Tractor & Construction Plant Wiki
Rumley Oil Pull Tractor

Early Rumley-Oil Pull Tractor.

Avery tractor at Belvoir

An early Avery tractor at Belvoir Castle show 2007

The Tractor is a versatile machine that has evolved from the original steam powered machines, though the iron horse stage to a very powerful computerized workstation, for a vast range of applications. A tractor is a vehicle specifically designed to deliver a high tractive effort at slow speeds, for the purposes of hauling a trailer or machinery used in agriculture or construction. Most commonly, the term is used to describe the distinctive farm vehicle: agricultural implements may be towed behind or mounted on the tractor, and the tractor may also provide a source of power if the implement is mechanised. Another common use of the term is for the power unit of a semi-trailer truck (Lorry). The farm tractor defined in history is both a vehicle that can pull a plough deeply in to the soil and do EVERYTHING that the farmers of the world want when working in and on the soil and on the road with trailers,trailed & mounted implements. It was,but only until 1973 that the proper historical definition as " Do-It-All tractor" for working with ALL the farmers implements. Times change,however and W.S.H.Taylor, in UK noticed that most farmers on large acreages used a tractor for most of the work but also needed a LAND-ROVER [THAT NAME LAND-Rover & later LAND-Cruiser being stated because in-field and between-field work of a certain kind demands a much quicker vehicle than the slow, ploughing-focused conventional tractor] as well as "the do it all" What was designed in to the Land-Rover`s early years was the central-drive position,the 3-point linkage & PTO but rarely used!!.It was Taylor that studied what the farm tractor was good at and what it was very poor at. He found that transportation was a much bigger user of tractor-time than any other duty on many, many farms.He also discovered that taking the seeds to the soil and spreading the fertiliser & spraying the herbicide were done slowly by the conventional tractor when "technically" it is easily possible to produce a vehicle to do these kind of tasks more quickly should a Land-Rover, vehicle-like concept was to exist. Taylor designed and built a Land-Rover & tractor-combined and he called it a TRANsport tracTOR [TRANTOR] because it was a proper tractor and had ALL of the features of a tractor but conducted MOST of the work on MOST farms much more quickly. Whilst the acceptance of the TRANTOR concept of tractor was designed for transportation & low-draught work tasks of a mowing,baling,bale-wrapping,chain harrowing etc kind and conducted the work more efficiently, due to its SPEED ,it might have been thought ,by some, that this was not a proper tractor. That,of course was fine whilst ploughing was so much a favoured ,soil-engaging activity of tractors. The Zero-Tillage system of Conservation Agriculture,especially in N.& S.America [the no-till alliances] & EC [ECAF] where entering the soil to a shallow-depth of no more than 2.5 inches & with a Low-draught direct-drill has simply changed the way farmers must,in future define what they mean by a tractor. A low-draft,high-speed[80kph]transport tractor that can accomplish ALL C.Ag.tasks [Drilling,Spreading Spraying,Transporting of the new no-till farming system [recommended by FAO] is re-defining what it is that we mean by FARM TRACTOR. In future,there are two kinds of tractor least,so far. The historical definition is "ploughing tractor & do-it all tractor" and the other is the"transport & low-draught focused tractor for ALL no-till work ". N.B. both kinds of tractor have all the features of that which has been developed since the steam age but some additional technical features have been added to increase speeds in the field & out.[see ten years of using these tractors on a UK arable farm, a cost-benefit analysis in a water authority and the fuel-benefits estimated for the movement of 7000-million tonnes of world crops 2009].These are contained on the website and in the pdf-style explanatory brochures......over to you Bulldozer. TQ....

National variations[]

In Britain, Ireland, Australia, India, Spain, and Poland the word "tractor" usually means "farm tractor". In Britain it can be short for Tractor Unit or lorry used in road haulage (Road Locomotive). In Canada and the United States the word is also used to refer to a road tractor.

The Tractor Definition[]

The most common use of the term is for the vehicles used on farms. The farm tractor is used for pulling or pushing agricultural machinery or trailers, for ploughing, tilling, discing, harrowing, planting, and similar tasks. Charles City, Iowa is the birthplace of the farm tractor in the early 1900's by the Hart-Parr Company, Later sold to White Tractor.


Before Tractors[]

Horse power and the steam tractor and [[stationary engine|stationary steam engines ruled for provision of tractive power. The first powered farm implements in the early 1800s were portable engines – steam engines on wheels that could be used to drive mechanical farm machinery by way of a flexible belt. Around 1850, the first traction engines were developed from these, and were widely adopted for agricultural use. Where soil conditions permitted, like the US, steam tractors were used to direct-haul ploughs, but in the UK different soil conditions, made ploughing engines more suitable and they were used for cable-hauled ploughing instead, without heavy engines compacting fields. Steam-powered agricultural engines remained in use well into the 20th century, until reliable internal combustion engines had been developed.

