Examples include herbicide application based on sensed soil organic matter content, and anhydrous ammonia application in growing maize based on sensed soil nitrate level. This is a complex technology that requires a major investment in research and development. The pay-off will derive from the savings accrued due to lower use of expensive agrochemicals, environmental protection and sustainability.
Typically, harvesting represents the final stage of crop production at field level and essentially brings the farming season to a close. In many cases, harvesting is the most labor intensive farm operation and not infrequently associated with the drudgery of rural life. The development of machines that could successfully harvest most if not all agricultural crops has been greeted with enthusiasm. And yet challenges remain.
The concept of timeliness recognizes that there is an optimum time to perform certain crop production operations from planting through to harvesting. If one or more of these operations is performed too early or too late, a timeliness penalty is likely to accrue, that is, yield and/or the quality of the crop is diminished, yielding a lower price to the farmer. For example, the ideal time to harvest grain is when the crop is ripe and the moisture is low (see also, Maintaining Working Conditions and Operation of Machinery).For example, in an extensively farmed area of Africa where hoe cultivation is used yields may be low, while in an intensively farmed tractorized region of India yields may be much higher. The yield differences may be caused in part by differences in other inputs, such as fertilizers or seeds. They could also be caused by better tillage in India-but this does not mean that good tillage is achieved only by tractors and cannot be achieved by hand. Examples from Java show that cultivation by hand can be as thorough as by ox or tractor.Agricultural mechanization has involved the partial or full replacement of human energy and animal-powered equipment (e.g. plows, seeders and harvesters) by engine-driven equipment. Most of this is tractor driven and to a lesser extent self-propelled equipment (including harvesters, sprayers, fertilizer applicators, planters and seeders). Agricultural mechanization has been pioneered in North America and Europe and more recently in Japan, and is now spreading rapidly throughout the world. Notwithstanding such progress, a significant element of human and animal powered mechanization remains, particularly in the poorer regions of the world.
Food production can be increased if the primary producer or farmer is provided with a guaranteed profitable income for the farm produce. With such guarantees the farmer can invest in the necessary inputs including mechanization to increase productivity, secure in the knowledge that, as productivity increases, income will increase enabling payback and facilitating further investment as required.