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Cultivating tractor - what features would you like to see?

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Hi folks. A fabricator/farmer friend and I are discussing developing a prototype for an open-source tractor. We would like it to be narrowly focused on organic farming field work. The concept is to offer an alternative to the aging Alice Chalmers Gs and Farmall Cubs which need considerable maintenance or repair and are rising in price, while dropping the financial barrier to access as far as possible, making it more affordable and more tailored for agricultural use than an Open Source Ecology Farm Trac (which is truly inspiring, but likely overkill for the goals/tasks envisioned here).

What features would you look for in such a tractor? What sort of crop clearance would you need for cultivation? What sort of wheel spacing would you need for your beds? What mounts would you like for implements - front, rear, and/or belly? Would hydraulic lifting for these implements be necessary? Would the value of PTO power or auxiliary hydraulics warrant their additional cost? What would your horsepower needs be, considering the implements you anticipate using? What are the most important considerations for you in selecting a new tractor or replacing a current one? What problems presented by current equipment would you most like to see addressed?

We are preliminarily envisioning a 2WD tractor with hydraulic wheel drive, steerable front wheels, and hydraulic implement lifting capability, powered by a 27HP gasoline utility engine. The design would prioritize providing the operator with an excellent view of any belly or front-mount implement. We have also discussed skid-steer 4WD concepts. In either case, the hydraulic wheel drive motors would likely be mounted remote from the wheels in order to provide adequate crop-clearance underneath the tractor, and drive them remotely via drive chains or ribbed high-strength belts.

If hydraulic lifting cylinders were not necessary, costs could likely be cut down considerably, as my initial research indicates that a traditional or hydrostatic rear transmission/differential unit could cost considerably less than the hardware required for a hydraulic system. There are likely a large number of off-the-shelf hydrostatic transaxles available given their use in lawn tractors.

I welcome your thoughts and contributions!

bahner495's picture

Front and rear 3 point hitches as well as a mid-mount hydraulic lift, which would either be adaptable to existing allis or international equipment. For those of us used to hydraulic lift advantages, we'd probably opt to spend the money to have those capabilities, especially if we are going to go through the trouble building or purchasing a new machine.

I would highly recommend a diesel engine with 30 horse and a nice creeper gear.

540 pto would be very nice to have but not a deal breaker.

Adjustable wheel widths and crop clearance comparable to old farmall super c's but maybe a rear mounted engine like the G's?

I would want a new cultivating tractor to replace various older models that each do only one or two tasks. This new tractor would need to make it vary easy to attach and detach belly mounted cultivators so that you could change implements much faster than with older tractors. I would want a new cultivating tractor to be new and not old and so run tight and hopefully be as reliable as those old girls we all love so much. A new cultivating tractor should be thought about right along side new cultivating techniques. So lets keep in mind parallel linkage cultivators that are growing in popularity as well as flame weeding. It would stand to reason that this tractor should be able to handle the weight of a full bed flaming unit.

Thanks for getting this started!

mrw601's picture

I like some of the ideas you both wrote. I love the Farmall Super C and Super A, both great cultivating tractors with position control on the midmounted implements, On the C with an auxiliary valve controlling the fast hitch, the depth of the midmounted cultivator gangs could be indepently adjusted on each side. There are PTOs for operating sprayer pumps while cultivating and for operating midmount implements like planters and sidedressers timed to the drive wheel speed, a great, extremely durable and readily repairable engine, and tremendous crop visibility, relatively easy to steer, and built to last. What I don't like are the difficulty of climbing up onto the seat, the lack of power steering, (I have bum knees and don't have the arm strength I once had) the inability to reduce speed adequately for delicate cultivation without clutching, and the gas motors that require constant tuneups, carburetor work, and the unavailability of suitable fuel. The play in the steering is another weakness.

The features I would like are power steering, comfortable seating and access to the operator platform, and a diesel engine. We need a lot of ground clearance. 24 to26 inches would be enough to clear our tall raised beds and get over the crop. We used to use the A and C for all the cultivating, but they are too short, and in the case of the A, too narrow to get over our beds.

We have standardized with 72" or as close as we can get to that for wheel centers. Our beds tend to end up at 72" to 76" on center.

