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Special supplement for Farmers Day organized by

Myanmars Ministry of Agriculture and Irrigation in
Napyidaw, Myanmar, 2 March 2015

Selected reprinted features on

mechanization in rice farming

Are machines the answer?

While humans and
animals can expend a
certain amount of energy
for a given time period,
machines never get tired,
and they can get the
job done faster without
sacrificing the quality of
Joseph Rickman
IRRI senior scientist and expert in
mechanization and production systems

MACHINES OF PROGRESS........................................ 4
Cambodian farmers adopted IRRIs postharvest
technology package, which improved the quality
of their rice grains, increased their harvests milling
output, and allowed them to save on labor, time,
and money
THE LITTLE MACHINE THAT COULD........................ 8
Africa shifts from back-breaking operations to almost
labor-free threshing
Millions of Asian farmers struggled with poor-quality
sun-dried grain until a mechanical flat-bed dryer
adaptable to the tropics was developed in the
Philippines in the 1970s
HUMANS AND MACHINES...................................... 12
It takes sound business principles and planning to
introduce farm equipment in a sustainable way
LASER-GUIDED DREAMS........................................ 14
Truong Thi Thanh Nhan doesnt look like a typical
farmer, but she is proving to be a powerful engine
for growth in Vietnams farming communities
EVEN GROUNDS...................................................... 16
Laser land leveling is fast changing the face of
traditional farming in South Asia
TECHNOLOGIES MEET FARMERS........................... 18
Hundreds of thousands of Asian farmers are adopting
a range of IRRC-facilitated technologies because
of the many impressive economic, social, and
environmental benefits

DRUMMING UP SUCCESS....................................... 22
An improved way of planting rice is increasing farmers
incomes and strengthening communities in
THE NOT-SO-SILENT REVOLUTION....................... 28
The widespread use of small engines for water pumps
and boat motors gave rise to profound changes in
the Mekong Delta
SMARTER, CLEANER HEAT..................................... 32
A new design of a rice hull furnace has not only
improved grain quality, but has also made drying
cleaner and easier
FARMERS GET THEIR GROOVE BACK.................... 35
Drum seeding finds its way back to Tamil Nadu as
farmers learn how to control weeds selectively and
maximize profi ts using the technology
A comprehensive action plan to transform rice farming
into a vibrant and profitable business
THE BUBBLE THAT DRIES....................................... 40
A low-cost solar bubble dryer has been developed to
help farmers dry their rice efficiently
GRAIN OF TRUTH.................................................... 42
Circle irrigation: A new response to climate change
GRAIN OF TRUTH.................................................... 43
Successful technology adoption needs support from
both farmers and governments

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On the cover:
The combine harvester, an iconic image of farming
in progressive countries, is now a normal scene
in Cambodia. Small combine harvesters were first
introduced but, since Cambodia has large rice fields,
medium (2-meter cutting width) and large (3-meter
cutting width) combine harvesters have become more
popular among Khmer farmers. Farmers have also
adopted other postharvest technologies, which have
improved rice quality and increased harvest milling
output, among other benefits.

Rice Today Editorial Board

Bas Bouman, GRiSP
Matthew Morell, IRRI
Eduardo Graterol, Latin American Fund for Irrigated Rice
Marco Wopereis, Africa Rice Center
Mary Jacqueline Dionora, IRRI
Osamu Koyama, Japan International Research Center for Agricultural Sciences
Erna Maria Lokollo, Indonesian Agency for Agricultural Research and Dev.
Pradeep Kumar Sharma, CSK Himachal Pradesh Agricultural University
Gonzalo Zorrilla, National Institute of Agricultural Research (INIA)
editor-in-chief Gene Hettel
managing editor Lanie Reyes
associate editor Alaric Francis Santiaguel
Africa editor Savitri Mohapatra
Latin America editor Nathan Russell
copy editor Bill Hardy
art director Juan Lazaro IV
designer and production supervisor Grant Leceta
photo editor Isagani Serrano
circulation Antonette Abigail Caballero, Lourdes Columbres, Cynthia Quintos
Web masters Jerry Lavia, Lourdes Columbres
printer CGK formaprint

International Rice Research Institute 2015

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by Lanie Reyes and Trina Leah Mendoza

Cambodian farmers adopted IRRIs postharvest technology package, which improved the quality of their
rice grains, increased their harvests milling output, and allowed them to save on labor, time, and money
lanie reyes (3)


The combine harvester, an iconic

image of farming in progressive
countries, is becoming the usual scene
in Cambodiaa hint that labor shortage
during harvest time is becoming a
serious problem for Cambodian farmers.

