Farm Mechanization in India
Author: Vikram Yogi

Farm mechanization has been helpful to bring about a significant improvement in agricultural productivity. Thus, there is strong need for mechanization of agricultural operations. The factors that justify the strengthening of farm mechanization in the country can be numerous. The timeliness of operations has assumed greater significant in obtaining optimal yields from different crops, which has been possible by way of mechanization.

The quality and precision of the operations are equally significant for realizing higher yields. The various operations such as land leveling, irrigation, sowing and planting, use of fertilizers, plant protection, harvesting and threshing need a high degree of precision to increase the efficiency of the inputs and reduce the losses..

The time taken to perform sequence of operations is a factor determining the cropping intensity. So as to ensure timeliness of various operations, it is quite inevitable to use such mechanical equipments which have higher output capacity and cut down the number of operations to be performed. This has helped in increasing area under cultivation and increase in cropping intensity. Higher productivity of land and labour is another factor, which clearly justifies farm mechanization. Not only the output per hour is more, the total labour requirement is also reduced. The displaced labour may of course be absorbed in the other alternatives created by the increased mechanization such as manufacturing, repair and service shops and the sale services. Thus, it only results in the shifting of the labour from one vocation to the other. As production increases with mechanization of the farm operations, it creates a good scope for commercialization of agriculture.

There are good chances to reduce the cost of production if farm operations are mechanized as it saves labour, both human and bullock. In the absence of mechanization, the ever-increasing wage rate of human labour and cost of upkeep of draught animals could have increased the cost of production much higher. Further, large scale production means less per unit cost on the farms. Moreover, it reduces the weather risk and risk of non-availability of labour and thus wastage is minimized. Timely marketing is also made possible by quick mechanical transportation, cleaning and handling. Further, the area under fodder and feed for draught animals could be reduced due to decline in their use. The land thus released can be brought under commercial crops. The use of farm mechanization enlarges the employment opportunities both on farms and in nonfarm sectors through increase in area under plough, multiple cropping, development of agro-industries and related services. On the other hand, displacement of human labour does take place and demand for semiskilled labour in place of unskilled labour is increased. Also, the drudgery for human labour is reduced and unhygienic operations such as handling of farm yard manure can be done with machinery

Agricultural Mechanization Development

Efficient machinery helps in increasing productivity by about 30% (Table) besides, enabling the farmers to raise a second crop making the agriculture attractive. Raising more crops with high productivity is a path for meeting the future food requirement of population. Development and introduction of high capacity, precision, reliable and energy efficient equipment is the need for judicious use inputs. For crop production human, animal and mechanical energy is extensively used. In small and marginal farms, except for tillage, other operations such as sowing/ transplanting, weeding, cotton picking harvesting and threshing (paddy) are normally manually performed

Operation Percentage
Tillage 40.3
(a) Tractor 15.6
(b) Animal 24.7
Sowing with drills and planters 28.9
(a) Tractor 8.3
(b) Animal 20.6
Threshers for wheat 47.8
Paddy and other 4.4
Harvesting
(a) Reapers 0.56
(b) Combines 0.37
Irrigation 37.0
Plant protection 34.2


Status of farm mechanization in India

The contribution of different power sources to the total power changed with time (Table). The share of agricultural workers continuously declined since 1981 and expected to be only 5.09 per cent by 2011-12 and that of draught animal power from 27.23 per cent to 6.37 per cent in same period. The increase in power has been mainly through introduction of tractors, whose contribution has increased from 7.5 per cent in 1981 to 51.08 per cent in 2011-12.

Table –contribution of different power source in India

Year Agril worker Draught Tractor Stationary Total Power,
(%) Animal (%) Engine, (%) KW/ha
(%)
1981-82 10.92 27.23 19.95 41.57 0.471
2005-06 5.77 8.02 46.70 41.12 1.502
2011-12 5.09 6.37 51.08 37.46 1.910


The projections for mechanization in India

The projections for mechanization in India are given in Table. The tractor population is expected to stabilize at around 7 million units by 2050 and available farm power will then stabilize at around 4.5 kW/ha. The draft animal population will decrease drastically whereas power tillers, diesel engines and electric motors are expected to register significant increases during the period 2010 to 2050.

