Power take off (PTO) explained

Power take-off (PTO) is a widely-used power generation process. It’s a method of taking power from one power source and transferring it to another application. For example, PTO can consist of using power generated by a running engine and transmitting this into an attached implement or a completely different machine. It’s very useful for applications where a secondary power source isn’t available or practical - like in the middle of a paddock!

Power take-off

Here at AgriQuip, when we talk about PTO we are typically referring to tractor power take-off. This is where the tractor engine itself creates energy which is then transferred to an attached implement. Tractors are incredible machines and are an essential workhorse on almost every farm and lifestyle block across New Zealand. This makes them the perfect source of power for many attachments used on the land.

Primarily, tractors are used for pulling implements, which is why powered implements are often designed with PTO capabilities. Tractor PTO is an excellent tool for jobs outside of pulling implements as well, including pumping water, spraying, threshing, and more. Almost any job where a tractor’s massive engine could be the ideal power source will use PTO.

From a more scientific perspective, PTO generates transferable engine power which is provided to implements. This power is converted from engine rotation to mechanical rotation or hydraulic power, which has the ability to move large implements without using nearly as much power.

History of PTO

While PTO is a common farming practice today, it wasn’t always as readily available. Prior to power take-offs, there were various alternative methods of power transmission. Although, these weren’t always the most efficient or practical and would certainly have benefitted from some of the characteristics of PTO. 

For example, flat belts were a popular choice for power transmission years ago. However, they did have their pitfalls, such as only functioning when the vehicle was stationary and stable, as commonly seen in steam trains. Clearly, this wouldn’t be ideal for tractor-mounted implements as there is often a lot of vibration and uneven terrain that make the engine far from stationary. Alternatively, for vehicles that could not remain immobile, implements could be powered by drawing from one of the wheels and distributing it through roller chains. This power transmission method also has its issues because as soon as the vehicle stops moving, the power source ends. 

As early as 1878, experimental power take-offs were attempted. By the time 1918 rolled around, the International Harvester Company (IHC) pioneered the release of PTO on a production tractor. After its success, the organisation created a whole range of implements to utilise the PTO feature. Shortly after, this caught the attention of competitors who began incorporating it in their tractor designs too.

Even as PTO grew in both popularity and accessibility, it still wasn’t fully optimised just yet. All PTO tractors had to be run in conjunction with the vehicle speed. In fact, the earlier PTOs were commonly taken off the main output shaft so the tractor had to be in gear to run the PTO. Later on, this was remedied by live PTO designs which enable control of the PTO rotation independently of the tractor motion. This commonly suited applications where the tractor had to be parked or had to slow down substantially.

Nearly every PTO tractor today utilises live PTO and is controlled by either a selector switch or a simple push button which is far safer than previous options. The advancements in this technology make it a mainstay for heavy-duty tractor-based tasks.

PTO can be utilised in the middle of a paddock

PTO’s current farming applications

Modern tractor PTO is significantly more powerful than it used to be. For example, the average PTO speed was 536 rpm in 1958, but now this is approximately 1000 rpm. Present-day PTO is simply an efficient means of transferring power from one machine to another. The PTO shaft supplies power from tractor to implements while converting it to hydraulic pressure. 

PTO shafts should be checked daily, especially when used for pulling heavy loads. There are two types of PTO activation, those being: switch type and level type.

Ultimately, the invention and development of the power take-off has provided excellent adaptability in the mechanisation of farming, which has helped substantially in lowering the overall cost of food production. Instead of needing two machines to do a task, and multiple people, many can now be completed single-handedly, thanks to PTO.

AgriQuip and PTO

Here at AgriQuip we’re passionate about PTO because of the versatility and efficiency it provides. We supply several pieces of agricultural equipment that utilise it and have touched on a few of our PTO products, and why it’s excellent for these applications below.

Multicut Rotary Mowers

PTO driven

Our award-winning Multicut rotary mowers are an excellent example of an everyday attachment that wouldn’t be the same without PTO. They contain slip clutch PTO protection as well as featuring a speed of 1000 rpm. These mowers are bound to surpass your expectations with three HD3 rotors, each with a unique high lift blade design. This provides intense suction and a very fine mulch resulting in a clean cut every time. 

PTO Generators

PTO Generator

Our PTO generators don’t just utilise PTO, they actually produce power using it. They offer a cost-effective way to generate top-quality power for any emergency power needs. Being a PTO generator, they don’t have another diesel engine to maintain. This means you’ll only require the motive power to run it. Since you most likely have a tractor already, there’s no need to go to the expense of purchasing and maintaining another engine - you may as well use your tractor!

Concrete Mixers

PTO Concrete Mixer

Mixing concrete is made significantly easier by utilising the power of your tractor, and its mobility. Our range of portable mixers enables convenient mixing of specific loads exactly when and where you require it. Both products in our concrete mixers range utilise either hydraulic drive or PTO. The DBM750 supplies a PTO shaft as standard practice with hydraulic drive being the secondary option.

Saw Benches 

PTO Sawbench

The R700 Shark Sawbench is the top pick when it comes to saw benches - it takes convenience to the next level. Being portable, it can knock lengths of timber into shape anywhere at any time. The moving table feeds the timber into the saw making it incredibly safe. The R700 will cut up to 300mm and is known to slice through even the toughest of Manuka trees with ease. It is also powered by PTO which means you can cut timber at the site where the tree fell effortlessly.

McConnel Shakaerator

McConnel Shakaerator PTO driven

This high-performance deep soil -conditioner has a track record for easing compaction, promoting worm activity and increased crop and grass growth, and enhancing drainage. McConnel’s Grassland Shakaerator is world-famous for its powerful performance, low soil disturbance, low fuel usage, and low power requirements. It also utilises PTO to increase efficiency across a wide variety of working environments.

Marolin Trimmy EVO Reach Mower

Reach mower

The Marolin Trimmy EVO reach mower is compact, light, and maneuverable. Due to its lightweight nature, it's ideal for use in compact and hard-to-reach or confined spaces. Powered by PTO, this reach mower comes equipped with a 4.3 metre reach and a 3.2 metre topping height so that, in addition to confined areas, it also thrives in parks and public grounds. The Trimmy EVO is a multi-talented reach mower with both hedge cutting and light scrub mulching capabilities. It truly follows a one-tool-fits-all approach!

PTO may not be new to the farming industry, but it’s certainly still revolutionary. After years of incremental innovations, PTO has reached a point where it’s often the most viable, versatile, and functional option for your farming needs.

Are you ready to increase efficiency and lower the cost of your production output? Click the button below to learn about our PTO generators that are perfect for the job.

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