A dynamo of change

When Martin Gummert, an agricultural

engineer at the International Rice
Research Institute (IRRI), visited
Cambodia for the first time in 2001,
it reminded him of Vietnam in the
1990s, when the mechanization of the
countrys agriculture was in its infancy.
Its postharvest technology was at a very
low stage. The milling industry was
mismatched and outdated, and there
was limited storage capacity. Though
there was a lot of poverty, I could sense
the excitement of people trying to leave
the past behind, grab every opportunity,
move on, and develop, recalled Engr.
Many years back, in 1988, Harry
Nesbitt and Glenn Denning, two of
IRRIs agricultural scientists, went to
Cambodia to rebuild its rice production
and to breathe life back into the killing
Rice Today July-September 2010

fields, as the country was ravaged by

the Khmer Rouge under Pol Pot. (See
Towering legacies Vol. 1, No. 1 of Rice
Since almost all traditional
knowledge on rice farming had been
lost, Drs. Nesbitt and Denning were
there to basically build a whole new
farming infrastructure and a system of
agricultural research for Cambodians to
carry on. In 2001, a newly established
Cambodian Agricultural Research
and Development Institute then took
overpart of the social context of
the dynamism, which Engr. Gummert
Chris Quintana

sea of newly harvested rice

extends to the horizon in
Battambang Provincethe rice
bowl of Cambodia. It was only
the third week of February, just the
beginning of the harvesting season for
many Asian countries, but it seemed
like harvest time was already over in
As we drove farther along the
dry and dusty roads of the province, a
combine harvester suddenly appeared
on the horizon. It cut through the rice
stalks almost as effortlessly as mowing
a backyard lawn with an operator sitting
on top of a lawn mower. This is a stark
contrast to the traditional backbreaking
and tedious harvesting process, in which
farmers bend to gather and slash stalks
using razor-sharp sickles. Some collect
and tie the stalks while others thresh, by
hitting the rice plant on a piece of wood.
Then the farmers winnow the paddy and
let the trash blow away from it.
Farmers chats to let their minds
drift away from the scorching sun and
the harrowing labor have been replaced
by the whirring sound of the machine
making its way through the rice fields.

Martin GuMMert, an agricultural engineer at irri,

advocates better postharvest management to improve
the quality of rice and reduce losses caused by
spoilage and pests.

Cambodias dynamic race to development

specifically in rice production can
be attributed to the tenacity of the
Cambodians themselves. Their horrid
history during the Khmer Rouge, 30
years back, seems to have faded in the
background as they moved forward.
Pyseth Meas, a postharvest expert
on rice, is one of the members of the new
generation unfettered by the nations
challenging history. Instead, his past
has become his inspiration. He vividly
remembers growing up on a rice farm
with his father, who was a government
official before Pol Pots regime. When
he lost his father during the war, his
mother raised him and his siblings by
selling rice. He witnessed his mothers
hard work and difficulty selling milled
rice to consumers and traders. Like an
imprint on his young mind, he was drawn
to a profession that would ease the plight
of those who depended on rice, such as
his mother. Thus, he pursued a career in
postharvest technology.
I could see that this was where I
could contribute more to my country
knowing that 85% of the Cambodian
farmers are rice farmers, Dr. Meas
said. All of my life, Ive wanted to do
something for the Cambodian people,
especially the farmers, because we rely
on rice as our staple food and main source
of income. So, when I became involved in
a project on postharvest as a partner with
IRRI, I was more than happy.
In 2005, the Postproduction Work
Group (PPWG) under IRRIs Irrigated
Rice Research Consortium, funded by
the Swiss Agency for Development and
Cooperation, pooled its resources together
with the Asian Development Bank (ADB)
and the Japan Fund for Poverty Reduction
(JFPR) to fund the project Improving
Poor Farmers Livelihoods through
Improved Rice Postharvest Technology. It
was designed and initially led by Joseph
Rickman, who was then the head of the
Agricultural Engineering Unit at IRRI.
When he moved to Africa in 2006, Engr.
Gummert took the lead.
The projects goal was to
demonstrate to some villages in
Battambang and Prey Veng provinces
that improved harvesting, drying,
storage, and milling can help farmers
increase incomes from rice harvests and

improve the quality of grain and seeds

throughout the postharvest chain.
In February 2006, farmers and rice
millers needs were assessed through
a survey. Hearing from the farmers
themselves, the project team was able
to determine that the farmers needed
dryers, especially during the rainy season,
when paddy quality was at a high risk
of deteriorating quickly, and combine
harvesters to solve the labor shortage.