Earliest Combustion Engined Tractors[]

In 1892, John Froelich built the first practical gasoline-powered tractor in Clayton County, Iowa. Only two were sold, and it was not until 1911, when the Twin City Traction Engine Company developed the design, that it became successful.

In Britain, the first recorded tractor sale was the oil-burning Hornsby-Ackroyd Patent Safety Oil Traction engine, in 1897. However, the first commercially successful design was Dan Albone's three-wheel Ivel tractor of 1902. In 1908, Saundersons of Bedford introduced a four-wheel design, and went on to become the largest tractor manufacturer outside the USA at that time (till Fordson introduced their model F and model N.

These early designs were very much an engine mounted on a chassis that resembled a steam tractor, without the boiler.

While unpopular at first, these gasoline-powered machines began to catch on in the 1910s when they became smaller and more affordable (and reliable).

Early mass production Models[]

Fordson tractors

Early Fordson tractor

Henry Ford introduced the Fordson, the first mass-produced tractor in 1917. They were built in the U.S., Ireland, England and Russia and by 1923, Fordson had 77% of the U.S. market. The Fordson dispensed with a frame, using the strength of the engine block to hold the machine together. By the 1920s, tractors with a gasoline-powered internal combustion engine had become the norm.

The classic farm tractor is a simple open vehicle, with two very large driving wheels on an axle below and slightly behind a single seat (the seat and steering wheel consequently are in the centre), and the engine in front of the driver, with two steerable wheels below the engine compartment. This basic design has remained unchanged for a number of years, but enclosed Safety Cabs are fitted on almost all modern models, for reasons of operator safety and comfort.

Originally, ploughs and other equipment were connected via a draw-bar, or a proprietary connecting system; prior to Harry Ferguson patenting the three-point hitch. Recently, Bobcat's patent on its front loader connection has expired; and compact tractors are now being outfitted with quick-connect attachments for their front-end loaders.


There are also lawn tractors. Cub Cadet, Husqvarna, John Deere, Massey Ferguson and Toro are some of the better-known brands.

Another type of early tractor was the Iron horse, which the operator walked behind, or sat on a seat on the implement.

(this history section needs building up)

The War Years[]

Lend lease tractors

The Number of tractors increased in the UK during the War Years due to the supply of Lend lease tractors to farms to help increase production, to meet the countries need for home grown food supplies. To increase tractor production other firms were licensed to manufacture them. Vast numbers were imported from America under the agreement (Lend lease). To free up UK production capacity for the manufacture of Arms and Munitions for the war effort.

Post War Developments[]

Initially after the war there was little demand for new tractor as there was no money to buy them and rationing was still in place with price controls. But as time progressed demand increased, and some machines were re engined by enterprising farmers and blacksmiths with surplus diesel engines from surplus trucks. Following the war as demand increased, development of the tractor was stepped up as bigger engines and more sophisticated hydraulics were developed. Farm implements can be attached to the rear of the tractor by either a drawbar or a three-point hitch. The three-point hitch was invented by Harry Ferguson and has been standard on agricultural tractors since the early 1960s. Equipment attached to the three-point hitch can be raised or lowered hydraulically with a control lever. The equipment attached to the three-point hitch is usually completely supported by the tractor. Another way to attach an implement is via a Quick Hitch, which is attached to the three-point hitch. This enables a single person to attach an implement quicker and put the person in less danger when attaching the implement as it can be done from the cab.

The Evolution of the Modern Tractor[]

As power increased in the 60's the problem of getting increased traction lead to people experimenting with fitting surplus truck axles to the front to make 4-wheel drive tractors. Improved hydraulics lead to the building of bigger implements and attachments.

Safety Cabs, came about as a result of the realisation that deaths due to tractors turning other were significant. Research was carried out into the cause and the search for a way of protecting the operator lead first to the roll bar which could be fitted to any tractor. then in the 70's the safety cab was invented, then developed into the modern sound proofed cab of today.

Tractor Safety[]

