In the year 1800, approximately 83 percent of the entire US population was employed in working the land. Fast-forward more than 200 years and this figure has shrunk to an astonishing low of just two percent. What caused this astounding change in society? The answer is the development of automated labor-saving agricultural machines that vastly increased productivity.
How Have Hydraulics Affected the Agricultural Industry?
In today’s technological world, the science of hydraulics has replaced manpower in industrial production and in fields such as construction. However, in farming, hydraulics has replaced both man and beast, saving both from injury and increasing agricultural productivity exponentially. Because a tractor can be anywhere in hundreds or thousands of acres, access to electric power is practically non-existent. This is why the invention of fluid power technology has been such a boon to the farming community and has become absolutely integral to agriculture. With this in mind, let’s take a look at some examples of agricultural equipment that rely on hydraulic power.
When someone talks about agricultural machines, the first thing that often springs to mind is an image of a tractor. This essential multi-functional machine can be found anywhere where crops are growing. Torque is the key element for a tractor because its primary job involves either pushing or pulling something. However, modern tractors can do much more because they are equipped with a rotating power takeoff at the back and hydraulic lifts at the front and rear. Hydrostatic transmissions first began to be used in tractors in the 1970s, and hydraulic drives are now common.
Combine harvesters are self-propelled machines that are employed to harvest grain crops. As the name implies, these machines combine reaping, threshing, and cleaning the grains by the utilization of rotating blades, wheels, sieves, and elevators. The grain is collected in a tank in the interior of the combine and then emptied periodically into a cart pulled by a tractor. The stalks and chaff from the harvested grain are ejected from a large exit pipe at the back of the machine. Modern combines utilize hydrostatic drive systems with propel motors or wheel motors. Propel motors provide the necessary thrust to harvest as much of the crop as possible regardless of crop conditions or rolling terrain.
Beet Harvesters and Loaders
Specialized harvesting and loading machines are specifically designed to work with certain crops, such as beets. Highly specialized self-propelled equipment is firmly established in beet harvesting operations. A beet harvester can take an ideal line across a field with no need for an accompanying tractor. It can then pile the beet at the end of the field. Self-propelled beet-loading machines compact the ground far less than towed trailers and work well on difficult terrain.
Harvesting Machines with Tracks
Harvesting machines equipped with tracks rather than wheels offer stability, traction, and help with soil protection. These harvesters are specially designed to operate in terrain with soft, wet soil found in rice, soy, and sugar cane plantations. Hydrostatic units form an integral part of the overall machine design to enable superior interaction between driving speed, the amount of crop intake, shredding, and transport. Moreover, the hydrostatic system supplies sufficient power to drive the machine continuously through dense crops. These machines have an extremely rugged construction, enabling them to make it through the harvesting season with a low amount of planned maintenance time.
Sprayers are used for spraying fertilizers, pesticides, herbicides, fungicides, etc. to aid in promoting crop quality. Sprayers can be self-propelled, tractor-mounted, or towed. Most self-propelled sprayers are powered hydrostatically with wheel motors. This arrangement allows each wheel to be independently powered to enable even distribution of the machine’s weight while performing tight, precise movements. The wheel motors are typically high-torque, low-speed motors.
Both compact track loaders and multi-terrain loaders make use of hydraulic track drive motors to drive the tracks. Because loaders need torque, not speed, the hydraulic motors are high-torque and low-speed. These motors come with an integrated planetary gear system to achieve as much torque as possible in a small, compact motor.
Self-Propelled Forage Harvesters
These machines are also called silage harvesters because their function is to harvest forage plants used to make silage for livestock feed. One type of forage harvester has to be towed by a tractor, but another type is available as a self-propelled machine that uses hydrostatic transmissions. Hydraulic wheel motors are typically employed on all four wheels.
Feed mixers make feeding large numbers of livestock easier and more efficient. This type of equipment can come in different sizes and in the form of entire dairy feeding systems. Machines can have different numbers of vertical augers and can be self-propelled with the augers being driven by a powerful hydraulic motor. Mini feed mixers are also available for feeding smaller herds or groups of animals such as weaned calves, dry cows, and maternity groups.
The Future of Hydraulics in Agriculture
Agricultural machinery will continue to make use of hydraulic systems. Innovative components and system designs are being released from time to time leading to even more efficient operation. The use of automation in agriculture is increasing very rapidly, especially when it comes to large-scale equipment designed to help with production yields and time usage. Also, innovations in hydraulic system design from other industries, such as construction and mining, are crossing over into the agricultural world. Farmers will continue to enjoy the rewards of even greater ease-of-operation, efficiency, and reductions in maintenance complexity. However, agricultural equipment hydraulic repairs can be difficult and time consuming unless handled by an expert.
Maintenance You Can Trust
It’s vital to keep your agricultural equipment in good working order through consistent maintenance. Sapphire Hydraulics understands that downtime for your harvester can mean the loss of your crop. If you are involved in agriculture in the greater Houston area, give us a call today to see how we can keep your vital equipment up and running when it is needed.