Table - Projections for Mechanization in India

Item 2010 2020 2030 2050
Agricultural Workers (millions) 250 300 340 350
Draft Animals (millions) 50 30 20 10
Tractors (millions) 4.0 5.0 6.0 7.0
Power Tillers (thousands) 200 300 400 500
Diesel Engines (millions) 6.8 7.3 7.8 8.5
Electric Motors (millions) 21 30 35 40
Power (kW/ha) 1.8 2.5 3.5 4.5
Source - Gajendra Singh

Economic advantage of farm mechanization
Increase in productivity up to 12-34
Seed-cum-fertilizer drill facilitates
Saving in seeds 20
Saving in fertilizer 15-20
Enhancement in cropping intensity 5- 22
Increase in gross income 29-49
of the farmers

The table shows that through farm mechanization we can increase the farm income an average 39 %.

Policy to increase farm mechanization in India

The need for a second green revolution or evergreen revolution has now been well recognized for ensuring food and livelihood security of the nation. As a key driver to effect and sustain evergreen revolution, agriculture mechanization would be playing a leading role in near future. Agricultural mechanization while reducing drudgery associated with various farm operations also economizes the utilization of inputs, thereby, harnessing the optimum potential of available resources and thus enhancing farm productivity.

Thus, while the nation prepares for a second green revolution or evergreen revolution for ensuring food security, the necessity for promoting farm mechanizations as a special Mission cannot be ignored.

Accordingly, National Mission on Agricultural Mechanization (NMAM) has been envisaged for implementation from XII plan onward.

Mission Objectives

The Mission will aim at catalyzing an accelerated but inclusive growth of agricultural mechanization in India by way of:

  • Increasing the reach of farm mechanization to small and marginal farmers and to the regions where availability of farm power is low; Offsetting adverse ‘economies of scale’ and ‘higher cost of ownership’ of high value farm equipment by promoting ‘Custom Hiring Centre’ for agricultural machinery;
  • Passing on the benefit of hi-tech, high value and hi-productive agricultural machinery to farmers through creating hubs for such farm equipment.
  • Promoting farm mechanization by creating awareness among stakeholders through demonstration and capacity building activities;
  • Ensuring quality control of newly developed agricultural machinery through performance evaluation of newly developed agricultural machinery and equipment and certifying them at designated testing centers located all over the country; and


Mission Strategy

To achieve above objectives, the Mission will adopt following multi-prong strategies

  1. Conducting regular performance testing and setting quality benchmark for various farm machineries and equipment at four Farm Machinery Training and Testing Institutes (FMTTI), designated State Agricultural Universities (SAUs), ICAR institutions and KVKs.;
  2. Liaisoning with various Research and Development (R&D) centers, BIS and equipment manufacturers for synergizing efforts towards standardization, customization of farm equipment for maintaining quality and to suit local needs;
  3. Promoting farm mechanization by creating awareness among stakeholders through by way of on field and off filed training and demonstrations through FMT&TIs, State Governments, implementing agencies, 542 KVKs, ICAR and other institutions;
  4. Providing adequate financial assistance to individuals, group of farmers, cooperatives, SHG etc. for creating ownership at affordable costs for location-crop specific appropriate farm machinery and implements.
  5. Establishing custom hiring centres of farm machinery and implements to offset the adverse economies of scale arising due to small landholding and high cost of individual ownership. The mission will provide a suitable platform for converging all activities related to agricultural mechanization by providing a ‘single window’ for implementation.

    Mission Interventions

    The Mission will have following interventions or components:
    Promotion and Strengthening of Agricultural Mechanisation through Training, Testing and Demonstration:
    This intervention will aim at promoting agricultural mechanisation by popularising new technology among stakeholders, capacity building of farmers and end users and ensuring quality and performance of agricultural machinery and equipment.

    Post Harvest Technology and Management (PHTM): This intervention will emphasise lower end of the spectrum of post harvest management and processing that are not covered under any other programme. Technologies developed by ICAR, CSIR and identified from within the country and abroad for primary processing, value addition, low cost scientific storage/transport of cereals, pulses, oilseeds, sugarcane, vegetables and fruits and the crop bi-product management will be promoted by on field demonstration, training and establishment of PHT units.

