Submitted to: Resource Magazine
Publication Type: Trade Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: January 20, 2007
Publication Date: April 9, 2007
Citation: Rotz, C.A. 2007. Managing Machinery in the Biological Farm System. Resource Magazine. 14(3):4-5. Interpretive Summary: An interpretive summary is not required.
Technical Abstract: From the time agricultural machinery came into common use on farms in the middle of the past century, Agricultural Engineers have been developing more efficient practices for using that equipment. In our profession, this has become known as agricultural machinery management. The key issue in machinery management is to develop the smallest or lowest cost set of machines that can get the job done in a timely manner. Traditional machinery management has focused on the interactions between field equipment, soil, and weather. We have developed relationships to study the efficiency and functional capacity of operations and the time available for fieldwork under given soil and weather conditions. Another important aspect of machinery management has been determining and minimizing production costs. When more than one set of equipment can accomplish the needed work in a timely manner, the normal practice is to select the set with the lowest total production cost. A weakness in traditional machinery management has been inadequate consideration of the biological processes of the farm system. Machinery management can have a large impact on crop growth and the losses and quality changes that occur during and following crop harvest. Machinery management for the future must give more attention to the influence of equipment on the biological system. This can be accomplished through whole-farm simulation. By simulating all of the major biological processes on the farm and their interaction with equipment, we can obtain an optimum system that considers all production costs, the ultimate value of the end products produced, and thus a more accurate optimization of farm profit. A software tool that currently provides this type of analysis is the Integrated Farm System Model. As we continue to refine our food, fiber, and bioenergy production systems of the future, we must continue the development of tools that better represent the biological processes of the farm and their interaction with management.