Shifts in machinery grow Queensland agriculture

Huge shifts in tractor technology over past 85 years

On Farm
A wide variety of tractors on display at the Biddeston Tractor Pull in 2014.

A wide variety of tractors on display at the Biddeston Tractor Pull in 2014.

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Queensland's cropping industry could not have been established without significant advancements in machinery and technology over the past 85 years.

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Queensland's cropping industry could not have been established without significant advancements in machinery and technology over the past 85 years.

A classified ad on March 7, 1946, spruiked Toowoomba agent A.N. Kowitz was receiving orders for 18-35 horse power Lanz Bulldog tractors.

The front page of Queensland Country Life's December 21, 1950 edition heralded the arrival of "the first 30 of the new Australian mass-produced Chamberlain tractors" in Queensland.

"The 30 which arrived on December 19 were all on order and have gone to the Dalby, Meandarra, Biloela, Kingaroy, Wondai, Millmerran and Toowoomba districts."

The article states, "The Chamberlain's unusual power plant, a horizontally opposed, petrol-kerosene, side-valve twin, has been designed to overcome the service and repair problems in Australia's scattered rural areas."

"The engine develops a maximum drawbar horsepower of 42.7 at 1200 r.p.m."

An International Harvester ad, which appeared in the January 19, 1939 edition.

An International Harvester ad, which appeared in the January 19, 1939 edition.

By December 20, 1951, QCL was reporting on the "many new features" of tractors.

"The availability of tractors in a wide range of models up to the 45 h.p. group has improved tremendously in recent months, most makes being available for immediate delivery and many embodying improved designs and new facilities. There is no shortage of wheeled tractors."

The article went on to examine the various design features of Ferguson, International Harvester, Chamberlain, and Fordson Major tractors.

A year-and-a-half later, QCL was reporting on "the biggest tractor news in years" in the July 23, 1953 edition.

Australia was responsible for creating the biggest wheeled tractor in the world with the Chamberlain 60-D and it was reported Queensland's first quota was on the water from Perth to Brisbane.

"Everything indicates that the Chamberlain 60-D dual wheel will mean as much to Australian agriculture as four-wheel-drive meant to Army transport."

The availability of tractors in a wide range of models up to the 45 h.p. group has improved tremendously in recent months... - QCL, December 20, 1951

Time passed and creature comforts began to be added, first roofs, then cabs, then air-conditioning.

Rapid advancements in technology took place in the 1990s and 2000s to better cater to the growth of no-till farming practices.

Tractors with tracks began to hit the market, with Case IH launching the Steiger Quadtrac in 1996 and John Deere launching its 8000 series with rubber tracks in 1997.

As society worried about whether the Y2K bug would strike, NASA launched its AutoFarm division, which went on to release the RTK AutoSteer system.

GPS technology took off and on March 29, 2007 QCL reported "McIntosh and Son offers four of the leading high precision GPS Autosteer Guidance Systems available - New Holland Intellisteer, Trimble Autopilot, Agline supported Beeline Arro, and Gps-Ag supported Autofarm."

Tractors were kitted out with GPS antennas and base stations were set up.

On November 21, 2013 QCL reported "Case IH has launched its new Steiger Rowtrac series tractors onto the Australian market, drawing on its proven Quadtrac design to deliver a new range of tractors with modified undercarriages especially suited to row crop and controlled traffic farming systems".

The quest to perfect the horsepower to weight ratio and minimise compaction has continued to the present day, with QCL reporting on the launch of Claas' new Axion with half-track in the January 2020 edition of AgTrader Monthly.

"Claas has announced the commercial release of the world's first half-tracked tractors with full suspension, the Axion 960 Terra Trac and Axion 930 Terra Trac."

One thing remains clear, the companies may change but the quest to innovate and provide broadacre farmers with the best machinery possible cannot be satiated.

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