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Mechanization of Agriculture: Meaning, Benefits and Progress

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In this article we will discuss about:- 1. Meaning of Mechanization of Agriculture 2. Benefits of Mechanization of Agriculture 3. Case against Mechanisation 4. Scope in India 5. Progress.

Meaning of Mechanization of Agriculture:

In G. D. Aggarwal’s words, “Farm mechanization is a term used in a very broad’ sense. It not only includes the use of machines, whether mobile or immobile, small or large, run by power and used for tillage operations, harvesting and thrashing but also includes power lifts for irrigation, trucks for haulage of farm produce, processing machines, dairy appliances for cream separating, butter making, oil pressing, cotton ginning, rice hulling, and even various electrical home appliances like radios, irons, washing machines, vacuum cleaners and hot plates.”

According to Dr. Bhattacharjee, “Mechanization of agriculture and farming process connotes application of machine power to work on land, usually performed by bullocks, horses and other draught animals or by human labour.”

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According to Dr. C. B. Memoria, “It (mechanization) chiefly consists in either replacing, or assisting or doing away with both the animal and human labour in farming by mechanical power wherever possible.”

“Mechanization may be either partial or complete. It is partial when only a part of the farm work is done by machine. When animal or human labour is completely dispensed with by power supplying machines, it is termed as complete.”

“Broadly speaking mechanization of agriculture has two forms mobile mechanization and the stationary types of mechanization. The former attempts to replace animal power on which agriculture has been based for very many centuries; while the latter aims at reducing the drudgery of certain operations which have to be performed cither by human labour or by a combined effort of human beings and animals.”

Benefits of Mechanization of Agriculture:

(1) It Increases Production:

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Mechanization increases the rapidity and speed of work with which farming operations can be performed. According to D. R. Bomford, “The ploughman with his three-horse am controlled three- horse; power, when given a medium-sized crawler tractor controlled between 20 to 30 horse power. His output, there-fore, went up in the ratio of about 8: 1.”

According to B. K. S. Jain, “In the U.S.A. a labourer who formerly ploughed one acre of land with a pair of horses is now able to account for 12 acres a day with a gasoline-driven tractor. By this quickening of agricultural practices the human labour required is minimised. Over a period of three decades in U.S.A., a study revealed that one-third increase was due to the use of chemicals: another one third due to better varieties, and wealthier seeds, while another one-third was due to improved farm machinery.”

According to Roy D Laird, “A more recent and more spectacular development in mechanization of agriculture has been brought in the U.S.S.R., where four times the agricultural output became that of 1913 and grain production alone increased by 70 per cent by 1960. By 1965 Socialist Competition, increased electrification and more machinery were supposed to induce a 100% increase in the efficiency of agricultural labour in that country.”

(2) It Increases Efficiency and Per Man Productivity:

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Mechanization raises the efficiency of labour and enhances the farm production per worker. By its nature it reduces the quantum of labour needed to produce a unit of output. In the U.S.A., “the amount of human labour used to produce 100 bushels of wheat dropped from 320 hours in the year 1830 to 108 hours in 1900; by 1940 a new series of improvements has reduced labour requirements to 47 hours.” (Bureau of Agricultural Economics).

According to Hecht and Barton, “Before the World War I. it took, about 35 man hrs. to grow and harvest an acre of corn ; 15.2 hrs. for an acre of wheat and 15.7 hrs. for an acre of oat. In 1945-48, the labour requirements were 23.7, 6.1 and 8.1 man hours respectively. The combined, effect of fewer hours and more bushels per acre has resulted in more than halving labour requirements per unit of production. The number of man-hours required in 1910-14 per 100 bushels of corn was 135, of wheat 106 and of oat 58; in 1945- 48, the corresponding figures were 67,34 and 23 respectively.”