In the best of all possible worlds, front, mid and rear mounts.

For us old folks hydraulics are a must. An absolute necessity for heavier implements.

PTO for a sprayer pump is an absolute must. Auxiliary hydraulics are handy, they could be an option.

The 23 HP motor on the farmalls was plenty of power for their size, but relative to modern motors, their 123 cu in displacement and heavy flywheels made for lots of inertia and ability to pull through tough spots. Also, if you go to hydraulic drive, you will need more HP to make up for the lost efficiency.

The ability to perform multiple tasks is pretty important. We can cultivate with front and rear implements, spray and sidedress at the same time with out NH TD95 HC tractor. I used to do the same with the A and C with midmounted and rear mounted implements. The problem with our HC tractor is you can't see the crop the way you can on the A and C. The other need is for slow ground speeds for delicate cultivating and waterwheel transplanting. Four wheel drive would be nice, it helps a lot to reduce side slippage on side hills, but I'd rather have a tight turning radius for maneuvering on headlands. Two wheel drive tractors require large diameter drive wheels to pull through wet spots and push front and mid mounted implements. The C will get through spots that stop our 50 HP 2WD JD utility tractor dead. There needs to be adequate lift height to raise midmounted implements over tall beds. Depth control for hydraulic lifts would be nice. Standard Cat 1 hitch dimensions are important. I am converting the C from fast hitch to 3 point hitch to gain some ground clearance and I will use combo Cat I and II balls and make sure that the hitch will go narrow or wide to accommodate both standards. We use Cat II quick hitches on both our main tractors to make changing implements easier, faster and SAFER. The front hitch on the large tractor has Walterscheide ends on the arms. That system, too makes changing implements a snap. Good brakes are an important consideration, including an easy and reliable parking brake.

I like the idea of toothed or ribbed timing or gear belts for final drives. During my 19 years as a plant engineer in a textile company we used timing belts to replace chains and v-belts on lots of drives, including some 15 and 20 hp drives. They require far less tension than v-belts, have far less lash than chains, and time drives impeccably. Plus they run cooler, longer, and quieter than the others, they stretch less, and they don't require lubrication. The only time I ever had to replace a belt was when a mechanic grossly misaligned a motor. By incorporating a speed reduction in the final belt drive a lighter transaxle could be used.

Finally, a hybrid diesel electric drive system and a fabricated chassis would be great.

I, too, am delighted to serve up my wish list. Please continue posting your thoughts.


captlevi21's picture

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kevingant's picture

I'd like to see something like the Allis Chalmers G or Hefty G but a more modern version of it like they have in Europe which they call Tool Carriers.

On both the Mazzotti and Tracmaster, you can adjust the length of the tractor via the center bar that goes to the front axle. Of course, you are limited to a certain length. They both appear to have hydraulic 3 point on the rear and mid-mount. One of them appears to also have a PTO at mid-mount as well in the rear.

A lot of these appear to be used in pine tree nurseryes. I know of place in Canada that sells the Egedal Tracmaster. However, it is very cost prohibitive at $100k for the 2WD version (400) plus shipping from Denmark.

I've been looking at hydraulic motors, stearable motors, pumps and systems to power a tractor like this. I also like the idea of having a hydraulic 3 point in mid and rear. If one used a a parallelogram setup cultivator like a Steketee Hoeing Element you wouldn't necessarily need a depth control (draft control?).

Once setup, I'd like to use is a front mounted side dresser or compost tea sprayer, mid mount cultivator and rear mounted sweeps to loosen the tire tracks. I'd also like to be able to possible remove the diesel engine for electric/battery power.

The one issue I see is switching out mid-mount implements. My easiest solution is to utilize an implement caddy but would probably require you to be on a concrete surface to easily move the caddies around.

The creeper gear would be nice as well to pull a transplanter reducing the need for an additional tractor for smaller farms.

Update: A French company Terrateck has created something similar to this. It's called the Culti'track. It's maybe a bit more paired down version than those I listed above.  http://www.terrateck.com/en/portes-outils/50-tracteur-porte-outils-maraicher-culti-track.html