The first line of defense

Since knowledge is the first line of

defense in this caseagainst postharvest
lossesthe project team conducted a
trainers training in the same year to
share their knowledge and expertise on
improved postharvest options among
the staff of the provincial agricultural
extension services and their project
counterpart in Cambodia. In the second
half of 2006 and 2007, knowledge
and skills in postharvest technologies
smoothly cascaded to the farmers, as
these trainers visited a total of eight

villages. They taught and advised

farmers regarding grain and seed
quality, and safe storage options such as
harvesting, threshing, cleaning, drying,
hermetic storage, and milling.

Labor shortage

Just like in other countries, the young

generations in rural farming areas
move to the cities to find better jobs.
With fewer hands, it is almost next to
impossible to hold together the work on
the farm. Cultivating a hectare of land,
according to Dr. Meas, needs about
100120 person-days. And, about 40%
is spent on establishing the crop and
another 4045% for harvesting.

Small machine, huge effect

Then came the mini-combine harvester,

also known as a mini-combine or
simply combine. It fuses four operations
(reaping, collecting, threshing, and
cleaning) in one machine (see Cleverly
cutting costs in Cambodia, Vol. 2, No. 2
on pages 5-6 of Ripple).

the use of machinery is imperative for

Cambodia to become a rice exporter, said
Dr. Pyseth Meas (above left), a Cambodian
expert on rice. Cambodian farmer net
Kimyorn (above right) said that, with the
use of a combine harvester, he can harvest
the crop on time, with less labor, and at
less cost. seum Kouy (left), a farmer in
Prey stor Village, Prey Veng, said that,
with an improved granary, her grains are
protected from rain, insects, birds, and

trina leah mendoza

Machines of

Wind of inspiration

Rice Today July-September 2010


lanie reyes (3)

market, allowing farmers to plan the best

time to sell their rice.
In addition, most farmers set aside
an amount of rice for their familys food
until the next harvest and sell only the
surplus. Thus, they still need the benefits
from the mechanical drying technology.

Flatbed dryers

CaMbODian farMers rest under a tree

while waiting for the combine to load
rice on a truck.

When the team brought in this small

contraption from Vietnam, they had two
reasons in mind: one, to reduce the high
harvesting cost caused by a lack of labor
and, two, to increase the quality of the
After they showed how a minicombine works to farmers in both
Battambang and Prey Veng provinces,
combines in different sizes have become
a big hit.
Net Kimyorn of Boeng Pring Village
in Battambang said, My fields are
already less prone to accidents like fire.
In Cambodia, it was common for
soon-to-be-harvested rice to catch fire,
caused by lit cigarette butts thrown in
the rice fields. Since harvest time falls
during the summer season, rice fields are
vulnerable to fires. Mr. Kimyorn recalled
a fire in his community in 1993 when 98
hectares of rice fields were turned into
ashes because a drunken man cooked rice
near the fields. Lucky for Mr. Kimyorn,
his rice fields were spared.
Moreover, we can harvest the crop
on time, with less labor, and at less cost,
Mr. Kimyorn said. And, we do not rely
on the climate anymore. Before, it took
almost a month to harvest a crop. Now, it
takes only a few days. Less likely for rain
to come while we are harvesting.
To manually harvest a hectare of
rice field, a farmer needs to hire at least
25 persons. The farmer pays each one
US$34 per day or spends $100120 per
hectare. Aside from it taking longer, the
workers would still need to gather the
crop for threshing.

