A tractor is a farm machine which is equipped with powerful large diesel engines. It is primarily designed to pull implements and haul load. These farm machines are employed for various agricultural activities, including harvesting, ploughing, and sowing. But the tractor has taken years to get here. In this article, we will take stock of the invention of tractor till its present status. We will basically discuss about its origin, evolution, and present situation in the Indian context.
Initially, steam engines were only used in factories, but their possibility was soon realized for agricultural machines. And thus, the first tractor invented in the late 18th century, used the steam engine. In 1868, an American farmer named John Froelich built the first gasoline-powered tractor, which was a precursor to the modern farm tractor.
However, the first commercially successful farm tractor was not manufactured until 1892, by the Charles W. Hart and Charles H. Parr Company in Charles City, Iowa. This tractor was a single-cylinder gasoline-powered machine that could pull a plough and other farm implements.
Over the next few decades, the farm tractor continued to evolve, with improvements in engine technology, transmission systems, and the design of the tractor itself. In the 1920s, the introduction of the four-wheel-drive tractor allowed farmers to work on rough terrain and pull heavier loads. The first diesel-powered tractor was also introduced in the 1920s, which was more efficient and powerful than gasoline-powered tractors.
During World War II, farm tractors became even more important, as they were used to produce food for the troops and the general population. After the world-war, tractors became more affordable and widely available, and farmers began to mechanize their farms on a larger scale.
The tractor history in India can be traced back to the early 20th century when the country was under British rule. Since then, the Indian tractor industry has grown significantly. The early tractors in India, were primarily used for transportation purposes, but they soon became popular among farmers as a means of mechanising agriculture. But the scenario has been drastically changed now, at present India is one of the biggest tractor markets in the world.
In the 1940s, the Indian government recognised the potential of tractors in improving agricultural productivity and started importing tractors from foreign countries. However, due to the high cost of imports, the government-initiated efforts to promote indigenous production of tractors.
The India’s first indigenous tractor manufacturing company, Swaraj Tractors, was established in 1965 in Punjab. It was a joint venture between the Punjab Government and a private company, and it produced its first tractor in 1974.
Over time, many tractor manufacturing companies emerged in our country, such as Mahindra & Mahindra, Escorts, and TAFE. These companies produced tractors that were designed specifically for Indian farming conditions and were priced more affordably than imported tractors.
According to the latest statistics, India is the largest tractor market in the world, with an annual production of over 1.1 million tractors. The industry has also witnessed a significant increase in exports, with Indian tractor manufacturers exporting tractors to 100+ countries worldwide.
Farm tractors have played an important role in India for increasing agricultural production. With over 60% of the population dependent on agriculture for their livelihood, tractors have helped to mechanize farming, improve productivity, and reduce labour-intensive tasks. The present situation of farm tractors in India is positive, with the industry experiencing steady growth and demand.
Tractor industry in India has been one of the prominent success stories. The factors contributing to the growth of tractor industry are many. Some of them are:
Availability of low-cost labour has enabled manufacturers to produce tractors at lower prices than their international counterparts. This has made tractors more affordable for small and marginal farmers, who form the bulk of the farming population in India.
Another factor contributing to the growth of the tractor industry in India is the government's support and investment in agriculture. The government has launched several schemes and initiatives to promote mechanization, improve access to credit, and provide subsidies for tractor purchases.
The COVID-19 pandemic has also played a role in the growth of the tractor industry in India. With the pandemic leading to labour shortages, farmers have turned to tractors to carry out farm operations that were previously done by manual labour. This has led to increased demand for tractors and a boost in sales.
The Indian tractor industry has come a long way since the 1990s, with significant expansion within the country, particularly in the southern and eastern regions. Today, India boasts almost 29% of the world's total tractor population.
Mahindra Tractors is the No 1 tractor company brand in India, and in terms of volume it is the largest manufacturer of tractors in the world. Part of the Farm Division of M&M Group, it introduced first farm tractor, Mahindra B-275, in the year 1963 through a joint venture with International Harvester. Mahindra Gujarat and Swaraj Tractors are its subsidiaries.
John Deere, a leading exporter of tractors, is one of the world’s oldest tractor manufacturing companies. It is known for manufacturing innovative and powerful tractors. Always a front runner in bringing innovation, the John Deere India has become synonomous with heavy-duty tractors. In 2023, John Deere India celebrated its Silver Jubilee (25 years) of establishment.
New Holland Tractors is a brand of Turin-based CNH Global. It is among the oldest tractor manufacturing companies in the world. In India, New Holland Agriculture started its operation in 1996 with its headquarters in Greater Noida.
Sonalika Tractors is an Indian company, which is globally popular as International Tractors Ltd. It was founded by current oldest billionaire of the world Shri Lachman Das Mittal. Since the launch of its first tractor in India in 1996, today it has market presence in almost 130 countries of the world. It established world’s no 1 Integrated Tractor Manufacturing Plant in Hoshiarpur, Punjab.
Eicher Tractors, also known as Eicher GoodEarth in India, was established in late 1930s by two brothers Joseph and Albert in Munich, Germany. It entered India in the year 1959. It is the first company to introduce a fully integrated tractor in India. Eicher sold the tractor business to TAFE in 2005.
TAFE was established in the year 1960 to market Massey Ferguson brand in India. TAFE is an Indian company based in Chennai, Tamil Nadu. Currently, it sells Massey Ferguson and Eicher tractors, and is the second-largest manufacturer of tractors in India.
Escort Group was founded in the year 1944 by two brothers Har Prasad and Yudi Nanda. Currently branded as Escorts Kubota Ltd, the company sells 22 HP to 80 HP tractors under the Powertrac and Farmtrac brand names.
Tractors play a vital role in India's agricultural sector, with most farmers depending on them. Tractors have played a key role in India's development and will continue to do so as the country cements its position as a world power. With major players like Mahindra, John Deere, and New Holland Agriculture, the Indian tractor industry is poised for further growth in the coming years.
However, there are challenges that the tractor industry in India still faces. One of the challenges is the lack of infrastructure, such as good quality roads, which can limit the use of tractors in certain areas. Another challenge is the need for better aftersales service and support for tractors, especially in rural areas where access to maintenance and repair services is limited.
Despite these challenges, the present situation of farm tractors in India is positive, with the industry poised for continued growth and innovation. With the government's support, the availability of low-cost labour, and advances in technology, the tractor industry is set to play a critical role in the development of agriculture in India and the country's overall economic growth.
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