Agriculture in the United Kingdom is one of the most hazardous industries, only surpassed by mining and construction. No other farm machine is so identified with the hazards of production agriculture as the tractor. Tractor related injuries account for approximately xx% of the fatalities and xx% of the non-fatal injuries in agriculture. Over xx% is attributed to tractor overturns.The roll over protection structure(ROPS) and seat belt, when worn, are the two most important safety devices to protect operators from death during tractor overturns.[6]Modern tractors have rollover protection systems (ROPS) to prevent an operator from being crushed if the tractor overturns. It is important to remember that the ROPS does not prevent tractor overturns. Rather, it prevents the operator from being crushed during an overturn. This is especially important in open-air tractors, where the ROPS is a steel beam that extends above the operator's seat. For tractors with operator cabs, the ROPS is part of the frame of the cab. A ROPS with enclosed cab further reduces the likelihood of serious injury because the operator is protected by the sides and windows of the cab.ROPS were first required by legislation in Sweden in 1959. Before ROPS were required, some farmers died when their tractors rolled on top of them. Row-crop tractors, before ROPS, were particularly dangerous because of their 'tricycle' design with the two front wheels spaced close together and angled inward toward the ground. Some farmers were killed by rollovers while operating tractors along steep slopes. Others have been killed while attempting to tow or pull an excessive load from above axle height, or when cold weather caused the tires to freeze down, in both cases causing the tractor to pivot around the rear axle.For the ROPS to work as designed, the operator must stay within the protective frame of the ROPS. This means the operator must wear the seat belt. Not wearing the seat belt may defeat the primary purpose of the ROPS.

(From American quote, UK % needed)

The Power Revolution[]

Ford FW30

A large Ford FW30 high hp tractor from the 1980s

Modern farm tractors employ large diesel engines, which range in power output from 18 to 575 horsepower (15 to 480 kW). Tractors can be generally classified as two-wheel drive, two-wheel drive with front wheel assist, four-wheel drive (often with articulated steering), or track tractors (with either two or four powered rubber tracks). Variations of the classic style include the diminutive lawn tractors and their more capable and ruggedly constructed cousins, garden tractors, that range from about 10 to 25 horsepower (7.5-18.6 kW) and are used for smaller farm tasks and mowing grass and landscaping. Their size—especially with modern tractors—and the slower speeds are reasons motorists are urged to use caution when encountering a tractor on the roads.

Power Take off[]

Most tractors have a means to transfer power to another machine such as a baler, slasher or mower. Early tractors used belts wrapped around a flywheel to power stationary equipment. Modern tractors use a power take-off (PTO) shaft to provide rotary power to machinery that may be stationary or pulled. Almost all modern tractors can also provide external hydraulic fluid and electrical power connections (commonly called services).


Most farm tractors used a manual transmission, until recently in the UK. They have several sets of gear ratios divided into speeds. In order to change the ratio, it is usually necessary to stop the tractor. Between them they provide a range of speeds from less than one mile per hour suitable for working the land, up to about 25 miles per hour (40 km/h) for road use. Furthermore it is usually not necessary to change gear in order to reverse, one simply selects a lever. Older tractors usually require that the operator depress the clutch in order to shift between gears (a limitation of straight-cut gears in the gearbox), but many modern tractors have eliminated this requirement with the introduction of technologies such as power shifting in the 1960s and more modern continuously variable transmissions. This allows the operator more and easier control over working speed than the throttle alone could provide.

The High-speed tractor revolution[]

A variety of different tractor speeds are necessary because of the different kind of operations conducted with different kinds of agricultural-implements. When travelling on public roads, slow operating speeds may cause queues & tailbacks which may delay or aggravate other road users.The Unimog from Mercedes was the first farm tractor to be legally able in UK to travel at 5omph/80kph.

In 1973 ,the first farm tractor with full-suspension on both of its axles and, separately ,on its hitch and also its 3-point-linkage was the Trantor. tractor from UK.This tractor was simply different to ALL others and on 26th September 1984 Anthony Bamford of JCB ltd drove the Series two Trantor with his Managing Director in one of the passenger seats.Subsequently ,JCB [Wootten farms] bought two of the Series two Trantors and later the Wrexham factory borrowed a Trantor from a local customer. About 14 years later a dozen or so prototypes of the Fastrac were built and it was clear that the Fastrac was designed to plough and was not,therefore a transport-first tractor at all.It was and is a heavy-cultivation -focused farm tractor with a rear suspension system that was similar to the patent taken out by the designer of the Trantor.The design had clearly been created to circumvent the patent that was given to, & signed for, by a JCB executive.

.There are substantial differences between the 3 new,hi-speed farm tractors that still exist as working businesses.The Unimog does not have central-drive which is on all Trantors & Fastracs,does not have a hitch or linkage suspension and has a much bigger rear load platform than the others.Unimog`s have a 3-seater cabin and can take 6-more people on its platform,Fastrac has one occasional seat and Trantor has in-cab seats for 3 and a platform for 4 persons. The Unimog & the Trantor are similar in weight at between 3-4tonnes but the Fastrac is very much heavier due to its ploughing -focused design-reasoning which is also present in the Unimog but positively something the Trantor EXCLUDES in its design perspective..The fuel-consumption of Unimog & Trantor is similar and much lower than the ploughing-focused Fastrac.The Unimog is popular for spraying because of its large rear platform but it is the Trantor that concerns itself with ALL transport & low-draught duties and so is designed for work in zero-tillage

The weight is a new critical factor because of the rising fuel cost but also because of the vast amount of soil-compaction.The Fastrac is far too heavy for transport work due to the design ignoring the UK regulations that now exist.The weight of the trailer is part of the legal requirement of tractor,trailer & load.Under existing regulations, the maximum load that a 10.65 tonne Fastrac ,working with a Larrington 6tonne trailer is legally allowed to carry is just 7.65 tonnes which is about eight x one tonne silage bales.

