Advances in technology have been central to the dramatic progress in the mechanization of farming practices throughout the world. Of greatest importance has been the development of the internal combustion engine and its utilization in farm tractors, combine harvesters and other self-propelled agricultural machinery.
It is well recognized that the selection of equipment is only the beginning of appropriate machinery management (see also, Agricultural Equipment: Choice and Operation). For example, the operation of the individual pieces of equipment must be coordinated properly in order to enhance productivity and efficiency. Another trend is precision agriculture (Figure 1), where state-of-the-art control and automation technology can be used to apply the optimum amount of seeds, water, fertilizers and pesticides to maximize economic return and minimize environmental damage. Maintaining working conditions and optimal performance of agricultural equipment is of vital importance in agricultural and food production due to the timeliness factor.In North America and Europe, the combination of advanced mechanization systems, agrochemical inputs and plant breeding has produced an increase in farm production of such proportions that ultimately quotas on production had to be imposed to prevent the accumulation of massive food surpluses. The lesson from this experience is abundantly clear.