“It is estimated that productivity per man on farms in U.S.A. is about four and a half times that in the U.S.S.R.” (Jusny) “In the U.S.S.R. in collective farms, production has raised labour productivity to a high level compared with the pre- revolutionary days; now labour is three times more productive there.” (Anisimov)

(3) Mechanization Increases the Yield of Land Per Unit of Area:

S.E. Johnson holds that “of 28 per cent increase in farm output in U.S.A., above the average of 1934-39 only about one-fourth is due to better weather, probably less than 15 per cent has resulted from expansion of crop, land acreage and the rest, about 60 per cent is largely accounted for by the fuller use of the improvements in crops, live stocks and machinery. Increase in the yield of crops, due to mechanization of farms, has been traced from 40 to 50 per cent in the case of maize; 15 to 20 per cent in Bajra and Paddy; 30 to 40 per cent in Jowar, Groundnut and Wheat.”

(4) Mechanization Results in Lower Cost of Work.

It has been accepted by all that one of the methods of reducing unit costs is to enlarge the size c* the farms and go in for more intensive farming. It is found that the cost of production and the yields can be adjusted properly if mechanization is resorted to.

(5) It Contracts the Demand for Work Animals for ploughing water lifting, harvesting, transport etc.:

In actual operation, costs amount to little when machines are idle, whereas the cost of maintenance of draught animals remains the same during both periods of working and idleness, because animals have to be fed whether they are doing work or not. It is advantageous to use tractors when a great deal of work has to be done in a short time.

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(6) It Brings in other Improvements in Agricultural Technique:

In its training come improvements in the sphere of irrigation, land reclamation and the prevention of soil erosion. The present-day dependence on the monsoon as the only irrigation of crops in India can be obtained by a more scientific approach.

Besides, ploughing by tractor reclaims more land and thereby extends the cultivated area as the tractor smoothens hillocks, fills in depressions and gullies and eradicate deeps-rooted weeds. It also prevents soil erosion. Besides mechanical fertilization, contour bunding and terracing are done by mechanical methods with the help of self-propelled graders and terraces.

(7) It Modifies Social Structure in Rural Areas:

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It results in a significant modification of the social structure in rural areas. It frees the farmers from much of the laborious, tedious, hard work on the farms. The pressure on land decreases and the status of the farmers improves.

(8) It Leads to Commercial Agriculture:

Mechanisation results in a shift from ‘subsistence farming’ to ‘commercial agriculture. This shift occurs mainly due to the need for more land and capital to be associated with farmer in order to reap the full technological benefits.

This in its turn gives rise two tendencies:

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(i) Gradual replacement of domestic or family by commercial methods, and

(ii) Search for international markets for agricultural produce.

(9) It Solves the Problem of Labour Shortage:

In countries where human labour falls short of requirements in agriculture, use of machines can replace human and animal power.

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(10) It Releases Manpower for Non-Agricultural Purposes:

Since the mechanisation of agriculture results in the employment of lesser number of persons on farms, surplus manpower may be available for other economic activities.

(11) It Results in Better Use of Land:

Mechanisation also results in better utilization of agricultural land for “the substitution of gasoline tractor for animal power means reduced demand. The use of machine energy, therefore, leads to good agricultural production, to trade many crops or saleable animal products in short, to an exchange economy and a system of land utilization in which cultivator rests on a different and infinitely more complex basis than is found in the local self-sufficient economy.”

(12) It Increases Farm Income:

With the introduction of mechanisation the farm income as well as the individual income goes up. E. G. Nourse writes, “It accounts for the unparalleled rise of national income and with it the standard of living, it builds cities, it raises an ever loftier superstructure of financial, commercial and other cultural institutions; it turns loose economic agglomerates into social economies to closely knit by a thousand lines of interdependence. It creates much of the capital surplus on which modern economic progress is largely based. It constitutes, the lion’s share to the public funds which support education, health and law and order. In short, not only do machine industry, and mechanisation and science render agriculture efficient, they create the very world in which this efficient agriculture can sell its bountiful crops.”

(13) It Reduces Fodder Area and Enlarges Food Area:

“With the introduction of mechanisation in agriculture the surplus animal power would be reduced so that large areas of land required for producing fodder for it can be utilised for producing food for human consumption. The remaining cattle population would be better attended to and better fed under mechanised agriculture, for new and nourishing varieties of feeding stuff would be grown in cultural (waste lands after reclaiming them for cultivation.” (Dr. Memoria)

Case against Mechanisation of Agriculture:

But the case against the use of farm machinery in India is equally strong.

