Even in countries where farming is beginning to be mechanized, power tillers and tractors are still restricted to tillage and a few other operations. This paper discusses the history of mechanization, the major reasons for the wide diversity observed, the options for developing countries in extending mechanization, and the role of government policy in influencing the choice of technology.
Until the 1950s mechanization played only a minor role. The emphasis on biological technology was supported by conscious government choice: in the late nineteenth century Japan imported machinery from the United States, but did not find it useful. It then hired biologists from Germany to assist in developing its biological research program, which was successful. The United States, however, emphasized mechanical technology even before 1880. Although publicly funded biological research was initiated in the 1870s, it did not produce big increases in yields until about 1930, well after the major land frontiers had been closed and mechanization was far advanced.