Farming is what feeds us all, yet, most people know nothing about it. It’s a shame, because farming equipment is more than just some boring tractors – there are a lot of very interesting machines. Some of them are so strange that it is difficult to guess their function. For example, take a look at this picture of an International Harvester tractor – what is this weird machine doing?
We can give you a couple of hints. First of all, the picture was taken in the middle of California, USA, around September. Secondly, those orange flowers are marigold. Finally, the machine you see in the picture wasn’t actually made to do the job it is doing.
So what is this tractor doing? And what was its original function? Take a look at the picture – answers below.
This tractor was manufactured by the International Harvester and it is pictured harvesting seeds. It is, essentially, a large vacuum cleaner, sucking in seeds straight from marigold flowers. These plants are known for their strong smell and a bright yellow or orange colour. Usually, marigolds are used as decoration – people simply plant them by their houses. However, some varieties of marigold can be used as food dye, soup flavouring, perfume additive and so on. In fact, marigold flowers are sometimes planted near gardens just because their strong aroma is believed to repulse deers and rabbits.
But, coming back to the tractor, this International Harvester was not actually designed to be a seed harvester. It started its life as 2-row cotton picker – most likely a 612 or 622 model. As you can see in the picture, all the cotton picking devices have been removed to fit vacuum nozzles and a big box at the back. It seems like this conversion was done at home, which would make this tractor unique. Collected seeds can later be processed, sold or planted in some fresh soil.
International Harvester 612 (622) cotton picker is actually a great machine for the task. It is tall, has a lot of ground clearance, its tires are quite narrow and it only has three of them – the rear wheel is steering the machine. This means that flowers are not too damaged during the deseeding procedure. Similar 2-row cotton pickers are sometimes transformed into sprayers, but several remain picking cotton – despite being not as efficient as some of the more modern machines. The International Harvester 612 (622) cotton picker used to look like this (from 2:10):
So that is the answer – the tractor you saw at the beginning of the article is a former cotton picker on seed-harvesting duty. It is interesting that people come up with these ideas and still employ these old machines. It is a nice way of preserving these old workhorses.