Whilst the conventional farm tractor makers have certainly increased their road-speeds, the way in which they have placed suspension over the skid-unit and under the cab is not anywhere near the objectives set by Mercedes-Benz,Trantor or JCB-Fastrac design.

Change is coming to the kind of farming system.

The high-speed revolution is ONLY just begining.

The need for fuel-efficient,lightweight,high-speed tractors is where the future lies.

These three design-teams may well be ahead of the convention but are farmers likely to change very quickly?

The growth in power to 500hp +[]

Multi Axel (3+) Machines[]

A few manufacturers have built prototypes with 3 or more axles but few successful production tractors have adopted this configuration. the best known example is the versatile built Big Roy prototype from the 1970s. A modern version of similar design is being built by DTU, and Valmet built a 3 axle model in the 1970s, and the related AGCO company of Fendt is developing a new 3 axle model.

Quad Track machines[]

The adaption of rubber tracks has created the hybrid Quad Trac machines of a conventional articulated tractor fitted with four triangular track units inplace of the wheels. This design in crease ground contact area and traction whilst reducing compaction.

The Future[]

JCB Zero swing mower

Latest JCB Zero swing ride on tractor mower

Automated driver less robotic tractors are coming, some time soon to a field near you.! Space technology has found its way down to agriculture in the form of GPS devices, and robust on-board computers installed as optional features on farm tractors. These technologies are used in modern, precision farming techniques. The spin-offs from the space race have actually facilitated automation in ploughing and the use of Autosteer systems drone on tractors that are manned but only steered at the end of a row, the idea being to neither overlap and use more fuel nor leave streaks when performing jobs such as cultivating.

Preservation Movement[]

From the early 70's people started to collect older simple tractors like the Massey Feguson 35 and little "grey fergie", or the early Fordson's to use on small holdings and as garden hobby tractors. This lead to the Formation of owners clubs for different makes. Some of these tractors could be picked up for a few pounds, as farmers just left them at the bottom of the yard when they broke or they got anew more modern tractor in the late 70's. The Farm subsidies helping pump money into the industry to modernise it, and increased mechanisation with bigger machinery needed more horse power and less manpower. So farms moved to fewer but bigger tractors, and traded them in every few years, leading to lots of cheap small tractors. a lot were exported at times to Ireland and Africa, but this market was effected by political factors and monetary policies of world governments. There is still agood export trade, but the model of choice varies for differing markets. Some markets prefering more basic tractors, but overs have moved to 1980s Massey Ferguson & John Deere models. (Source:Cheffins auction report)


Some models are very rare and collectors are fighting to own that special model, this has driven prices up. But tractor collecting is cheap compared to works of art like paintings, Vintage Cars, or Traction Engines and Steam Trains. The top prices paid for tractors rarely break the £100,000 (UK pound) mark with a few models regularly fetching prices in the £50-70,000 range due to the low numbers built, such as the Doe Triple D.

Some Collectors are trying to get one of every model in a range from a particular manufacturer. for example Ford 1000 series tractors, with a Ford 2000, 4000, 5000, 6000, 7000, 8000 & 9000 model. Or the Massey Ferguson 100 series, comprising a MF 130, MF 135, MF 165, and MF 175. Others aspire to collect every variation of one model.

Because of the demand people are now re-importing tractors that had been exported years ago to foreign parts. Others in that quest for the unusual are importing models that were never imported originally into this country.

Some model were originally built in very short production runs whilst others there were 10's of thousands built.

The very rare can fetch in excess of £50,000 at auction. but good condition common tractors can still be found for £1000 ex farm condition, but increased scrap prices have driven prices up for non runners for spares othrs i very poor condition can be bought for their scrap value but may need several times that spent in parts to restor to xoncourse condition but substantially less to running order with reproduction or used parts. Some "Un-restored Ex-Farm" models have fetched over £10,000 in 2008

Types of Tractors[]

Farm tractor applications[]

Main article: Agricultural Tractors
JohnDeere Tractor chisel-plough

A modern John Deere 8110 Farm Tractor plowing a field using a chisel plow.


A tractor pulling a rototiller

The most common use of the term "tractor" is for the vehicles used on farms. The farm tractor is used for pulling or pushing agricultural machinery or trailers, for plowing, tilling, disking, harrowing, planting, and similar tasks.


