The projected gradual increase in the use of renewable fuels coupled with state-of-the-art advances in mechanization, such as precision farming, means that the goal of high productivity may be coupled with sustainable strategies and environmental protection. Precision application of agrochemicals is an exciting and active area of research where pesticides and fertilizers are applied only where they are needed and at the appropriate concentration to elicit an optimum response. This approach requires accurate information on soil fertility and pest activity and an applicator that can automatically vary the application rate as desired.
The harvesting of delicate fruits (strawberries, raspberries, grapes, plums) and vegetables (tomatoes, mushrooms, lettuce) for the fresh market has not been successfully completed despite a substantial investment in crop breeding and mechanization research. Machines that can harvest such delicate biological tissues, generally inflict too much damage on a product destined for the fresh market but have been successful with product destined for processing. Selective harvesting is another substantial challenge facing researchers in the fruit and vegetable sector in particular. During the nineteenth century many attempts were made to develop harvesting machinery in Europe and the United States.