OUTSTANDING IN HER FIELD: All about tractors |


I recently came across an essay my younger son wrote in fourth grade. It was all about tractors. He had analyzed the tractors on our farm and sorted them into categories: tractors with cabs and tractors without cabs, tractors that can pull equipment and tractors that push the equipment; tractors with single tires and tractors with duals. There were a few more, but you get the idea.

Often when people think about tractors, they assume they are all the same, can do all the jobs. Think of tractors like cars. You wouldn’t purchase a MINI Cooper if you want to haul a boat and trailer. A minivan is great for a family but a pickup might not have enough seats.

Sometimes the only time you think about tractors is when you’re out on the road and you end up following one. So here are some basics about tractors.

Most tractors cannot go faster than 25 mph. That’s why they have SMV (Slow Moving Vehicle) signs on the back. They are equipped with seatbelts, turning signals, headlights, four-way flashers and other safety equipment you associate with cars. One of the most important features is the ROPS (Roll Over Protection Structure) that protects the driver if the tractor rolls over.

The first question a farmer asks when determining which tractor to purchase is: Where will it be used? In our orchards, the trees are planted close together, so a very narrow tractor is needed. The tractors used by a row crop farmer who wants to cover as much ground as possible are quite a bit larger.

What will the tractor be doing? Will it pull a mower or a sprayer? Will it be using a grain drill or transplanter or be used for heavy tillage?

Perhaps you’ve seen tractors with dual tires on the back or even treads instead of tires. Those are to lessons the compaction of soil and transfer more of the horsepower to the ground for pulling equipment.

Just as cars have changed over the years, so have tractors. Many older tractors are configured in what is called a tricycle front end: two small tires in the front, very close together, and two larger tires in the back. Today, some larger tractors are designed so that two tires can be used on each side of the axle for more traction. Some tractors today come equipped with GPS systems to aid in planting or harvesting.

Many people have a favorite car brand. Some prefer to buy new cars over used or vice versa. Farmers are the same with their tractors. Depending on the size and features, tractors range in price along the same lines. Nationally, the average cost of a tractor today is $100,000. However, the larger ones can cost $500,000 or more. That is quite the investment for the farmer.

Finally, like a car, tractors need preventative maintenance. However, because they are used in fields and orchards, they are subjected to harsher conditions than a car on the road. It takes time, skill and money for parts to maintain a tractor in working condition.

Over the years, I’ve been asked many questions about tractors. One person wanted to know how long we keep a tractor. After all, she got a new car every five years or so. From what I’ve observed, farmers keep tractors as long as they can. If an operation changes, they may need different equipment. However, once a farmer has a tractor on the farm, it will be maintained as long as possible.

It is harvest time so, please, if you see a tractor on the road, slow down and give it space. The farmer driving is doing his or her best to grow a crop that could eventually feed you.

Margo Sue Bittner, aka Aggie Culture, has been involved in Niagara County agriculture for 40 years. She’s had experience in dairy farming, fruit production and, as the proprietor of the Winery at Marjim Manor, wine agri-tourism. Ask her any question about local agriculture and if she doesn’t know the answer herself, she knows who to get it from. Email margo@marjimmanor.com or call 716-778-7001.

Margo Sue Bittner, aka Aggie Culture, has been involved in Niagara County agriculture for 40 years. She’s had experience in dairy farming, fruit production and, as the proprietor of the Winery at Marjim Manor, wine agri-tourism. Ask her any question about local agriculture and if she doesn’t know the answer herself, she knows who to get it from. Email margo@marjimmanor.com or call 716-778-7001.

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