    Financial Assistance or Procurement Subsidy for Agriculture Machinery and Equipments: This intervention will aim to promote ownership of various agricultural equipment among farmers, Self Help Group of farmers (SHGs), user groups, cooperative societies of farmers etc. at affordable costs. Towards this end, financial assistance will be provided in form of procurement subsidy to the beneficiaries as per prescribed pattern.

    Establishment of Farm Machinery Banks for Custom Hiring: With continued population growth and resulting further fragmentation of the land holdings, ‘Custom Hiring’ of farm machinery is emerging as the sole alternative by which small and marginal farmers can reap the benefits of farm mechanization. Accordingly, this intervention envisages promoting establishment of Farm Machinery Banks for Custom Hiring by way of providing suitable financial assistance to Individuals, Self Help Group (SGH) or farmers’ cooperatives formed preferably at Block level.

    Enhancing Farm Productivity at village level by introducing appropriate farm mechanisation in selected villages: It is often noticed that specific mechanisation issues arise based on variations in topography, cropping systems, condition of natural resources and availability of rainfall. It, therefore, calls for intensive and appropriate farm mechanisation practices that are customised at local level. Accordingly this interventions plans to promote low-cost but appropriate farm mechanisation practices in identified villages especially in low productive, low mechanised eastern and north-eastern States.

    Creating ownership of appropriate farm equipment among Small/Marginal farmers in eastern/north eastern region: Empirical data shows that the states belonging to Eastern and North-East regions are having relatively low farm power availability and thus these states are not able to leverage the advantages of farm mechanisation in enhancing agriculture production. However, these regions have higher potential for increasing foodgrain production on account of favourable conditions of natural resources and availability of groundwater. However, as mentioned earlier, the benefits of farm mechanisation usually exclude small and marginal farmers due to unaffordable cost of ownership of farm equipment and machineries. Accordingly, NMAM has envisaged a special provision for extending financial assistance to small and marginal farmers directly or through co-operatives in high-potential but lowly mechanised eastern and north eastern region of India.

    4 Preparation of Annual Work Plan or Proposal State Agriculture Department shall prepare, in consultation with other line dept. and agencies, whenever needed, and submit Annual Work Plan or Proposal to the Department of Agriculture & Cooperation, Government of India for examination, discussion and its final approval. However, the States may also have to ensure that the Work Plan under this Mission is suitably integrated with the District Agriculture Plans (DAPs) and the State Agriculture Plan (SAP) and also to certify that there will be no overlapping of the activities undertaken, including those taken up under other schemes like Rashtriya Krihsi Vikas Yojna(RKVY), National Food Security Mission (NFSM), National Horticulture Mission (NHM) etc.

    Implementation At the National Level, Mechanization and Technology (M&T) Division, Dept. of Agriculture & Cooperation (DAC), Min. of Agriculture, Govt. of India will oversee all Mission activities and approve the all work plans or proposals.
    Monitoring and Evaluation The Mission envisages a coordinated approach for monitoring and evaluation of this Mission with active involvement of implementing agencies, beneficiaries and other stakeholders.
    Coverage Although this Mission will be operational throughout the country, some components will have location specific approach for creating more inclusiveness. Similarly, the nucleus for Custom Hiring Centre can be a cluster of villages or Taluk or Mandal having a catchment area of 5000-10,000 ha. On the other hand, hi-tech, hi-productive Agriculture Machinery Hub that need minimum infrastructure and service support for operation and maintenance will be established at Sub Division/District level. This hi tech hub, being primarily comprising of self-propelled equipment will be able to cover a greater catchment area. The advice of SAUs, KVKs, ATMA and reputed NGOs may be taken in identifying the appropriate equipment for implementation and also the source of supplies.

    Inclusiveness: Catering to the weaker section of the society:
  • For selecting beneficiaries, preference will be given preference will be given to representatives of SC/ST communities, small and marginal farmers and cooperatives/SHG. Special emphasis will also be given to women beneficiaries for adapting ‘gender friendly’ equipment.


Constraints in farm mechanization

It is true that farm mechanization has shown good results as of raising the agricultural production and improving the standard of living of cultivators within very short period. But a number of arguments have been advanced against farm mechanization such as:

1. Small size and scattered holdings of the farmers stand in the way of mechanization. As a result of this, farm machinery generally remains underutilized.