A farm tractor used to power a pump for irrigating a plot of land

A variety of specialty farm tractors have been developed for particular uses. These include "row crop" tractors with adjustable tread width to allow the tractor to pass down rows of corn, tomatoes or other crops without crushing the plants, "wheatland" or "standard" tractors with non-adjustable fixed wheels and a lower center of gravity for plowing and other heavy field work for broadcast crops, and "high crop" tractors with adjustable tread and increased ground clearance, often used in the cultivation of cotton and other high-growing row crop plant operations, and "utility tractors", typically smaller tractors with a low center of gravity and short turning radius, used for general purposes around the farmstead. Many utility tractors are used for non-farm grading, landscape maintenance and excavation purposes, particularly with loaders, backhoes, pallet forks and similar devices. Small garden or lawn tractors designed for suburban and semi-rural gardening and landscape maintenance also exist in a variety of configurations.

Ueberladewagen (jha)

A tractor with a chaser bin.

Some farm-type tractors are found elsewhere than on farms: with large universities' gardening departments, in public parks, or for highway workman use with blowtorch cylinders strapped to its sides and a pneumatic drill air compressor permanently fastened over its power take-off. These are often fitted with grass (turf) tyres which are less damaging to soft surfaces than agricultural tires.

Precision agriculture[]

Space technology has been incorporated into agriculture in the form of GPS devices, and robust on-board computers installed as optional features on farm tractors. These technologies are used in modern, precision farming techniques. The spin-offs from the space race have actually facilitated automation in plowing and the use of autosteer systems drone on tractors that are manned but only steered at the end of a row, the idea being to neither overlap and use more fuel nor leave streaks when performing jobs such as cultivating.

Engineering tractors[]

Chelyabinsk tractor factory 1930s

A tractor factory in Chelyabinsk in the Soviet Union circa 1930.

Tractor fanguejant

Ebro farm tractor

The durability and engine power of tractors made them very suitable for engineering tasks. Tractors can be fitted with engineering tools such as dozer blade, bucket, hoe, ripper, and so on. The most common attachments for the front of a tractor are dozer blade or a bucket. When attached with engineering tools the tractor is called an engineering vehicle.

A bulldozer is a track-type tractor attached with blade in the front and a rope-winch behind. Bulldozers are very powerful tractors and have excellent ground-hold, as their main tasks are to push or drag things.

Bulldozers have been further modified over time to evolve into new machines which are capable of working in ways that the original bulldozer can not. One example is that loader tractors were created by removing the blade and substituting a large volume bucket and hydraulic arms which can raise and lower the bucket, thus making it useful for scooping up earth, rock and similar loose material to load it into trucks.

A front-loader or loader is a tractor with an engineering tool which consists of two hydraulic powered arms on either side of the front engine compartment and a tilting implement. This is usually a wide open box called a bucket but other common attachments are a pallet fork and a bale grappler.

Other modifications to the original bulldozer include making the machine smaller to let it operate in small work areas where movement is limited. There are also tiny wheeled loaders, officially called Skid-steer loaders but nicknamed "Bobcat" after the original manufacturer, which are particularly suited for small excavation projects in confined areas.

Backhoe loader[]

Main article: Backhoe loader
Backhoe and loader

A common backhoe-loader. The backhoe is on the left, the bucket/blade on the right.

The most common variation of the classic farm tractor is the hoe, also called a hoe-loader. As the name implies, it has a loader assembly on the front and a backhoe on the back. Backhoes attach to a 3 point hitch on farm or industrial tractors. Industrial tractors are often heavier in construction particularly with regards to the use of steel grill for protection from rocks and the use of construction tires. When the backhoe is permanently attached, the machine usually has a seat that can swivel to the rear to face the hoe controls. Removable backhoe attachments almost always have a separate seat on the attachment.

Backhoe-loaders are very common and can be used for a wide variety of tasks: construction, small demolitions, light transportation of building materials, powering building equipment, digging holes,loading trucks, breaking asphalt and paving roads. Some buckets have a retractable bottom, enabling them to empty their load more quickly and efficiently. Buckets with retractable bottoms are also often used for grading and scratching off sand. The front assembly may be a removable attachment or permanently mounted. Often the bucket can be replaced with other devices or tools.

Their relatively small frame and precise control make backhoe-loaders very useful and common in urban engineering projects such as construction and repairs in areas too small for larger equipment. Their versatility and compact size makes them one of the most popular urban construction vehicles.

In the UK, the word "JCB" is sometimes used colloquially as a genericized trademark for any such type of engineering vehicle. The term JCB now appears in the Oxford English Dictionary, although it is still legally a trademark of J. C. Bamford Ltd. The term "digger" is also commonly used.

