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.
The emphasis is on the adoption of mechanized techniques in farming systems which are already using animal draft. The issues surrounding the introduction of animal draft where only hand cultivation is practiced are discussed in Pingali, Bigot, and Binswanger (1985). Instead of a summary or conclusions, a set of generalizations is presented in the text.
Such machinery has facilitated the full or partial replacement of human- and animal-powered equipment in developed countries and increasingly in developing countries as well. The net result has been higher productivity and the welcome elimination of much of the drudgery of manual farm labor. For example, one person involved in agricultural production can now provide enough food and fiber for 128 others whereas only a century ago one person could provide food and fiber for only eight others (see also, Technology and Power in Agriculture).In the meantime, it is imperative that human and animal powered mechanization is made as efficient and attractive as possible to eliminate some of the drudgery associated with it. Substantial investment in research and development by governments, industry and international agencies is required to achieve this goal. For example, it has been proposed that state-of-the-art precision farming technologies could be integrated with animal powered mechanization to enhance land productivity through precise application of crop nutrients and environmentally sensitive tillage systems.The scale of the investment required may be determined from comprehensive data on farm mechanization costs (see also, Expenditures and Returns). For instance, the current cost of mechanization in the UK is about 20 % of total farm input costs (Table 1). Table 1. Breakdown of farm input costs (UK inputs) (see also, Expenditures and Returns).
Precision farming practices including the use of global positioning systems (GPS) and geographic information systems (GIS) are applicable not only to harvesting operations but to other farm mechanization operations including precision application of agrochemicals i.e. applying a pesticide or a crop nutrient where it is required and at the appropriate concentration rather than using blanket coverage.