Hiring a combine harvester with

an operator, on the other hand, costs $90
100. Aside from the difference in cost,
grain quality is better, and it doesnt take
so much time. A large combine harvester
with a cutting width of 3 meters, for
example, can harvest a hectare in only an
Now, with less labor required in the
field, Mr. Kimyorn and his family can
devote their extra time to other incomegenerating activities such as fishing and
selling noodles. Most of all, the family
can spend more quality time with each

Competition benefits the farmers

There are even some cases wherein

farmers do not need to do much after
harvesting because, recently, buyers
from Vietnam and Thailand have been
purchasing rice directly from them.
According to Dr. Meas, though
these purchases are informal and are
not in good order, farmers benefit much
from them. Without buyers crossing
the border, farmers rely mostly on rice
millers to buy their paddy. However, with
competition, farmers can ask for a better
This does not mean, however,
that drying is no longer needed. Some
farmers dry and store their rice, then
wait until the price is high before they
sell it. This is when the information
board greatly helps farmers. The use of
information boards, as part of the holistic
package of the PPWG of IRRI, gives upto-date reports on the rice prices in the
Rice Today July-September 2010

Bringing technology to farmers is

important for them to see their options up
close. Thus, in 2007, the team introduced
mechanical drying in Cambodia, by
installing the first flatbed dryer in Ballat
Village, Battambang, in collaboration
with the irrigators association.
When the farmers from the Po Chrey
community in Prey Veng heard about
the benefits of using mechanical dryers,
they requested the project team to help
them install a mechanical dryer in their
village. The team assisted the community
by providing a blower and rice husk
furnace, while the farmers financed and
installed the drying bin and the shed.
In early 2008, two dryers were
installed in Po Chrey community: one
was initially supported by the PPWG
and the other was set up by the private
company ABK in cooperation with the
community. Dryers became so in demand
that, by mid-2009, the number of dryers
increased to nine. Now, the country
already has 11 known dryers.
Before, Koul Savoeun, just like other
farmers in Ballat Mancheay Village of
Battambang Province, had no idea about
moisture content. He relies only on his
gut feeling in determining whether the
paddy is dry or not. After learning about
moisture content, he noticed that his
grains became clean, had no bugs, and
had better quality.
KOul saVOeun, a Cambodian farmer, said that,
because the quality of the rice grains dried through
a mechanical dryer has improved, he can sell them at
a higher price.

According to Mr. Savoeun, after

milling, sun-dried rice is yellowish and
has more broken grains than rice dried
using the mechanical dryer. Since the
quality of the grains dried through a
mechanical dryer has improved, the price
has stepped up also, from $23 per bag to
$25 per bag (a bag contains 50 kilograms
of rice).
Mr. Savoeun added that they no
longer depend on the climate to dry their
paddy. They can dry their paddy even
during rainy days.

Storing the harvest

Even if grains are properly dried, this

does not mean that farmers are free from
potential postharvest losses. In storage,
losses to insects, rodents, and birds are
estimated to be 510%," according to
Engr. Gummert.
Rice stored in homes is as common
as a spirit house standing in each front
yard in Cambodia because a Khmer
family secures its rice consumption until
the next harvest. Others store grains to
sell when the price is at its peak.
Seum Kouy, a farmer in Prey Stor
Village, Prey Veng, said that with the
improved granarya technology also
promoted by the projecther grains are
protected from rain, insects, birds, and
And, for grains stored as seeds,
IRRI provides the hermetic Super Bag,
which protects the germination ability of
the seed (see Fighting Asias postharvest
problems, Vol. 6, No. 1 of Rice Today).
riCe stOreD in
homes is as common
as a spirit house in

Plausible promise

ADB has been funding a new project,

Bringing about a Sustainable Agronomic
Revolution in Rice Production in Asia
by Reducing Preventable Pre and
Postharvest Losses, since 2009. It builds
on the pilot activities of the ADB-JFPRfunded project, which ended in 2008,
and aims to reduce postharvest losses by
scaling out technologies that have been
proven effective.
With the success of postharvest
technologies in Cambodia, how did the
team know that the technologies were
mature enough to be released? I think
a technology is never mature enough to
be released, explained Engr. Gummert.
Its always a process; you have to start
with something. We call it a plausible
promise, wherein the technology has the
potential to solve a problem.
Vietnam has commercially produced
6,000 mechanical dryers, being used in
counties in the Mekong Delta. For the
team, this is a hint that the technology
is sound and could also be applicable in
Cambodia. Hence, it became a starting
point to introduce the technology in
another country, rather than initiating a
research project to design a new dryer,
Engr. Gummert explained.
The combine was first introduced as
mini or small. Its cutting edge of about
1 meter was just suited for small blocks
of rice fields. The reason was that it
was cheap and affordable, said Engr.
Gummert. We knew that it was limited
in terms of capacity and it is not the
technology that can treat all the needs of
Now, farmers adapt the technology
to their needs. Since Cambodia has bigger
rice areas, medium (2-meter cutting width)
and large combine harvesters (3-meter
cutting width) have been imported from
Thailand, Vietnam, and China.