Compact Utility Tractor[]

Farm Tractor vs CUT vs Garden Tractor

In the middle is a 24 hp (18 kW) diesel CUT illustrating the size difference between a small 40 hp farm tractor and a garden tractor

A Compact Utility Tractor, also called a CUT is a smaller version of an agricultural tractor but designed primarily for landscaping and estate management type tasks rather than for planting and harvesting on a commercial scale. Typical CUTs range in from 20 to 50 horsepower (15-37 kW) with available power take off (PTO) horsepower ranging from 15 to 45 hp (11-34 kW). CUTs are often equipped with both a mid-mounted PTO and a standard rear PTO, especially those below 40 horsepower (30 kW). The mid-mount PTO shaft typically rotates at/near 2000 rpms and is typically used to power such implements as mid-mount finish mower, a front mounted snow blower or front mounted rotary broom. The rear PTO is standardized at 540 rpms for the North American markets, but in some parts of the world a dual 540/1000 rpm PTO is standard and implements are available for either standard in those markets.


Howse brand modular Subsoiler mounted to a tractor

Herd Seeder

Broadcast seeder mounted to a Kubota Compact Utility Tractor

One of the most common attachment for a Compact Utility Tractor is the front end loader or FEL. Like the larger agricultural tractors, a CUT will have an adjustable three-point hitch that is hydraulically controlled. Typically a CUT will have four wheel drive, or more correctly 4 wheel assist. Modern Compact Utility Tractors often feature a Hydrostatic transmission, but many variants of gear drive transmissions are also offered from low priced simple gear transmissions to synchronized transmissions to advanced glide-shift transmissions. All modern CUTs feature a government mandated roll over protection structure (ROPS) just like agricultural tractors. The most well known brands in North America include Kubota, John Deere Tractor, New Holland Ag, Case-Farmall and Massey-Ferguson. Although less common, compact backhoes are often attached to compact utility tractors.

John Deere 71 Flexi Planter, 2 Row

JD 71 Flexi Planter for tractors 20 to 35 horsepower

Compact Utility Tractors require special smaller implements than full size agricultural tractors. Very common implements include the box blade, the grader blade, the landscape rake, the post hole digger (or post hole auger), the rotary cutter (also called a slasher or a brush hog), a mid or rear mount finish mower, broadcast seeder, subsoiler and the rototiller (also rotary tiller). In northern climates, a rear mounted snow blower is very common, on smaller CUTs some models are available with front mounted snow blowers that are powered by a mid-PTO shaft. There are many more implement brands than there are tractor brands offering CUT owners a wide selection of choice.

For small scale farming or large scale gardening, there are some planting and harvesting implements sized for CUTs. One and two row planting units are commonly available as are cultivators, sprayers and different types of seeders (slit, rotary and drop).

Row-crop tractor[]


An Oliver Row Crop 60 tractor

A row-crop tractor is a tractor tailored specifically to the growing of row crops (crops grown in rows, as in truck farming), and most especially to cultivating. Cultivating can take place anytime from soon after the crop plants have sprouted until soon before they are harvested. Several rounds of cultivating may be done over the season. A row-crop tractor essentially brings together a farm tractor and its cultivator into one machine, in the same way that motive power has been combined into other machinery (for example, horseless carriages combined the motive power into transport vehicles; self-propelled guns combined the artillery tractor and its gun into one machine).

The earliest win from introducing tractors to mechanize agriculture was in reducing the heavy efforts of plowing and harrowing before planting, which could often be (almost literally) backbreaking tasks for humans and draft animals. Early tractors were used mainly to alleviate this drudgery. But they tended to be very big and heavy, so they were not well suited to getting into a field of already-planted row crops to do weed control. Row-crop tractors—light, affordable, and reliable—corrected this flaw.

Row crop itself refers to any farm crop that is cultivated in rows. The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) defines 'row crop' as an "Agricultural crop planted, usually with mechanical planting devices, in individual rows that are spaced to permit machine traffic during the early parts of the growing season" [1]

Row-crop tractor history[]

Farmall regular web

A Farmall Regular

The first tractors designed for the ability to fit between rows of crops were made by International Harvester (IH), with development beginning in the 1920s. The first row-crop tractors made by IH were called "Farmalls". The cultivator mounted in the front so it was easily visible. Additionally, the tractor had a narrow front end; the front tires were spaced very closely and angled in towards the bottom. The back wheels straddled two rows and it could cultivate four rows at once.

From 1924 until 1963, Farmalls were the largest selling row-crop tractors.

To compete, John Deere designed the Model C which had a wide front and could cultivate three rows at once. Only 112 prototypes were made as Deere realized that sales would be lost to Farmall if their model did less. In 1928, John Deere released the Model C anyway, only as the Model GP (General Purpose) to avoid confusion with the Model D when order over the then unclear phone.[2]

Oliver refined its "Row Crop" model early in 1930.[3] Until 1935, the 18-27 was Oliver–Hart-Parr's only row-crop tractor.[4] Many Oliver row crop models are referred to as "Oliver Row Crop 77" or "Oliver Row Crop 88" etc.

