What Is the Purpose of a Tractor?

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This is a typical tractor for agricultural use.
This is a typical tractor for agricultural use. (Image: Tractor image by Arne Bramsen from <a href='http://www.fotolia.com'>Fotolia.com</a>)

Tractors are multipurpose agricultural, horticultural and construction vehicles that can be used to accomplish a range of tasks. Tractors are commonly used in agricultural endeavors. Tractors are essential tools for preparing the soil to planting the seed to collecting the harvest, but they are also used in many other capacities in construction and industry to accomplish engineering tasks, haul materials and clear brush.

Development of Tractors

The earliest tractors were developed in the late 1860s after the Civil War and were steam-powered. These were steam-traction vehicles, and while a big step forward in saving workers' time, they were clunky, expensive and of limited use. While a number of these vehicles were produced for commercial sale, this technology never reached more than small-scale mass production (2,000 to 4,000 a year). The creation of the internal combustion engine at the beginning of the 20th century kicked off a revolution in many areas, including agriculture, and the tractor was a huge part of that development. The first gasoline-powered traction engines were developed by 1900 and were mass-produced for vehicles by 1902. They were dubbed "tractors" at that point.

Types of Tractors

Early tractors were all agricultural vehicles, used in tandem with other equipment for various purposes around the farm, including tilling and threshing. Today's tractors come in many sizes and are often built for specific uses. Ten-ton plus monster tractors are used as bulldozers or in association with combines and threshers. Several sizes and types of engineering tractors can hold and use tools in construction and industry. Backhoes for digging are a type of tractor, and a bewildering array of utility tractors and compact utility tractors are used for dozens of tasks in agriculture and ranching. Hundreds of thousands of garden tractors/mowers are in garages and sheds all across the globe.

Agricultural Tractors

Agricultural tractors are almost always used together with other equipment to accomplish a task, such as a plow or thresher. Most larger farms will use several types of tractors in their seasonal routine, from medium-sized utility tractors equipped with plows to prepare the fields to the behemoth tractors that are used with combines and threshers.

Tractors in Construction and Industry

Some tractors are designed for specific uses in construction and industry. The bulldozer is a good example of a tractor equipped with a front blade for moving earth, rocks or other materials. A number of engineering tractors are designed for drilling or pumping. The backhoe loader, which has a loader assembly at the front and a backhoe for digging at the rear, is another common type of tractor.

Costs of Tractors

The cost of a tractor ranges from a couple of thousand dollars for a small lawn tractor to nearly $1 million for the largest industrial tractors and agricultural tractor/combine/threshers. An active market exists for used tractors, and it is possible to pick up a used tractor in reasonable condition for a small fraction of its original price.

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