2. Majority of small cultivators are poor who are not in a position to purchase the costly machinery like tractors, combine harvesters etc.

3. The use of tractor operated machinery may render some of the draft cattle population surplus. Studies under AICRP on Energy Requirement indicate that tractor owning farms do use draft animals for certain jobs. Like-wise farms using animate sources of farm power, use tractor on custom service for certain jobs.

4. The farm machinery have large turning radius and thus require comparatively larger farm for economical use. Mechanization may lead to structural change in agriculture in respect of the occupational distribution in the rural economy. No doubt, the increasing farm mechanization is going to increase employment in secondary and tertiary sectors but it does displace labour in farm operations.

5. Lack of proper knowledge of farmer to purchase farm machinery, operate and maintain it properly leads to wrong choice, makes it uneconomical and risky too.

6. There is great shortage of diesel in the country as a whole. Thus, to use so extensive oil based farm machinery is not desirable.

7. The lack of repair and replacement facilities especially in the remote rural areas is another hindrance in efficient small farm mechanization.

8. Due to the seasonal nature of the agriculture, the farm machinery remains idle for much of the time.

POLICY MEASURES

Mechanization in Indian agriculture is the need of the time but its use has to be viewed from angles of unemployment problems of human and animal force and vast majority of small and uneconomical farms. To rationalize the existing farm machinery is important as seen from the high variability in inter-regional distribution, it is imperative to suggest some policy issues such as;

1. The total use of the farm machinery, which on an average is much less than the prescribed norms. Therefore, there is need to enhance its productive use as a result of which, the fixed cost can be reduced significantly. The use of the machinery for social purposes, which is otherwise unproductive and thus needs to be minimized to the possible extent.

2. The use of the tractor for custom hiring should be encouraged through legislative measures. The various problems faced by the farmers in this process such as uneven distribution of tractors, uniform cropping pattern in the area, social symbol attached to the ownership of tractors and the payment problems should be further probed into for their minimization.

3. The distribution of tractors from area to area should be normalized so that the custom hiring is increased. Further, the small farmers having operational holding of less than 4 hectares need to be discouraged to own the tractors unless they have substantial grounds to make economical use of it. However, to solve the problems of mechanization of smaller holdings, the possibilities can be:

(a) Cooperative management of farm machinery;

(b) Financing of second hand tractors for small farmers;

(c) Extension services to advise the suitability of various makes, models and horse powers for different size of operational holdings;

(d) Devising smaller machinery suitable for small farms which constitute the vast majority of farmers but the machinery has to be effective and less costly.

4. Suitable crop planning on the farm and in the area can be quite useful to gainfully employ the . The monoculture of crops and varieties in the area results in high seasonal fluctuation in its use.

5. There is need to revamp the tenancy legislation so that the land lease market is encouraged and the size of the tractor operated farms is increased to justify the existing farm machinery.


References:

1.IASRI (2006). Study relating to formulating long-tem mechanization strategy for each agro- climatic zone/state in India. Indian Agricultural Statistics Research Institute, New Delhi, India.
Input Survey 1996-97, 2001-02 and 2006-07, Ministry of Agriculture,Government of India

2.Kulkarni SD. 2009. Country Report - India: Agricultural Mechanization - Present Scenario and Perspective. . Presented in Fourth Session of the Technical Committee of APCAEM held at New Delhi, India during November 21-24, 2009

3.Singh, Gajendra (2001). Relationship between Mechanization and Agricultural Productivity in Various Parts of India. AMA 32(2): 68-76.

4.Singh, Gajendra and Chancellor, W.J. (1975). Relation between Farm Mechanization and Crop Yield for a Farming District in India. Transactions of the American Soc of Agri. Engineers, Vol. 17, No. 5, 1974: 808-813.

5.Singh, Gyanendra and D. De. 1999. Quantification of a mechanization indicator for Indian agriculture. Applied Engineering in Agriculture, ASAE. !5(3): 197-204.
6.Verma S.R. (2001) "Impact of Agricultural Mechanization on production, productivity, cropping intensity, income generation and employment of labour". 32 (3): 484-489.


About Author / Additional Info:
I am currently pursuing Ph.D in Agricultural economics from IARI New Delhi.