Row-crop tractor safety[]


Allis-Chalmers WD. Note the absence of any rollover protection system.

Many early row-crop tractors had a tricycle design with two closely spaced front tires, and some even had a single front tire. This made it dangerous to operate on the side of a steep hill, and, as a result, many farmers died from tractor rollovers. Also, early row-crop tractors had no rollover protection system (ROPS), meaning that if the tractor flipped back the operator could be crushed. Sweden was the first country which passed legislation requiring ROPS, in 1959.

Over 50% of tractor related injuries and deaths are attributed to tractor rollover.[5]

Modern row-crop tractors[]

The Canadian agricultural equipment manufacturer Versatile makes row-crop tractors that are 250 and 280 horsepower (190 and 210 kW); powered by an 8.3 liter Cummins Diesel engine.[6]

Modern row crop tractors have rollover protection systems in the form of a reinforced cab or a roll bar.

Garden tractors[]

Garden Tractors (also called Mini Tractors) are small, light and simple tractors designed for use in domestic gardens. Garden Tractors are usually designed primarily for cutting grass, being fitted with horizontal rotary cutting decks. Visually, the distinction between a garden tractor and a ride-on lawnmower is often hard to make - generally Garden Tractors are more sturdily built, with stronger frames, axles and transmissions rated for ground-engaging applications. Garden Tractors are generally capable of mounting other implements such as harrows, cultivators/rotavators, sweepers, rollers and dozer-blades. Like ride-on mowers, Garden Tractors generally have a vertical-crankshaft engine with a belt-drive to a transaxle-type transmission (usually of 4- or 5-speeds, although some may also have two-speed reduction gearboxes or a hydrostatic drive). However, Wheel Horse (now part of Toro) garden tractors have horizontal-crankshaft engines with belt-drive, whilst Allen/Gutbrod tractors had an automotive-type clutch and gearbox. The engines are generally a 1- or 2-cylinder petrol (gasoline) engine, although diesel engine models are also available, especially in Europe.

In the U.S., the term riding lawn mower today often is used to refer to mid or rear engined machines. Front-engined tractor layout machines designed primarily for cutting grass and light towing are called lawn tractors; and heavier duty tractors of the same overall size, often shaft driven, are called garden tractors. The primary differences between a lawn tractor and a garden tractor are the transmission torque handling capability, frame durability, the rear wheels (garden tractors almost always have multiple mounting bolts, while most lawn tractors have a single bolt or clip on the hub), and the ability to attach ground engaging equipment such as plows or disk-harrows. Craftsman, MTD, Snapper, and other major mowing equipment manufacturers use these terms.

As well as dedicated manufacturers, many makers of agricultural tractors have made (or continue to make) ranges of garden tractors, such as Case, Massey-Ferguson, International Harvester and John Deere.

Two-wheel tractors[]

Main article: two-wheel tractor

Although most people think first of four-wheel vehicles when they think of tractors, a tractor may have one or more axles. The key benefit is the power itself, which only takes one axle to provide. Single-axle tractors, more often called two-wheel tractors or walk-behind tractors, have had many users ever since the beginning of internal combustion engine tractors. They tend to be small and affordable. This was especially true before the 1960s, when a walk-behind tractor could often be more affordable than a two-axle tractor of comparable power. Today's compact utility tractors and advanced garden tractors may negate most of that market advantage, but two-wheel tractors still enjoy a loyal following, especially where an already-paid-for two-wheel tractor is financially superior to a compact or garden tractor that would have to be purchased. Regions where two-wheel tractors are especially prevalent today include India, China, and Southeast Asia.

Orchard, Vineyard and other Special Purpose tractors[]

{{main|Orchard tractors]] {{main|Vineyard tractors]]

Main article: Special Purpose Tractors

Tractors tailored to use in fruit orchards typically have features suited to passing under tree branches with impunity. These include a lower overall profile; reduced tree-branch-snagging risk (via underslung exhaust pipes rather than smoke-stack-style exhaust, and large sheetmetal cowlings and fairings that allow branches to deflect and slide off rather than catch); spark arrestors on the exhaust tips; and often wire cages to protect the operator from snags.

Tractors for vineyards are usually more narrow than standard agricultural tractors. Other special-purpose tractors include High Crop versions or versions adapted to particular crops, i.e. coffee, cotton, sugar, etc...

Automobile-conversion tractors and other homemade versions[]

Ford epa tractor

A Ford rebuilt to an EPA tractor.

