Once upon a time, a tractor was a steam engine on wagon wheels that someone came up with to help do the job that had previously been managed by beasts of burden like horses, oxen and mules. The engine would never get tired or need to be fed. It just kept working, and it was a priceless innovation that changed the face of farming. Later, when the combustion engine showed up, tractors took a huge leap forward in power and versatility. By 1903, the first gasoline-powered tractors were rumbling through American fields, and you can even go to the Smithsonian to see the earliest models of a combustion engine on display.
Nowadays, there are many companies making tractors and just as many making the parts needed to diversify them so they can handle any task that may crop up. From massive spikes used for carrying bales of hay to forks that can lift pallets to front-end loaders and backhoes, there are quite literally dozens of parts you can buy for a tractor to modify it and adapt it to any and every task you can imagine. So whether you need a disc harrow or a potato planter, there's a part for the job. Let's see how many you can ID.
This is one of the best tools for excavation. What is it?
With an articulated arm and a digging bucket attached to it, a backhoe is perfect for digging holes. The name doesn't actually refer to the fact it's on the back of a tractor, rather that it digs into the earth backwards.
Which of these is a three-sided device used for scaling, grading, backfilling and more?
A box blade uses scarifiers, which are metal teeth, to break up the soil and the blade at the end of the box will smooth and level it out as it's pulled across.The box can also be filled with soil, gravel or any other groundcover to fill in gaps as it passes over. It's a pretty versatile tool, overall.
Scooping up large quantities of loose material is a breeze with which of these?
A front-end loader is your most efficient way to move large quantities of material ranging from dirt to gravel to random junk without just pushing it around. Depending on the tractor, you can lift upwards of a ton with a front-end loader.
Do you know which of these operates in much the same way as a front-end loader?
A fork or palette fork mounted on the front of a tractor basically converts the tractor into a forklift. Some models can be attached on a front-end loader while others attach to the same hydraulic arms as the loader but don't use the bucket.
When you need to keep a pasture trimmed down, which of these will do the job?
You have a few mowing options when it comes to a tractor, but a rotary cutter is your best bet for a quick and rough job like the side of the road, a back field, a pasture or anything else that just needs to be maintained but not well-coiffed and landscaped.
Which of these is ideal for removing deadfall, branches and other loose items?
Duck foot cultivator
Vertical conveyor reaper
A debris grapple looks like a robotic claw made of fork tines. It can be used to open and close over debris like broken branches or even garbage. Anything that needs a grip of some kind to be picked up and moved can be moved with a debris grapple.
Golf greens and front lawns can best be maintained with which of these?
A grooming mower will probably have two or three spinning blades inside of it. It's pulled behind a tractor to trim down turf, like on a sports field or large areas that need to be well-manicured and look nice when they're done. The cut is much nicer than what a rough rotary cutter would give.
If you ever lose power, it's handy to have which of these around?
These are usually referred to as PTO generators, which means "power take-off." The generator is hooked up to the engine of the tractor and can run as a back-up generator on a farm during power outages or in the event of unreliable power grids.
Every field is going to have rock and dry river beds. If you need to reduce large rocks down to small rocks — or even just — running a stone crusher across a field will pulverize them down to whatever size is needed.
Which of these is ideal for maintaining a gravel road?
A land plane is a box with a pair of parallel blades inside that, when it is dragged down something like a gravel road, will dig into the surface and then allowed the gravel and a layer of dirt to be evenly distributed behind so the road stays even.
Which of these is generally in the shape of a triangle?
The three-point hitch on the back of a tractor is what most attachments are designed to attach to. The hitch has three arms on it, two that are controlled by the tractor's hydraulics and one that is not. Older tractors use a more rigid drawbar to attach to implements.
This attachment is a lot quicker than using an ax to make firewood. What is it?
Attached to the tractor's PTO, a log splitter drives an axe-like wedge down through a log with enough force that it will basically split it like it was an egg. If you need to split a lot of large wood into smaller pieces for firewood, it will take mere moments.
Which of these is good for tilling soil and cutting up weeds?
A disc harrow uses metal discs set at oblique angles to cut into the soil for tilling and chopping up crop remainders or weeds in preparation for another planting. This is a slightly different tool from a disc plow which is used for the primary tillage of a field.
When you need to mow in an area where there could be hidden debris, which of these is the best choice?
A flail mower may not give your lawn an award-winning cut, but it's a good choice for heavier grass that has the risk of having stones, sticks or other debris. When one of the cutting flails inside hits something, rather than shooting it out in a dangerous fashion, it just bounces off.
A tractor's engine powers the turbine that rotates which of these?
You don't need a cement truck to mix cement when you have a cement mixer tractor attachment. Helpful for small jobs, like shoring up foundations or cementing fenceposts, you can get one with about a 5 cubic foot capacity for under $1,000.
Sift sand while removing trash with which of these?
A landscape rake works like a typical yard rake to sift out large items while letting small bits filter through. It can clear scrub and trash from sandy, loose soil while evening everything out. They're also really good for cleaning beaches.
Which of these is rarely used these days but was useful for both loosening and smoothing soil?
Drag harrows came in a variety of styles but were generally a flat bed set with flexible iron teeth that could be dragged behind a tractor. These were never made to function with modern hydraulics, which is largely why they're no longer used.
This is the fastest way to move a bale of hay. What is it?