Important arguments against mechanisation are:

(1) Small Sized Farms:

The existence of a large farm is an essential condition for mechanisation. For proper and best utilisation of agricultural machines, holdings will have to be large and should be (bund together and not scattered in tiny plots as is the case in India. In U.S.A. the average size of a holding is about 145 acres; in Canada it is 235 acres and in U.S.S.R. it is 1,600 acres.

Mechanisation has no scope in India because of the extremely small size of holdings which arc between 3 and 12 acres. Even these small holdings are not found together but scattered over the village in tiny bits. A tractor cannot be used to plough a quarter of an acre plot. This is not a valid criticism because such farm machinery like a pump set can be installed even in a small farm of half an acre.

(2) Surplus Agricultural Workers:

The basic defect of mechanisation is that it will result in too many agricultural workers becoming surplus. Millions of farmers will be thrown out of land and will have to be provided alternative sources of employment.

It is impossible to provide alternative employment for millions of persons. In U.S.A. and Canada, the real problem is shortage of labour and to overcome this difficulty, machines were invented and used, as labour saving devices.

But India has abundant labour and there is the necessity to use this labour and not keep, it idle. What is, therefore, useful and necessary for the Western countries, need not be so for India too. Use of farm machinery may create unemployment only in the short period. In the long run, there will be more employment opportunities.

(3) Surplus Cattle:

The adoption of farm machinery will throw not only men out of employment but it will render the existing cattle population surplus and unnecessary. To cut down the existing cattle population will be a difficult problem. But as is well known, it will indeed be beneficial for India to reduce somehow its cattle population.

(4) Poor, Illiterate and Ignorant Farmers:

The Indian farmers are, in general, poor and, therefore, will not be able to buy expensive tractors and other farm machines. Besides, the farmers are uneducated. They will not be able to understand the use as well as the working of expensive farm machinery. This criticism can be easily answered. Farmers can always join together and purchase expensive farm machinery. Or the village co-operative society can purchase it and hire it out to farmers.

(5) Imports:

India may not be in a position to produce farm machinery on a large scale. Necessarily, therefore, she will have to depend upon foreign countries. This is only a short period problem.

(6) No Increase in Productivity of Land:

Mechanisation may not increase productivity of land. In India, the crucial problem is to increase the productivity of land, because land is a scarce resource of the country. The increase in the productivity of land is much more important than the increase in the productivity of labour In a country like Japan, where mechanisation of farming is not adopted, productivity per hectare has been maximised because of intensive cultivation.

(7) Lack of Spare Parts and Service Facilities and Shortage of Power:

There is also lack of spare parts and service facilities in the rural areas, and an acute shortage of kerosene, petroleum and diesel oil. These need to be imported from abroad at a high cost and this might lead to a heavy drain on foreign exchange reserve.

Scope of Mechanisation of Agriculture in India:

The prospects for wholesale mechanisation of agriculture are not very bright in India for more than one reasons:

(1) We have seen above that we have surplus farm labourers who seasonally unemployed and under­employed. Mechanisation would further result in greater unemployment.

(2) The holdings are very small, while machines can be used on large farms economically and effectively.

(3) As yet our production of tractors has not been sufficient to meet the requirements. Also we are short of power tillers and tyres and tubes.

(4) Indian cultivators are largely ignorant and illiterate and have not yet developed the sense of receptivity for the same.

(5) There is also lack of facility for standardised spare parts and servicing of machines.

“However the following fields of agricultural activity are the logical domain of mechanisation in India, where manual methods would be insufficient and expensive:

1. Reclamation of lands infested with deep-rooted weeds and grasses like Kams, hariali, and doob by deep ploughing with the help of tractor driven implements.

