Synchronized cultivation practice rolled out all over Bangladesh, machines come into play; no farmers will plant rice seedlings by hand after five years
Less than a quarter of Bangladesh’s farming community belongs to the medium and big farmers’category, whose average farm size is above 1.5 acres. However, a vast majority of farmers, 76% of them, are small and marginal, who either have no lands of their own or possess small farms (up to 1.49 acres of land).
Among many other things, this reflects shrinking land holdings in Bangladesh. Fragmented land holdings are standing between farmers and adoption of farm mechanization.
The government has recently taken initiative to remove this last barrier that has long been holding Bangladeshi farmers back from applying farm machines.
In the current Boro season, for the first time in Bangladesh, some 3,000 acres of land across the country are being brought under a ‘synchronized cultivation’ scheme – where the farmers together in each of the given areas planting the same crop at the same time applying rice transplanters. Boro is the biggest of the country’s three rice growing seasons – Aus, Aman, and Boro.
Earlier, the farmers sowed Boro seeds in trays and then after three to four weeks transplanted the same to rice plots applying mechanized transplanters thereby, achieving uniform seed germination and crop emergence. The government will also provide them with support to harvest the paddy in April-May with harvester machines.
The decision came after the government successfully implemented synchronized cultivation in 12 upazilas in 12 districts earlier.
In the current Boro season, the agriculture ministry is providing fertilizers, seeds, irrigation and harvesting support to farmers who join the community cultivation typically on some 50 acres of land in 61 out of the country’s 64 districts.
According to the Department of Agricultural Extension (DAE), synchronized cultivation is an indispensable initiative for agriculture in the coming days and there is no alternative to synchronized cultivation to properly utilize the equipment to reduce production costs.
How does synchronized cultivation work?
In this cultivation practice, rice seeds are sowed in trays thereby releasing lands for farmers to grow something else. Once seeds are germinated, a rice transplanter carries the seed trays and moves mechanically in a certain farm bloc planting the seedlings in uniform rows.
Take Kendua village of Tangail’s Dhanbari for an example. Some 90 farmers in that village got united and together they own 50 acres of land. After germinating their seeds in 4,500 trays for about a month they used a transplanter for a few days starting from February 20 to plant hybrid paddy --Hera-1 -- in all 50 acres of land.
Once the paddy is ripened by May this year, these 90 farmers will employ a harvesting machine and reap the benefits by sharing the crop among themselves.
What is the benefit of synchronized cultivation?
While planting rice manually is a backbreaking task taking farm labourers several days to complete the job, a rice transplanter can accomplish the same in an hour in each acre of land.
A Kendua farmer, Shah Ali said: “We saved Tk1,500 per bigha (Tk4,500 per acre) in labour costs thanks to planting Boro seeds by a rice transplanter.”
Agriculture Minister Dr Abdur Razzaque, a big time promoter of farm mechanization in Bangladesh, expressed hope that no farmers in the country will plant rice seedlings by hand five years from now.
He also said that the government has created posts for 284 agriculture engineers to facilitate farmers adoption of farm mechanization and provide them with farm machinery maintenance services.