A bale spear attaches to the front of a tractor and can be either a single spear or a pair. Once hay has been securely baled, it just needs to be stabbed through with the spear and carried to wherever it needs to be.
Whether you need to drain a large quantity of water or add it to a field, which of these will do the job?
A PTO pump attached to the PTO on a tractor and can be used to either drain a flooded field, a pool, a basement or anything else you can imagine. It can also be used to pump water from a pond or river into a field for irrigation.
Which of these mounts on the front of a tractor to cut down whatever you're harvesting?
Vertical conveyor reaper
A vertical conveyor reaper looks like an attachment with large metal teeth on the front of a tractor. Those teeth separate the crops into easy-to-cut bundles that the blades on the cutter bar behind those teeth slice like scissors. The cut plant is held vertically and pulled by the conveyor to the side of the reaper.
Do you know which of these is essential for drilling holes?
An auger or posthole digger is a large, slow drill attached to your tractor's PTO. It transfers power from the engine to the drill to bore a hole into the earth. An auger makes burying fence posts a lot easier.
You'll need several of which of these to get a cultivator to work properly?
Front shanks on a cultivator are the teeth that do the actual cultivator work as it's dragged behind the tractor. They need to be made of a sturdy and heavy-duty metal to dig into hard soil, break apart the clumps and unearth rocks as they pass.
Which of these lets you swap attachments lickety-split?
Quick hitch system
A quick hitch system allows for easy and fast coupling and uncoupling of large attachments to your tractor. Older hitch systems required pins to be hammered in and secured. A quick hitch is more of a snap in place and snap out of place system
If you want to pulverise the soil before planting, which of these will you use?
A cultivator is a simple tool for tilling a field. It drags through soil prior to planting to break up clumps and provide aeration, making it much easier to plant things afterwards. It can also be used after planting to help weed the field.
You could probably find more than a few of which these in Idaho?
You can't plant a potato with just anything; you need a potato planter. A hopper drops seed potatoes down tubes so they can be evenly dispersed at a consistent depth, ensuring the best possible crop. It's much handier than doing it by hand.
Which of these can increase productivity in a field more than 100-fold?
Walk-behind rice transplanter
Transplanting rice is grueling work to do by hand so a walk-behind rice transplanter on a tractor is a great addition. Manual transplant work could result in 700 square meters covered in a day. With one of these, that could go up to 10,000 square meters.
Do you know which of these parts is mostly useless in the south but very helpful further north?
A handy attachment for people in northern states and Canada, a snowblower attachment does just what you think it does. Dragged behind the tractor, it can clear wide swaths of snow on roads or in fields.
Installing which of these can get your tractor through wet fields?
Cage wheels can be installed in place of the massive rubber tires you're used to seeing on a tractor. They afford much better traction in wet fields, like a rice paddy or other location with extensive mud and water.
This has triangular sweeps on it for tilling fields. What is it called?
Duck foot cultivator
The small metal blades on this are called sweeps and because of their shape, this tractor part gets the name "duck foot cultivator." The tractor drags the duck foot cultivator, and the duck feet till through the soil. Ir's best used for shallow plowing in hard soil.
Do you recognize this part that aids in keeping the ground smooth and even?
A land leveler is a large blade that you drag behind your tractor to create an even surface. This ensures even planting and also aids in water conservation by ensuring the land is saturated evenly when it is watered.
In the 1800s, horses pulled the earliest versions of this tractor part. What is it?
A combine harvester does three jobs combined, which is where the name comes from. It reaps the crops, threshes the grain or seeds free, then winnows the useable part away from the unusable waste material.
You can separate the seeds or grain you want from the stalks and the parts you don't want with which of these?
If you've ever heard the expression "separating the wheat from the chaff," this is what they're talking about. A thresher separates what you want from what you don't. Back in the day, this had to be done by hand with a flail or, in a pinch, by letting an animal trample the crop.
Which of these will help turn an old crop into compost for a new one?
After a field has been harvested, the stalks of whatever crop was there before will be left over. A quick pass with the shredder chops up all that residual plant matter and mixes it in with the soil so it can act as fertilizer for the next crop.
Drive your tractor over leaves, sticks and debris to grind them into little bits with which of these?
As the name implies, a mulcher makes mulch out of just about anything. It can be used to grind down anything as simple as yard waste — like grass clippings — or serious forestry mulching where old logs and branches are ground down into mulch.
Netting or twine will wrap up grass or whatever else you're harvesting in which of these?
There are a handful of different balers you can attach to your tractor, but a round baler will roll up grass or straw and bind it into a large roll that is then deposited back onto the field. The bales can range in size from fairly small to larger than a human.
Do you know this tractor attachment that can cut, thresh and clean all in one motion?
A straw reaper looks a lot like a lawnmower with an oscillating blade. After wheat is harvested, the stalks left over in the fields are chopped by the straw harvester, pulled inside and cleaned, and split into straw in one simple process.
Which of these tractor parts keeps things neat and stackable in the field?
If you've ever wondered how hay goes from begin loose in a field to packaged up in square bundles, a square baler is the answer. It is dragged behind the tractor, its teeth pulling in the loose hay and compacting it into cubes that are bundled and popped out a ramp on the back of the baler.
Have you ever been on a haunted hayride? You probably sat on one of these to do it. What's it called?
A trolley or a cart attachment for your tractor is a flatbed that gets dragged behind the tractor. Trolleys with side walls — like a wagon — can be used to haul hay, whatever has been harvested from a field, or even people.