July - September 2013
Engineering inputs to agriculture by way of mechanization have increased considerably during the recent years. Agricultural mechanization that started with sharpened stones, wooden and metallic tools has now moved to electric operated sophisticated machineries, all to meet the timeliness of farm operations, reducing drudgery, capacity enhancement and efficient utilization of inputs. As early as in 400 BC, Krishi Parashara provides details of farm mechanization, tools as well as practices, indicating the best possible real-time farm management solutions. It is only during the past four centuries that agricultural mechanization growth experienced steep upward trend as a result of industrial revolution. Introduction of internal combustion engines and tractors, as power source, provided immense possibilities of covering large agricultural areas in a short period. For example, a pair of bullocks would plough 1 ha area in about 120 hr, whereas a tractor operation would be over in just 5 hr. Although agricultural mechanization transformed agriculture from subsistence to a commercial enterprise in the western world, the history in India is only about six decade-old.
Research and development on farm implements and machinery has facilitated production and adoption of different tools, implements and machines suitable to carry out farm operations manually, through draught animals, and through mechanical and electrical prime movers. Laser assisted land levellers, seed and fertilizer drills, paddy seeders, transplanters, rotavators, sprayers, weeders, irrigation pumps, micro-irrigation systems, reapers, combine-harvesters, sugarcane harvesters and threshers are some popular farm machineries in India. The Indian farm machinery industry constitutes 10% of the global market and is growing at about 5% per annum. Today, farm machinery and power industry accounts for over ` 50,000 crore of annual sales excluding farm implements and machinery manufactured/ fabricated by the village craftsmen. Manufacturing of agricultural equipments through 250 medium-to large-scale, 2,500 small-scale, and 15,000 tiny units is mainly concentrated in Punjab, Haryana, western Uttar Pradesh, Terai region of Uttarakhand, and Tamil Nadu. Impact analysis of some popular farm technologies showed that annual monetary benefit to the country through the use of these equipment/ technologies has reached the level of about ` 100,000 crore. About 87% of the total operational energy for agriculture is electro-mechanical. There are about 5 million tractors and other self-propelled machines and 19 million pumps on Indian farms. The power availability on Indian farms is about 1.7 kW/ha at present. There is a close correlation between degree of agricultural mechanization, energy use and agricultural production and productivity. Post-harvest management of agricultural produce do involve mechanization and equipment that still requires special attention and has economic bearing on the gross yield. The ICAR institutes, viz. Central Institute of Agricultural Engineering, Bhopal, and Central Institute of Post-Harvest Engineering Technology, Ludhiana, have been carrying out successful development of appropriate machinery in partnership with machinery manufacturers leading to elimination of gestation period in the development of machinery and its availability to stakeholders. Addressing gender issues in design of agricultural machines has been a major concern that is being inclusively addressed by the ICAR considering the ergonomics and energy efficiency. The state agricultural universities do develop commodity- and location-specific implements and machines to meet the farm mechanization needs. Realizing the productivity constraints, ICAR analyzed the gaps in availability and accessibility of existing farm equipment and machinery to correct regional imbalances. It is felt that the availability of farm machinery is greatly constrained due to inadequate manufacturing capability, which is mostly in unorganized sector and concentrated in a few pockets only. There is generally a large gestation period between the machinery development and its availability to the farmers, indicating the need for an enabling mechanism to reduce this gestation period.
To bridge the gaps identified in farm mechanization under different agro-climatic conditions, especially in the field of horticulture and fisheries a functional networking is being worked out by the ICAR to address the associated problems and evaluate the possible solutions. During XII Five-Year Plan, ICAR is focusing on-farm mechanization and energy in a consortia research mode. While the spread of agricultural mechanization has been spatially nonuniform the potential for intensive mechanization is still very high. Profitability and sustainability of Indian agriculture with inclusive growth requires well distributed efforts in appropriate mechanization and energy management. As mechanization is a resource intensive venture, custom hiring of improved agricultural machinery could help the small- and marginal-farmers to reap the benefits of mechanization with little or no capital investment. Various models for promotion of custom hiring activities at village/village cluster level needs to be tried out, considering the existing socio-economic and infrastructural frame work available in various parts of the country. There is a need to establish Farm Machinery Resource Centres and Farm Machinery Bank and Display Centres at village/ village cluster level. Further, trainings for village artisans and entrepreneurs in machinery repair and maintenance is being encouraged. Industry-driven farm equipment display centres need to be created in different regions for creating greater awareness among farmers and entrepreneurs. Future farmers would be well informed and techsavy professionals who would access real time information on natural resources available including weather data to precisely plan the production activities utilizing the modern machinery. A significant portion of production activity whether crops, livestocks or fishery would be in the form of protected production technology. However, there would still be other not-so-enabled farmers who would need considerable support for sustaining the farming activity. Although people would own their small farms, they would become a part of some sort of cooperative plan. Such people would generally be working in cities and maintaining their links with the cooperatives utilizing their farm holdings.
Future research and development efforts in smartfarm mechanization is steered not only to develop machinery for those operations for which no suitable machinery exists today, but also for efficient use of resources, combating extreme climatic conditions, conserving environment and working in special or difficult agro-climates. The ICAR is continuing its efforts to develop machineries that has multiple agricultural functions and test their feasibility for popularization amongst the farmers to enable them to achieve smart farming