For these reasons (environmental enhancement, sustainability) intensive research and development in renewable fuels (including oilseed oils and alcohols) continues and has lead to a small number of commercial applications in niche markets. The future market for renewable fuel use is difficult to predict but will remain an active issue in the continuing debate on alternative fuels for vehicles including agricultural vehicles. Finally, the use of on-farm generated electricity, as opposed to that purchased from a utility, is discussed below (see also, Agriculture and Autonomous Power Supply).
The history of agricultural growth and mechanization in some of today's industrial countries illustrates this generalization. In 1880, factor endowments differed widely among these countries, with Japan having only 0.65 hectares of land per male worker and the United States about forty times as much (see Binswanger and Ruttan 1978, tables 3-1 and 3-2).
Local autonomous power supply systems are generally limited to stationary applications which, although of vital importance to farm mechanization, still represent a considerably smaller fraction of total energy than that used in mobile mechanization systems powered by tractors and other engine-driven vehicular equipment.Apart from tractors, the agricultural equipment that has most caught the public imagination has been crop harvesters probably because of their (frequently massive) size, multiplicity of functions and bewildering variety of designs reflecting the huge variety in crop products and growth patterns whether the product to be harvested resides in the soil, above the soil surface, or on bushes or trees. Harvesting equipment is described in detail in Harvesters (EOLSS on-line, 2002).Thus, huge savings in labor have accrued from engine-driven mechanization systems in the developed world, which in turn have been rapidly followed by rural depopulation. The societal impact of rural depopulation has not been adequately addressed.
Oil from oilseeds such as rapeseed, corn oil or sunflower oil, needs to be esterified to reduce its viscosity close to that of diesel before use in a diesel engine. The oil from oilseeds cannot be regarded as a potentially economic byproduct in the same way as sugarcane bagasse, a byproduct of sugar manufacture used as feed stock for manufacture of car alcohol fuel, or straw from cereals, used as fuel in boilers, are so regarded.