Though the average person may not give it much thought, agricultural machinery makes modern life possible. Without this level of mechanization in agriculture, crop production could not meet the nutritional and material requirements of today’s population.
This is part of the reason why there’s an ongoing effort to improve the power and efficiency of all types of farm equipment.
From autonomous farm vehicles to better soil testing and analysis software, modern farm equipment is advancing rapidly, but it also needs to balance mechanized capabilities with crop sustainability and land fertility.
Tech companies and agricultural manufacturers are now trying to meet these requirements through innovations that greatly enhance standard equipment, as well as other solutions that may change the future of farming.
Modern Agriculture Equipment And Its Uses
In mechanized agriculture, most aspects of planting are completed by machine. Soil preparation, or tillage, usually serves as a starting point. In the past, this was completed by plows but is now mostly done through the work of tractors.
Tractors are equipped with various implements that either push or pull to loosen soil and remove weeds. Tractors can also play a role in the sowing of seeds, although this is more often done with seeders, planters, and transplanters.
Mechanical planters facilitate quick and uniform planting by sowing seeds at the correct depth and in rows that are properly spaced.
This also maximizes the quantity of crops on a field. Self-propelled sprayers then do the work of fostering and protecting crop growth by distributing fertilizer and pesticides.
When it comes time to harvest, combines, threshers, and other harvesters remove crops from the ground and separate waste material like leaves and stems.
In the case of grass-based crops, like alfalfa and oat hay, bailers are used to compress blades for easy storage. Farming trucks are then used to transport crops for distribution and sale.
While these farm vehicles are some of the most common, other mechanized equipment is used as well, including agricultural aircraft.
Sometimes known as “air tractors” these small airplanes and helicopters can be used to survey large areas of farmland and also aid in the distribution of pesticides and other treatments.
Much of this powered equipment has been operating in fields since the advent of the internal combustion engine—or even earlier, as in the case of steam-powered tractors that replaced oxen-pulled machinery.
The overall form and function of farming vehicles and equipment haven’t changed drastically over the last few decades, but the way these machines get the job done is becoming a lot more sophisticated.
Upcoming Changes In Farm Tools And Equipment
As with other industries, automation is a major disruptor in agricultural equipment. The adoption of GPS-driven farm vehicles, satellite crop monitoring, and agriculture drones are just a few examples of how technology is giving farmers more control over their crop management.
One of the more recent and talked-about developments is self-driving tractors and other autonomous agricultural equipment.
These driverless farming vehicles expand on the capabilities of GPS-guided steering. They can use real-time data to respond to changing soil conditions, planting and harvesting requirements, and other factors that farmers would otherwise need to intervene on.
Apart from removing the guesswork, autonomous farm vehicles may fill many of the gaps left by a growing agricultural labor shortage.
The prospects of this new technology sound exciting, but there are still some equipment problems that need to be addressed. One is the weight of most farm equipment, which so far has limited the use of battery-powered, EV technology in heavy agricultural machinery. This has greatly hindered the sustainability of agricultural machinery.
It’s not just the environmental footprint of modern machinery; the bigger farming equipment gets, the more it can be counterproductive to optimal growing conditions.
New studies have shown that wide tires and weighty machinery continuously compress soil, thereby hindering crop access to water and nutrients and worsening low-oxygen conditions.
So even as the load is lightened through digital and automated crop management, many practical improvements are still needed in modern farm equipment.