Types of Farm Machinery

Updated November 21, 2016

Since the discovery of agriculture, farmers have created machines that make their work less labour intensive and time consuming. On the modern farm, everything from preparing the soil for planting to harvesting is done by machines, made possible by the invention of the internal combustion engine in the mid-19th century.


Tractors are one of the most iconic and familiar pieces of farm equipment and accomplish many purposes on the farm, such as pulling equipment or transporting harvests. The first mass-produced tractors appeared in 1916 and ran on kerosene. Early tractors had metal wheels connected by metal tracks, a lot like modern heavy construction equipment. In 1932, rubber replaced the metal used for wheels. According to the Economic History Association, the tractor contributed to many of the social and economic changes of the 20th century, including the decline of the family farm and the relocation of millions of people to urban areas.


Combines cut and thresh grain or remove the edible grain from the hull and stem. The combine was first used in 1838. Well before the invention of the internal combustion engine, combines were horse drawn, often requiring teams of up to 16 horses. Later combines used steam-powered engines. Modern combines have many of the same luxuries as passenger cars, such as stereo systems, and have slightly pressurised cabins to prevent the entry of dust and dirt.


Cultivators prepare the soil for planting by cutting grooves into the soil into which seeds are planted. Before the appearance of the cultivator, the soil had to be prepared by hand for planting. The first cultivators date back to the 1700s and were drawn by horses or oxen. As the cultivator continued to evolve, the addition of wheels made it easier to use and also gave the farmer better control over the depth to which the cultivator penetrated the soil. Modern cultivators are wide, preparing large sections of the field at one time, and are pulled by a tractor.


Ploughs work to loosen and turn soil, which deters weeds and improves growing. The plough is one of the earliest pieces of farming equipment, with simple versions, called ard, dating back before 1000 A.D. Plows were pulled by oxen or horses. When settlers first began to farm in the western U.S., the prairie grasses were so thick that ploughs could not cut through them. This problem was solved in 1836 by John Deere, whose company still manufactures farm equipment today. After the tractor was invented, ploughs were, for a short time, also powered by internal combustion engines. Modern ploughs, however, attach to tractors.

Hay Balers

Hay bailers collect cut grasses and compact them into rectangular- or round-shaped bales for easy storage. Prior to the invention of the bailer, hay was stored in the tops of barns, where it took up considerable room. In the 19th century, horse-powered bailers came into use, and the evolution of the bailer followed that of many farm machines with steam-powered versions eventually replacing the horses. Eventually, the steam-powered bailers, too, were replaced by internal combustion engines. Today's bailers are pulled behind a tractor and create the familiar round hay bales seen in fields.

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