Ok, I've scratched around enough at the edges here without seriously getting into some blue sky stuff on possible future developments in combines and perhaps in tractors as well.
So before I get into into this subject with it's unlimited blue sky potential there are a couple of qualifications;
Most ie; nearly all of the following ideas won't happen!
What we don't expect or have not predicted will happen!
Any opinions expressed here are worth exactly what you have paid for them.
It's fairly easy just to plunge into suggesting a whole host of new ideas about the way in which combines and tractors will evolve but behind any thinking along these lines is another much more subtle impact and that is the effects of culture, circumstances, social systems, financial power and national attitudes to technology and acceptance of advances in technology.
All of these have very significant effects and subtle pressures on the way in which designers, engineers, executives, the politicals, bureaucracy with it's regulations and the conservatism of the farming sector look upon and accept or reject new advances in technology and the types of technology that is acceptable to that particular part of that society.
To Americans it all looks pretty straight forward to just use the newest technology and if it fits into the system then it is used.
South Americans, Europeans, Chinese, Indians, Ukranians, Kazakhs and others from the newest and increasingly important grain producing areas of the world may look quite differently at new technology compared to the way that American farmers do.
Australian farmers hold views that are quite close to the American view on the adoption of new agricultural technology but even here we see the world quite a bit differently to most Americans.
Australia with it's 23 million population is only a few hundred kilometres across the Timor Sea from the fourth largest nation on Earth, Indonesia with a population of 231 millions.
Within a radius of less than 7500 kilometres from Darwin, Australia's northern most state capital to New Delhi in India and 6000 kms to Beijing in China, there are 13 nations with a combined population of 4 billion people.
For comparison New York to Honolulu is 8000kms / 4320 mls.
It does give one a somewhat different view of life when you are a small nation occupying a large land mass with this immense population sitting on your doorstep so as to speak.
For nearly a century America has been the largest grain producer and exporter on the planet.
Canada was next largest exporter as distinct from producer followed in export volume by Australia and Argentina with about the same export tonnages.
As such the USA with it's immense grain and corn production and it's immense industrial capabilities created the circumstances where a number of it's agricultural machinery corporations rose to become the dominant farm machinery corporations on the planet.
It did not necessarily have to turn out this way.
Under the old Czarist Russia before the Russian Communist revolution of 1917 and for the decade following the revolution Russia was rapidly industrialising and it's grain production from the great areas of fertile Russian and Ukrainian black soils or podzol soils were starting to produce larger tonnages of grain as the kulaks, the peasants who owned their own land and who were rich enough to hire labour started to adopt better farming technologies.
Although this increase in grain production was interrupted by the Russian famine of 1921.
The steady advance in Russian farming technology was brought to stop when Stalin started the great purges of the 1930's where some millions of Kulaks who Stalin feared because of their independence, were eliminated by the bullet or in the gulags of Siberia and the forced collectivisation of farmland was implemented by Stalin using the full weight of the Communist Party apparatus which was under his complete totalitarian control.
The result was a period known as the Great Famine of 1931 and 32 in the Ukraine and across Russia in which further millions perished.
It is only now that the immense areas of the highly fertile podzol soils of Ukraine and southern and eastern Russia are again, after nearly 80 years, starting to show their immense grain producing potential.
Even the central Asian states such as Kazakhstan are now producing millions of tonnes of grain although like all of these deep continental regions they are subject to immense swings in the year to year seasonal weather and so are likely to have a highly variable output of grain into the future.
A Ukrainian government english language agricultural site which I check regularly.
All of these newly emerging grain producing areas are moving as rapidly as possible to maximise the mechanisation of their agriculture, particularly grain growing as grain is the essential staple of so much of mankind's diet and grain production has been mechanised for over a century in the west so the technology is all there.
However, most of these countries do not, for their own national reasons which are political and the desire to build up their own industrial capacity, want to just directly buy their harvesting, planting and tractor and cultivating equipment from the west.
So they are establishing new or updating old plants to produce their own mechanised systems for their immense production potential.
Kazakhstan for instance uses mostly Russian origin combines but JD also has a foothold in there with one JD combine equal to about 4 of the Russian machines in the Kazakh's opinions.
But this also gives a benchmark for the now privatised Russian manufacturers to try and match and with a quite good cadre of highly skilled engineers they only need time before they start to match the sophisticated American origin machinery.
The same story is being repeated in all of the new grain producing regions such as a fast mechanising China.
India also is now a grain exporter but possibly not for long as they deplete the great underground water aquifers to irrigate their crops at unsustainable levels of water useage.
Russia and Ukraine are rapidly increasing production with the very poor and serious lack of infrastructure the only really serious impediment to a much faster rise in production,
The central Asian Republics, the Stans as they are nicknamed, are also rapidly increasing grain production.
So the American producers of combines and mechanised agricultural machinery may well lose their world dominance over the next couple of decades.
Also nearly all of these new producers and the accompanying combine and tractor production from these regions will be much of a much simpler and cheaper designs and in a lot of cases will handle very harsh and poorer maintenance than the increasingly "sophisticated" American produced machines.
I certainly would not want to be out in the back blocks of Uzbekistan and blow a circuit board.
It takes more than a few days to get a new one in Australia let alone in some place like central Asia.
It is almost inevitable that American combine producers in their international markets and eventually within the American market will have some increasingly strong competition particularly in price and in sections of the market that want a smaller and simpler machine than the western manufacturers appear to want to supply at the moment.
A lot of these new and competitive machines will probably be simpler or stripped down or copies of older models of American combines in any case.
And forget the quality problems of past attempts to introduce theses foreign production combines into the USA market.
You only have to look at the way that the early Japanese cars were rapidly upgraded in quality or the way the Taiwanese companies and now Chinese companies are upgrading the quality of their products to meet and match western produced articles.
The same will happen with combines, tractors, planters and many similar items.
And then when that level of quality is achieved, the new innovations in advance of anything produced by the west will start to appear and then life will get real interesting for a whole host of manufacturers and farmers.
Th next couple of decades will be very interesting indeed in the farm machinery game!
To be continued.
Text had been double entered.