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New tractor feature from 65 years ago: Power steering

Looking Back: John Deere added power steering to its tractor’s amenities in 1956.

Jacky Goerzen

December 30, 2020

2 Min Read
Ad in Kansas Farmer from 1956 when John Deere added power steering to its latest tractor models
COMFORT FACTOR: When John Deere added power steering to its latest tractor models in 1956, farmers were able to work longer hours with less physical stress. The tractor also offered a deep-cushion, fully adjustable seat. P.J. Griekspoor

There was something new on the market 65 years ago, in the late winter of 1956: power steering for your tractor.

An advertisement of the day touted the ease of steering that allowed a farmer to “finish up the day without tired arms and aching shoulders.” The new John Deere power steering tractor also featured “live” hydraulic Power-Trol, a two-cylinder engine design, a “live” power shaft and a deep-cushion, fully adjustable seat.

60 years ago

With wheat supplies continuing to be in surplus, Kansas growers were thinking about what they could plant that might offer a better return during the late winter of 1961.

Two crops were being considered: castor beans under irrigation in the southwestern part of the state and soybeans in eastern Kansas.

Extension agents pointed out that castor beans offered a net of around $32 per acre, compared to grain sorghum, which was bringing growers about $23 per acre.

The 1961 soybean outlook, meanwhile, was promising, with markets opening up in at least five Latin American countries.

50 years ago

Kubota Ltd., the largest farm equipment manufacturer in Japan, entered the U.S. market in 1971. It initially offered a 21-hp model and announced plans to add two others, one with 16 hp and the other with 26.

The 21-hp diesel L-200 was priced at $2,000 in the U.S.

30 years ago

Kansas State University received a $1.3 million grant in February 1981 to finance a study on how the prairie responds to various factors, including burning, grazing, flood, drought and other natural forces.

The study centered on the 13-square-mile Konza Prairie. It involved stocking a pasture with elk, deer and antelope; another with cattle; and a third left ungrazed.

Scientists said one goal of the study was to improve range management practices.

25 years ago

Efforts were just beginning in February 1996 to get Sericea lespedeza declared a noxious weed, as it invaded native pastures across the Kansas Flint Hills, crowding out desirable grasses. It had initially been planted as a crop for forage, wildlife and erosion control.

Goerzen is executive director of Old Cowtown Museum. She writes from Wichita, Kan.

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