Volvo at Power Big Meet 2005

An "A tractor" based on Volvo 760. Notice the slow-vehicle triangle and the longer boot.


A Volvo Duett rebuilt to an EPA tractor. Obviously the intended use is no longer as a farm vehicle.

The ingenuity of farm mechanics, coupled in some cases with OEM or aftermarket assistance, has often resulted in the conversion of automobiles for use as farm tractors. In the United States, this trend was especially strong from the 1910s through 1950s. It began early in the development of vehicles powered by internal combustion engines, with blacksmiths and amateur mechanics tinkering in their shops. Especially during the interwar period, dozens of manufacturers (Montgomery Ward among them) marketed after-market kits for converting Ford Model Ts for use as tractors.[7] (These were sometimes called "Hoover Wagons" during the Great Depression, although this term was usually reserved for automobiles converted to horse-drawn buggy use when gasoline was unavailable or unaffordable. During the same period, another common name was "Doodlebug"). Ford even considered producing an "official" optional kit.[8] Many Model A Fords also were converted for this purpose. In later years, some farm mechanics have been known to convert more modern trucks or cars for use as tractors, more often as curiosities or for recreational purposes (rather than out of the earlier motives of pure necessity or frugality).

During World War II, a shortage of tractors in Sweden led to the development of the so-called EPA tractor (EPA was a chain of discount stores and it was often used to signify something lacking in quality). An EPA tractor was simply an automobile, truck or lorry, with the passenger space cut off behind the front seats, equipped with two gearboxes in a row. When done to an older car with a ladder frame, the result was not dissimilar to a tractor and could be used as one.

After the war it remained popular, now not as a farm vehicle, but as a way for young people without a driver's license to own something similar to a car. Since it was legally seen as a tractor it could be driven from 16 years of age and only required a tractor license. Eventually the legal loophole was closed and no new EPA tractors were allowed to be made, but the remaining were still legal, something that led to inflated prices and many protests from people that preferred EPA tractors to ordinary cars.

In March 1975 a similar type of vehicle was introduced in Sweden, the A tractor [from arbetstraktor (work tractor)]. The main difference is that an A tractor has a top speed of 30 km/h. This is usually done by fitting two gearboxes in a row and not using one of them. Volvo Duett was for a long time the primary choice for conversion to an EPA or A tractor, but, since supplies have dried up, other cars have been used, in most cases a Volvo.

Another type of homemade tractors are ones that are fabricated from scratch. The "from scratch" description is relative, as often individual components will be re-purposed from earlier vehicles or machinery (e.g., engines, gearboxes, axle housings); but the tractor's overall chassis is essentially designed and built by the owner (e.g., a frame is welded from bar stock—channel stock, angle stock, flat stock, etc.). As with automobile conversions, the heyday of this type of tractor, at least in developed economies, lies in the past, when there were large populations of blue-collar workers for whom metalworking and farming were prevalent parts of their lives. (For example, many 19th- and 20th-century New England and Midwestern machinists and factory workers had grown up on farms.) Backyard fabrication was a natural activity to them (whereas it might seem daunting to most people today).

Alternative machine types 'called' tractors[]

Backing it in 2

Road tractor pulling a flatbed trailer

The term tractor (US & Canada) or tractor unit (UK) is also applied to:

  • Road tractors, tractor units or traction heads, familiar as the front end of an articulated lorry / semi-trailer truck. They are heavy-duty vehicles with large engines and several axles.
    • The majority of these tractors are designed to pull long semi-trailers, most often to transport freight of some kind over a significant distance, and is connected to the trailer with a fifth wheel coupling. In England this type of "tractor" is often called an "artic cab" (short for articulated cab).
    • A minority is the ballast tractor, whose load is hauled from a drawbar.
  • Pushback tractors are used on airports to move aircraft on the ground, most commonly pushing aircraft away from their parking stands.
  • Locomotive tractors (engines) or Rail car movers
  • Artillery tractors
    • Vehicles used to tow artillery pieces of varying weights.
  • NASA and other space agencies use very large tractors to move large launch vehicles and space shuttles between their hangars and launch pads.
  • A pipe-tractor is a device used for conveying advanced instruments into pipes for measurement and data logging, and the purging of well holes, sewer pipes and other inaccessible tubes.

Tractor Related Listings[]


  1. "Crop Glossary | Ag 101 | Agriculture | US EPA". (2006-06-28). Retrieved on 2010-07-29.
  2. Klancher et al. 2003.
  3. "Tractors Advance during the Depression". Retrieved on 2010-07-29.
  4. Ertel 2001, p. 72.
  5. Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; no text was provided for refs named Donham, K. 1999
  6. Row Crop Tractors 250 to 280 hp
  7. Pripps & Morland 1993, p. 28.
  8. Leffingwell 2004, pp. 43–53.

External links[]

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