Modern farming ups yields, cuts costsFarmers of Barju and Gadi village councils in the eastern Nepali district of Sunsari are elated these days, as they are seeing a rare combination of rising agricultural yields and falling production costs.
Farmers of Barju and Gadi village councils in the eastern Nepali district of Sunsari are elated these days, as they are seeing a rare combination of rising agricultural yields and falling production costs.
The reason? Use of modern farm equipment.
As mechanised agriculture is gaining popularity in Sunsari, more and more farmers are now seen using modern farming equipment during plantation and harvesting seasons. This has reduced crop production cost by around 30 percent and increased agricultural yields by around 25 percent.
Many farmers growing cereal crops in the district nowadays use machines at every stage of production from transplantation of crops to weeding the farmland, and harvesting the final produce.
The practice of ploughing fields using ox and using labourers to transplant crops is gradually becoming obsolete in Sunsari, according to Ashok Kumar Majhi, a member of Samjhana Agricultural Cooperative.
Of course there are some farmers, who still resort to traditional farming techniques to grow crops. But they are gradually embracing modern farming techniques to reduce input cost and increase production.
Farmers in Sunsari generally prefer to produce paddy. Paddy is planted on 55,000 hectares of land every year. This is followed by production of wheat.
Lately, many farmers have started growing maize as well. Maize is planted on 6,500 hectares of land during winter and on 2,500 hectares of land during monsoon.
It is said that around 60 percent of the farmers in the district now use modern farm equipment to grow various types of crops such as paddy, wheat and maize.
Currently, farmers in the district are using 10 machines to transplant paddy. Once the paddy is harvested, they do not need to till the fields to plant wheat. The zero-tillage machines are currently being used to transplant wheat, which spray fertiliser as
well. A separate fertiliser, however, has to be sprayed in the fields a day ahead of wheat transplantation to kills the weeds.
The zero-tillage technique of planting wheat helps farmers save Rs30,000 on every bigha (0.7 hectare) of land, according to farmers. “This technique has also raised production,” said Dipendra Pokhrel, crop development officer at the District Agricultural Office, Sunsari. The Office, in the last fiscal year, extended subsidy to the tune of 75 percent of the cost to help farmers purchase five zero-tillage machines.
With the addition of these equipment, the district now has 15 zero-tillage machines.
These machines take two hours to transplant wheat on every bigha of land. The district also owns seven harvesters to harvest paddy and wheat. More harvesters are brought in from Jhapa whenever needed.
Use of these machines has significantly reduced crop production cost, according to Nageshwor Majhi, president of Samjhana Agricultural Cooperative.
A tractor, for instance, tills a bigha of land at the cost of around Rs8,000, Nageshwor said. “Machines also transplant crops on every bigha of land at the cost of Rs13,000, spray fertilisers at the cost of Rs5,000, remove weeds at the cost of Rs6,000 and harvest crops at the cost of Rs5,000,” Nageshwor added. “This means machine-supported cost of producing crops on per bigha of land stands at Rs37,000.”
On the contrary, if ox is used to till the fields, the cost comes to around Rs10,000 per bigha, according to Nageshwor. “Similarly, it costs Rs5,000 to spray fertilisers manually on every bigha of land, Rs13,000 to transplant crops, Rs9,000 to remove weeds and Rs16,000 to harvest crops.” This means traditional crop production cost hovers around Rs53,000 per bigha.
This clearly shows mechanised farming method reduces crop production cost by 30 percent. “Also, around 15 percent of the yields go to waste if traditional farming method is followed,” said Nageshwor. “Considering these factors, mechanised farming has become a boon for farmers like us.”
As farm mechanisation is gathering pace, innovations are also taking place.
“We are now conducting tests to make multiple use of a single machine,” said Bibekananda Jha, programme manager of Nepal Agricultural Company, a sister company of Buddha Air, which is supporting the initiative to mechanise farming in Sunsari. “We are currently testing if paddy transplant machine can be used to extract water and weed the farmland. If this test is successful, crop production cost on every bigha of land will come down by another Rs10,000.”
Also, tests are being conducted to introduce Tej Gold Paddy in the district for production of Jira Masino rice. This breed of paddy, which is currently used in Haryana of India, can be harvested in 120 days. Farmers in Sunsari currently use Suwarna Paddy to grow rice.
This breed becomes ready for harvest after 150 days of transplantation and produces 3,200 kg of paddy on every bigha of land. On the other hand, Tej Gold produces
6,400 kg of paddy on every bigha of land.