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Agricultural machinery relates to the mechanical structures and devices used in farming or other agriculture. There are many types of such equipment, from hand tools and power tools to tractors and the countless kinds of farm implements that they tow or operate. Diverse arrays of equipment are used in both organic and nonorganic farming. Especially since the advent of mechanised agriculture, agricultural machinery is an indispensable part of how the world is fed.
With the coming of the Industrial Revolution and the development of more complicated machines, farming methods took a great leap forward.Instead of harvesting grain by hand with a sharp blade, wheeled machines cut a continuous swath. Instead of threshing the grain by beating it with sticks, threshing machines separated the seeds from the heads and stalks. The first tractors appeared in the late 19th century.
Power for agricultural machinery was originally supplied by ox or other domesticated animals. With the invention of steam power came the portable engine, and later the traction engine, a multipurpose, mobile energy source that was the ground-crawling cousin to the steam locomotive. Agricultural steam engines took over the heavy pulling work of oxen, and were also equipped with a pulley that could power stationary machines via the use of a long belt. The steam-powered machines were low-powered by today's standards but, because of their size and their low gear ratios, they could provide a large drawbar pull. Their slow speed led farmers to comment that tractors had two speeds: "slow, and damn slow."
The internal combustion engine; first the petrol engine, and later diesel engines; became the main source of power for the next generation of tractors. These engines also contributed to the development of the self-propelled, combined harvester and thresher, or combine harvester (also shortened to 'combine'). Instead of cutting the grain stalks and transporting them to a stationary threshing machine, these combines cut, threshed, and separated the grain while moving continuously through the field.
Combines might have taken the harvesting job away from tractors, but tractors still do the majority of work on a modern farm. They are used to push/pull implements—machines that till the ground, plant seed, and perform other tasks.
Tillage implements prepare the soil for planting by loosening the soil and killing weeds or competing plants. The best-known is the plow, the ancient implement that was upgraded in 1838 by John Deere. Plows are now used less frequently in the U.S. than formerly, with offset disks used instead to turn over the soil, and chisels used to gain the depth needed to retain moisture.
The most common type of seeder is called a planter, and spaces seeds out equally in long rows, which are usually two to three feet apart. Some crops are planted by drills, which put out much more seed in rows less than a foot apart, blanketing the field with crops. Transplanters automate the task of transplanting seedlings to the field. With the widespread use of plastic mulch, plastic mulch layers, transplanters, and seeders lay down long rows of plastic, and plant through them automatically.
After planting, other agricultural machinery such as self-propelled sprayers can be used to apply fertilizer and pesticides. Agriculture sprayer application is a method to protect crops from weeds by using herbicides, fungicides, and insecticides. Spraying or planting a cover crop are ways to mix weed growth.
Planting crop Hay balers can be used to tightly package grass or alfalfa into a storable form for the winter months. Modern irrigation relies on machinery. Engines, pumps and other specialized gear provide water quickly and in high volumes to large areas of land. Similar types of equipment such as agriculture sprayers can be used to deliver fertilizers and pesticides.
Besides the tractor, other vehicles have been adapted for use in farming, including trucks, airplanes, and helicopters, such as for transporting crops and making equipment mobile, to aerial spraying and livestock herd management.
The basic technology of agricultural machines has changed little in the last century. Though modern harvesters and planters may do a better job or be slightly tweaked from their predecessors, the US$250,000 combine of today still cuts, threshes, and separates grain in the same way it has always been done. However, technology is changing the way that humans operate the machines, as computer monitoring systems, GPS locators and self-steer programs allow the most advanced tractors and implements to be more precise and less wasteful in the use of fuel, seed, or fertilizer. In the foreseeable future, there may be mass production of driverless tractors, which use GPS maps and electronic sensors.
Many farmers are upset by their inability to fix the new types of high-tech farm equipment.This is due mostly to companies using intellectual property law to prevent farmers from having the legal right to fix their equipment (or gain access to the information to allow them to do it). In October 2015 an exemption was added to the DMCA to allow inspection and modification of the software in cars and other vehicles including agricultural machinery.
The Open Source Agriculture movement counts different initiatives and organizations such as Farm Labs which is a network in Europe,l'Atelier Paysan which is a cooperative to teach farmers in France how to build and repair their tools, and Ekylibre which is an open-source company to provide farmers in France with open source software (SaaS) to manage farming operations. In the United States, the MIT Media Lab's Open Agriculture Initiative seeks to foster "the creation of an open-source ecosystem of technologies that enable and promote transparency, networked experimentation, education, and hyper-local production". It develops the Personal Food Computer, an educational project to create a "controlled environment agriculture technology platform that uses robotic systems to control and monitor climate, energy, and plant growth inside of a specialized growing chamber". It includes the development of Open Phenom, an open source library with open data sets for climate recipes which link the phenotype response of plants (taste, nutrition) to environmental variables, biological, genetic and resource-related necessary for cultivation (input). Plants with the same genetics can naturally vary in color, size, texture growth rate, yield, flavor and nutrient density according to the environmental conditions in which they are produced.
A threshing machine or a thresher is a piece of farm equipment that threshes grain, that is, it removes the seeds from the stalks and husks. It does so by beating the plant to make the seeds fall out.
Precision agriculture (PA), satellite farming or site specific crop management (SSCM) is a farming management concept based on observing, measuring and responding to inter and intra-field variability in crops. The goal of precision agriculture research is to define a decision support system (DSS) for whole farm management with the goal of optimizing returns on inputs while preserving resources.
