Manual labour, agricultural tools, draft animals, implements and equipment are essential farm inputs - so essential that without them food production would be impossible. Often, it is not the lack of improved seed, irrigation or fertilizer that prevents increased crop production. It is simply that the farmer does not have sufficient human labour, draft animals or machines to make the most of his or her existing resources.
Improved engineering technology offers great scope for increases in production and food security. The final report on an FAO mechanization project in China cited a 90 per cent increase in yield on farmers' fields for a double cropped wheat/maize farming system, largely as a result of introduction of no-till drilling and planting equipment. Other machinery produced high gains for soybeans, cotton, groundnuts and rice.
Improvements in pesticide application equipment can drastically reduce the amount of pesticide applied and thereby reduce health hazards and residual chemicals in the soil or groundwater. In Indonesia, replacing the cone-head nozzles of traditional knapsack sprayers with flat T-jet nozzles allowed farmers to cut the use of insecticides and fungicides for vegetables by 35 per cent without affecting yields and quality. Improved soil tillage equipment can help to prevent soil degradation and erosion.