a human operator is not required to drive the vehicle. This reduces the labor costs on the farm and frees the farmer to do other tasks such as planning, sourcing supplies, or dealing with customers.
Farm vehicles are interesting because they are not the type of machinery normally seen in public view. These machines can be fascinating, and if you ever see such a machine and wonder what it does, you will have an understanding of its function from the information detailed here.
Farming vehicles are an interesting part of the mechanical world. The designs and engineering incorporated into the development of these machines are a testament to man’s ingenuity.
The mechanization of farming is interesting, but it is also necessary for our farmers to become more efficient and keep up with the ever-increasing demand for food across the globe.
Farm vehicles make farming tasks easier, faster, and less labor-intensive, which is good for farmers and consumers.