A tractor is an engineering vehicle specifically designed to deliver a high tractive effort at slow speeds, for the purposes of hauling a trailer or machinery such as that used in agriculture, mining or construction. Most commonly, the term is used to describe a farm vehicle that provides the power and traction to mechanize agricultural tasks, especially tillage, but nowadays a great variety of tasks. Agricultural implements may be towed behind or mounted on the tractor, and the tractor may also provide a source of power if the implement is mechanised.
The modern combined harvester, or simply combine, is a versatile machine designed to efficiently harvest a variety of grain crops. The name derives from its combining four separate harvesting operations—reaping, threshing, gathering, and winnowing—into a single process. Among the crops harvested with a combine are wheat, rice, oats, rye, barley, corn (maize), sorghum, soybeans, flax (linseed), sunflowers and canola. The separated straw, left lying on the field, comprises the stems and any remaining leaves of the crop with limited nutrients left in it: the straw is then either chopped, spread on the field and ploughed back in or baled for bedding and limited-feed for livestock.
A reaper is a farm implement or person that reaps crops at harvest when they are ripe. Usually the crop involved is a cereal grass. The first documented reaping machines were Gallic reaper that was used in modern-day France during Roman times. The Gallic reaper involved a comb which collected the heads, with an operator knocking the grain into a box for later threshing.
John Deere is the brand name of Deere & Company, an American corporation that manufactures agricultural, construction, and forestry machinery, diesel engines, drivetrains used in heavy equipment, and lawn care equipment. In 2019, it was listed as 87th in the Fortune 500 America's ranking and was ranked 329th in the global ranking. The company also provides financial services and other related activities.
AGCO Corporation is an American agricultural machinery manufacturer with its headquarters in Duluth, Georgia, United States.
A swather, or windrower, is a farm implement that cuts hay or small grain crops and forms them into a windrow. "Swather" is predominantly the North American term for these machines. In Australia and other parts of the world, they are called "windrowers". They aid harvesting by speeding up the process of drying the crop down to a moisture content suitable for harvesting and storage.
A cultivator is any of several types of farm implement used for secondary tillage. One sense of the name refers to frames with teeth that pierce the soil as they are dragged through it linearly. Another sense refers to machines that use rotary motion of disks or teeth to accomplish a similar result. The rotary tiller is a principal example.
Mechanised agriculture is the process of using agricultural machinery to mechanise the work of agriculture, greatly increasing farm worker productivity. In modern times, powered machinery has replaced many farm jobs formerly carried out by manual labour or by working animals such as oxen, horses and mules.
Case IH is a brand of agricultural equipment. It was created in 1985 when Tenneco bought selected assets of the agricultural division from International Harvester and merged it into its J.I. Case Company Today Case IH is owned by CNH Industrial, which in turn is financially controlled by the Italian investment company Exor, which belongs to the Agnelli family.
The Case Corporation was a manufacturer of construction equipment and agricultural equipment. Founded, in 1842, by Jerome Increase Case as the J. I. Case Threshing Machine Company, it operated under that name for most of a century. For another 66 years it was the J. I. Case Company, and was often called simply Case. In the late 19th century, Case was one of America's largest builders of steam engines, producing self-propelled portable engines, traction engines and steam tractors. It was a major producer of threshing machines and other harvesting equipment, The company also produced various machinery for the U.S. military. In the 20th century, Case was among the ten largest builders of farm tractors for many years. In the 1950s its construction equipment line became its primary focus, with agricultural business second.
New Holland is a global brand of agricultural machinery produced by CNH Industrial. New Holland agricultural products include tractors, combine harvesters, balers, forage harvesters, self-propelled sprayers, haying tools, seeding equipment, hobby tractors, utility vehicles and implements, and grape harvesters.
The Avery Company, founded by Robert Hanneman Avery, was an American farm tractor manufacturer famed for its undermounted engine which resembled a railroad engine more than a conventional farm steam engine. Avery founded the farm implement business after the Civil War. His company built a large line of products, including steam engines, beginning in 1891. The company started with a return flue design and later adapted the undermount style, including a bulldog design on the smokebox door. Their design was well received by farmers in central Illinois. They expanded their market nationwide and overseas until the 1920s, when they failed to innovate and the company faltered. They manufactured trucks for a period of time, and then automobiles. until they finally succumbed to an agricultural crisis and the Depression.
Daniel Best was an American adventurer, inventor, and entrepreneur known for pioneering agriculture machinery and heavy machinery.
The Gleaner Manufacturing Company is an American manufacturer of combine harvesters. Gleaner has been a popular brand of combine harvester particularly in the Midwestern United States for many decades, first as an independent firm, and later as a division of Allis-Chalmers. The Gleaner brand continues today under the ownership of AGCO.
A driverless tractor is an autonomous farm vehicle that delivers a high tractive effort at slow speeds for the purposes of tillage and other agricultural tasks. It is considered driverless because it operates without the presence of a human inside the tractor itself. Like other unmanned ground vehicles, they are programmed to independently observe their position, decide speed, and avoid obstacles such as people, animals, or objects in the field while performing their task. The various driverless tractors are split into full autonomous technology and supervised autonomy. The idea of the driverless tractor appears as early as 1940, but the concept has significantly evolved in the last few years. The tractors use GPS and other wireless technologies to farm land without requiring a driver. They operate simply with the aid of a supervisor monitoring the progress at a control station or with a manned tractor in lead.
The agricultural machinery industry or agricultural engineering industry is the part of the industry, that produces and maintain tractors, agricultural machinery and agricultural implements. This branch is considered to be part of the machinery industry.
This glossary of agriculture is a list of definitions of terms and concepts used in agriculture, its sub-disciplines, and related fields. For other glossaries relevant to agricultural science, see Glossary of biology, Glossary of ecology, Glossary of environmental science, and Glossary of botany.
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