Two wheel tractors, also known as walking tractors or walk behind tractors, are relatively affordable and quite versatile. They provide cheap, reliable power to plough fields and vegetable patches, drive generators, threshing machines and water pumps, and even convert to handy rural people-carriers.
The engines can be 12 or 15 hp and come with 6 or 8 speed gearboxes. And in top gear they can be dangerously fast! They have been available in South Africa for well over 25 years, and second-hand machines are now to be found at auctions and tractor dealerships.
Two wheel tractors have the major advantage that, being so basic, there is very little that can go wrong with them. The engine has, literally, only a handful of moving parts. Moreover, being so common, spares are not hard to find.
They do require some skill to operate, otherwise they can be lethal.
And while they can do all the things a conventional tractor can do ~ rip, plough, rotavate, cut, rake and haul trailers ~ each operation requires a specially designed implement. There is a large range of interchangeable implements, such as mealie planter, potato planter and harvester, peanut planter and harvester, wheat planter and harvester, vegetable planters, plough, ditcher, lawn mower, water pump, and a ride-on trailer.
Two-wheelers can be used as walk-behinds or ride-ons, the choice depending on the use and the buyer. Again, the change from walk-behind to ride-on entails no more than hitching a wheeled driver’s seat to the engine bit. In the case of trailers (for goods or people) the driver’s seat and the trailer are sometimes one unit.
In light soils on smallholdings or small farms they are ideal, getting the job of cultivating done just as effectively as a four-wheel machine.
But, not unnaturally, each implement is an add-on, and an add-on cost. So while the cost of the tractor (engine, gearbox and drive wheels) may appear cheap, the cost of the implements ~ say a plough, grass cutter, driver’s seat and trailer can double, or more than double, the total cost.