2. Land improvements by land leveling and grading with the help of bulldozers and other heavy machines;

3. Construction of dams and reservoirs, soil and water conservation works such as contouring, terracing, bunding to check the menace of soil erosion:

4. Jungle clearance and opening up virgin lands for cultivation;

5. Deep ploughing, chiselling, more draining, and other operations like lifting water from great depths in the wells;

6. Making roads on the farms, hauling farm produce, for processing of farm produce such as rice hulling, oil extraction, sugar cane crushing and decorticating of the groundnuts, plant protection measures like spraying, dusting and fumigation;

7. Large co-operative or collective farms;

8. For ploughing of clayey soils, that are difficult to handle when the time for preparation between crops, or after heavy monsoon rains and before sowing, is too short for effective results by bullock driven implements;

9. Intensive and extensive cultivation in sparsely populated areas; and

10. Big farmer’s holding of more than 30 acres of land.”

Progress of Mechanisation of Agriculture:

M.L. Darling has rightly affirmed that the plough that looks like a half open pen knife over just scratch’s the soil, the hand sickle made more for a child than for a man, the old fashioned winnowing fray that wodes the wind to shift the grain from the chaff and the receds Choffer with its waste of fodder are misplaced from their primitive but immemorial functions.” Thus it has a deep rooted impact on the economy of the region.

Tractor is the basic mechanical input which largely determines the extent of use of allied machinery and equipment. There was rapid progress in the number of tractor in the country. In 1961 the country had 31000 tractors which increased to 2, 52,000 in 1966. This increase is indeed too phenomenal to be overlooked. This fact can be attributed to the incidence of this period with the green revolution. Consequently, the number of tractors increased to 4, 55,000 in 1990 and is expected to have further increase to over, 1, 90,990 during 2000-01.

The number of tractors increased upto 7, 53,286 in 2002-03. The number of tractors have further increased upto 28500453..Similarly the number of tube will operated with electricity increased from 1,06,000 in 1961 to 4,55,600 in 1990 and further expected to be double of during 2000-01. The number of electric tube-wells further increased to 10, 85,000 in 2000-01. The number of power tiller was accorded 16018 year ending 2000-01. The number of tiller increased upto 46472 in 2005-06.

Some Suggestions:

There are practical difficulties in the way of introduction of the machines on the farms. Some of these can be removed.

(1) The Government should provide credit facilities to those farmers who are willing to purchase the machinery individually.

(2) Joint farming societies may be developed to serve as machinery co­operatives in the different States.

(3) Machine Stations of the type of M.T.S. or U.S.S.R. may be developed in different parts to give the tractors and servicing facilities to the cultivators on subsidized rates.

(4) Cheaper types of small machines suitable for Indian conditions should be evolved. These would help the labourer to perform his task more efficiently rather than displace him. In this connection we would do well to remember what F.A.O. Development Paper has remarked; “Mechanisation should not be introduced in a hurry, or on a too large scale. To be successful it should be gradually expanded and kept within proficiency standards of those who operate it.”

Report on India’s Food Crisis and Steps to Meet suggests, Special studies should be made of the need for tractor drawn ploughs or other tillage implements, with a view to procurement and use:

(i) Where the soil areas will yield for greater increases in food production than is possible with other tillage implements, and where the cultivators have the ability, willingness, and organisation to make effective use of the implements without significant subsidy beyond loans;

(ii) Where neglected and compacted soils of derelict village commons can be brought into use: and

(iii) Where new land development requires heavy initial ploughing or earth moving. Even scarce foreign exchange should be allocated for such machines where the benefits are very substantial.

“At the outset, it might appear that the scheme of overall mechanisation is not feasible under the present agrarian structure in India, for agricultural sector may not presently invest huge sums of money; and it would be difficult to create big farms required for mechanised agriculture compulsorily.”

Therefore, we suggest that the Government should extend the scheme gradually on the following lines:

(i) Complete mechanization should first be extended to the state farms,

(ii) The vast, sub-marginal newly reclaimed areas should be brought under mechanisation.

(iii) It should be extended over to such lands where co-operative joint farming societies have been formed.

(iv) It should also be extend to the old co-operative farms which have enough areas in compact blocks and have enough scope for mechanisation of agriculture.

(v) Private big farmers should be induced to adopt mechanisation, “for the use of more efficient equipment is one of the principal ways by which productivity per man and per acre, and hence living standards can be raised.”

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