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AGRICULTURE TRACTORS: PAST TO PRESENT
Tractors, considered force machines within the agricultural mechanization system have the capability to transmit power in various ways to agricultural machinery equipment in order for them to properly function. A major part of mechanization investments accounts for tractors. Tractor has a very important position amidst the agricultural mechanization vehicles due to the above-mentioned reasons and has gone under major changes in terms of functional and ergonomic design from its initial version to present day.
In earlier years when they were put at disposal of people, tractors were preferred as an alternative to draught animals and had only limited capabilities like hauling tillers, tractors have turned into more capable and diversely-equipped machines in the 70s owing to agricultural requirements and emerging technologies. During this process, the agricultural machineries were equipped with not only the coupling device where draft is transferred but also three-point hitch system that can keep the machineries at aboveground levels, power take off (pto) that ensures rotary motion, as well as power output capabilities like hydraulic power and electricity whose functions may be diversified.
Such hardware is currently offered to the users in its standard form and have gained novelties and options that provide a more effective use in line with technological advancements. “Economic standard pto options” where a lower level of fuel consumption is ensured with the standard speed of pto, “three-point hitch system that has more ergonomic adjust mechanisms (hydraulic middle arm, etc.), “stronger and multiple hydraulic outlets” are the examples of the change in question. Not only the power outlets but also the motion transfer and propulsion bodies have undergone major changes from past to present.
Almost all of the tractors released into the market in our country by the end of the 90s were equipped with cross ply tires and were currently replaced by radial tires that have a 30% of more durability and ensuring draught efficiency and fuel consumption advantages.
The parallel increasing attention of the users to dual wheel tractors has concentrated manufacture on this particular direction and the dual wheel tractor numbers is increasing at the park every single year. Amongst motion transmission units the transmission boxes have undergone the most attention grabbing developments due to their ergonomic use, compatibility with engine operation system and in terms of meeting different paces on the large frontiers of the agricultural machines. The gear boxes not enabling gear shifting without stopping the tractor have been replaced by synchromesh boxes that eliminate this negativity and the requirement for more velocity stage may now be met by power-shift gearboxes and 24 forward 24 backward stage These gearboxes have quite a widespread use nowadays but are overshadowed by continuously variable transmission (CVT) gearboxes that provide more velocity options.
Sensitivity towards adverse impacts of exhaust emissions in the 90s, international agreements, and standards have brought along major obligatory novelties to diesel engine systems used in tractors. Hardware like turbochargers and intercoolers that provide power increase have lost their popularity to systems like common-rail fuel system, exhaust gas return system, catalytic converter that reduce fuel consumption and emission values. Euro norms apply in Türkiye as emission values and engines are divided into classes. This classification may be named as Stage in Europe, Phase in Türkiye, and Tier in the U.S. Phase I, Phase II engines initially called as green engines by the companies were replaced by III, IV and Phase V that has less emission levels. While this transition process is mostly carried out mostly by imported engines by the tractor manufacturers in Türkiye, only some companies have covered a lot of ground in manufacturing engines that bear this norm. Easiest way of reducing the emission of a hydrocarbon fuel engine lies on reducing the fuel use.
Some preventive measures should also be taken, and additional hardware be reinforced. For over 30 years, the most qualified engineers and scientists of the world have exerted efforts and time in raising power and efficiency in thermal engines, reducing emission, and developing the most effective motion transfer systems. This process was managed by billions of units of financial investments. However, the electrical engine technology is getting prepared to scrap this efforts and its outcomes. The use of electrical engine in transport vehicles has become largely common. Studies in using electrical engines in tractors are continuing for a long time but such force machines bring along a barrier of high torque (turning force) thus high energy need at unit time and transfer to application. This handicap was gradually overcome with the growth of battery technology. Due to operating principles in thermal engines maximum 40 per cent of the energy entering the engine can be used effectively. There is an efficiency of around 90 per cent in electrical engines. This efficiency is also reflected in the torque value and maximum torque may be ensured at continuous and stable values beginning from the lowest velocity. This principle unnecessitated various units primarily gearboxes in electrical vehicles. Machinery Industry Interaction Report (2022) states that no market could yet be created to assign a certain rate for the use of electrical tractors in Europe. The studies are new at a global aspect, and prototypes are being tested currently. For example, in 2017, a leading German company releases to the market for testing purposes, a 50 kW power output battery compact tractor that can operate up to 5 hours under real time conditions. There are some studies regarding electrical tractors in several other countries (China, India, Switzerland, and Canada…). Given the decisions made by various countries regarding the use of fossil fuels, the use of engines for on-road and off-road vehicles will become indispensable in 2040 and onwards.
Signals of major changes are seen and essential steps are taken regarding the agricultural production towards the end of 19th century as a result of the global technological advancements. Agricultural production should be raised by 70% with a view to meeting the feeding needs of the world population which is expected to reach 9.7 billion in 2050 according to the United Nations. The changing climatic conditions, decreasing farming areas, and agrarian production are considered the most important barriers blocking this need. “Smart farming” suggested as a response on how to ensure agricultural production under these circumstances constitute the whole agricultural techniques ensuring the soil and product management for raising agricultural efficiency, economic use of resources, and minimizing the damage on the environment. In this context, the goal is to abandon conventional production and conduct agricultural production in replacing homogenous practices with variable practices. The main goal here is to use agricultural production inputs at the needed location, time, and amount. In brief, smart farming in particular comprise spatially and temporally different requirements in agricultural businesses and the modern agricultural production technologies based on interventions where the location and time criteria are taken account of. “Agriculture tractors” that are still the source of force for smart agricultural machines under the current situation were/have been found at the center of the smart farming process. The earlier 21th century that we live in offers revolutionary innovation and changes to the agriculture sector that we were introduced in previous century. Guiding the tractors via satellite data in the 90s similar to the navigation application use din vehicles on the road was an incredible innovation and technology for the tractor operator while now autonomous (unmanned) tractors are preferred in international fairs. The transfer of emerging technologies into agricultural tractors has not only led to efficiency increase in agricultural activities and also uplevelled tractor ergonomics. Lower vibration and noise, thermal comfort, adjusted and comfortable seat, humanized control element layout, and interfaces may be given as good examples. However, the ergonomic issues enlisted in the second half of this century will no longer be important due to autonomous methods.
Factors like the size of land and initial investment costs may push us to think that electrical engines and sensitive agriculture technologies are inaccessible and illogical for now. Yet, agriculture is currently at a painful transition phase to step into a new era in respect of energy and technology, and it is quite obvious that countries failing to keep abreast with this pace will be driven out of the race. But it should not be forgotten that emerging technologies will inevitably enter agricultural activities as is the case in our entire daily lives. While mobile phone technology was a luxury and even unnecessary or difficult to buy by many people in the 90s, today there is almost no one who does not have this opportunity.
Prof. Dr. Sarp Korkut Sümer graduated from Agricultural Mechanization Department of the Agriculture Faculty of Çukurova University in 1995. He earned his Master degree at the Department of Agricultural Machinery of the Institute of Science of Çukurova University in 1997. Prof. Sümer earned his PhD degree from the Department of Agricultural Machinery of the Institute of Science of Çukurova University (2005). In 1997-2005, he served as research assistant at the -Department of Agricultural Machinery of the Institute of Science of Çukurova University. Prof. Sümer was appointed as assistant professor to the Department of Agricultural machinery of the Agriculture Faculty of Çanakkale Onsekiz Mart University in the year 2005. He earned the degree of Associate Professor in June 2011 and was appointed as Professor in 2017 in the same Department that he is currently teaching as a faculty member.