The following points highlight the top six agricultural inputs purchased by farmers. The inputs are: 1. Farm Machinery 2. New and Improved Varieties 3. Inorganic Fertilizers 4. Herbicides and Pesticides 5. Irrigation Technology 6. Information Technology.
Input # 1. Farm Machinery:
The process of mechanisation started in the mid-19th century. New farming techniques depended on scientific advances and the industrial production of inputs. Manual labour and animal power were replaced by steam power and later by the internal combustion engine.
Farmers used tractors to pull ploughs or the reaper-binder, which they later replaced with the combine harvester. Milking machines, cotton gins, cotton pickers, sugar beet and potato harvesters, and tomato harvesting machines all have greatly reduced the need for manual labour. In developing countries small tractors have revolutionised agricultural production and greatly reduced the input of labour.
Input # 2. New and Improved Varieties:
Initially, farmers selected suitable varieties of crops for planting the next year. These selected strains were the mainstay of agriculture until the science of genetics emerged in the 20th century. Then it became possible to deliberately interbreed different strains of a crop to consolidate desirable characteristics in a single strain.
The first step is always to evaluate the field performance of known varieties. Scientists have systematically applied plant-breeding principles to improving rice and wheat, and have widely introduced new varieties in Latin America and Asia, displacing local varieties.
This process, often called the Green Revolution, has significantly raised crop yields in an era when the amount of land cultivated has remained more or less constant.
The introduction of hybrid rice in China and Southeast Asia is raising rice yields even further. About roughly 40% of all increases in crop productivity during the past 50 years stemmed from breeding new varieties. The other 60% improvement has come from managing the crop environment by inputs such as energy, fertilizer, and pesticides.
Input # 3. Inorganic Fertilizers:
Originally European farmers relied on manure and crop rotation to maintain fertility. Later they found that ground bones and rock phosphate enhanced crop production, as well as nitrates. The invention of a chemical process that combines nitrogen gas with hydrogen gas to form ammonia, allowed the widespread production of nitrogen fertilizers.
This led to a tremendous increase in nitrogen fertilizer use worldwide. Fertilizer applications have been slowly decreasing in developed countries, but in developing countries they are still rising.
Input # 4. Herbicides and Pesticides:
Herbicides replaced manual labour for weeding, and farmers used insecticides and fungicides to minimize crop losses. These changes in food production had a great impact on commercial grain farming, on mixed crop and livestock farming, and on intensive wetland rice farming in Asia and Africa. More complex approaches to weed control and pest control are now replacing heavy use of chemicals in agriculture.
Input # 5. Irrigation Technology:
Irrigation has become a very important agricultural input in the past 40 years and accounts for much success in raising food production. Indeed, although only 18% of the world’s arable land is irrigated, this land produces 40% of our food. Irrigated land is highly productive.
However, this trend cannot be maintained: There simply is not enough water in many areas. Experts now see that water is the resource that will be most limiting for food production in the 21st century.
Input # 6. Information Technology:
New innovations in agriculture that use information technology are often called precision agriculture. To obtain maximal yields, farmers of very large farms use remote sensing of their land and their crops by satellite or airplanes to adjust irrigation water, fertilizer application, and genetic varieties. Large tractors equipped with computers can now control row spacing and crop planting densities.