|Environmental Handbook Volume II: Agriculture, Mining/Energy, Trade/Industry (GTZ, 1995, 736 p.)|
|33. Agricultural engineering|
The fundamental elements of agriculture are plant production and - based on this - livestock farming. Man uses technical aids in order to influence the production systems and enhance their productivity. Agricultural engineering is an integral component of these systems; its environmental impacts cannot be considered without reference to those of plant and animal production. Mechanical aids are most commonly used in tillage and transportation, with effects above all on soil, plants and man.
Among the negative consequences of cultivation, it is erosion that has the greatest significance worldwide. All other effects resulting from the use of technical aids in agriculture remain limited to the locality or at most the region concerned.
Improper storage and application of pesticides, mineral fertilisers and animal excrement can lead to contamination and/or over-fertilising (eutrophication) of both surface water and groundwater.
Most agricultural operations are mechanised for reasons of labour efficiency. Machines and implements call for a high degree of expertise in operation, maintenance and management if their use is not to have negative impacts. In many countries, responsibility for certain types of work passes from women to men.
Intensification of agriculture with the aid of agricultural engineering can lead to a change or reduction in the spectrum of flora and fauna found in a region.
The most important protective measures comprise
- provision of training and advice, and
- development and introduction of mechanisable land-use systems which take both economic (including labour efficiency) and ecological aspects into account.