Developing Cambodias potential

A United States Department of

Agriculture report in 2009 says that
Cambodia aims to double its rice
production in 2015 and become a major
exporter. According to Dr. Meas, the
country already has a surplus for export
even if its average rice production is
only 2.7 tons per hectare and it has poor
irrigation infrastructure (only 15% of
its rice areas are irrigated). Thus, it
Rice Today July-September 2010

has more potential to go up. As far

as I know, Thailand is already near its
ceiling; I dont think it has more space to
climb up, Dr. Meas added.
If the country will use modern
varieties along with improved irrigation
infrastructure, let alone use postharvest
technologies, the country may even triple
its present rice production, Dr. Meas
confidently predicted.

Contribution to the countrys goal

It is hoped that postharvest technologies

will help Cambodia attain its goals
to be a major exporter and double its
production in 2015. For Engr. Gummert,
there are two ways in which better
postharvest management can contribute
to the countrys goal. First, Southeast
Asia loses 1525% of grains because
of spoilage and pests. Reducing these
losses will contribute to the countrys
rice output. The other area is basically
quality. Better quality directly affects
the ability to export rice because, to
become a major exporter, explained
Engr. Gummert, the country needs
to produce quality consistently. And,
only by using advanced postharvest
technology can this be attained.
Cambodia cannot definitely rely
on manual labor if it wants to be a
major exporter some day. Dr. Meas
explained that if a country, let us say the
Philippines, wants rice from Cambodia,
it prefers only one or two varieties. The
same variety ripens at the same time.
If manual labor is used to harvest, it is
difficult to maintain the grain quality;
and, because of labor shortages, it is
impossible to harvest this variety at
the same time. Some plants will be less
mature, and others overripe.
If the rice is less mature, it will
have less milling output; if it is overripe,
it will have a lot of breakage, Dr. Meas
explained. Therefore, use of machinery
is imperative for Cambodia to become an
No doubt, combine harvesters and
flatbed dryers, among other postharvest
technologies, are radically transforming
how farmers farm in Cambodia. It goes
without saying that Cambodia is moving
toward efficiency and modernity as it
strives to increase rice production and
leapfrogs to become a major rice exporter
in Asia.

The little machine that could

Africa shifts from backbreaking operations to
almost labor-free threshing

he excitement of rice
farmers in Saint-Louis,
Senegal, upon seeing an
appropriate engine-driven
small-scale thresher from Asia
in the mid-1990s could not have
been far different from that of the
first American president, George
Washington, in 1796, when he was
expecting the first horse-powered
threshing machine to arrive from
London. He described the new
machine as one of the most valuable
institutions in this country; for
nothing is more wanting and to be
wished for on our farms.
The Asian rice thresher,
which the Senegalese rice farmers
appreciated, was sent by the
International Rice Research Institute
(IRRI) upon request by the Africa
Rice Center (AfricaRice). It was
expected that this thresher could be
locally manufactured and mounted
to serve as an alternative to manual

The making of ASI

Thanks to an innovative partnership

forged between national and
international research and extension
organizations, local artisans, farmers
organizations, and the private sector,
an improved rice thresher for the
Senegal River Valley (the principal
zone for irrigated rice in the country)
was soon developed. Based on the
IRRI prototype, it can reduce the
drudgery associated with hand
threshing and improve yield and
marketability of rice.
Substantial modifications were
made to the original thresher,
including doubling its capacity,
making it more robust by using
sturdier material, increasing its
processing power, and adding two

r.raMan, africarice (2)

WIth SIx workers, manual

threshing yields only one ton
per day, but, using an ASI
thresher, it yields six tons
per day.

An ASI thresher is being

used at the Institut
d'Economie Rurale (IER),
niono, Mali.

PARtIcIPAntS At a meeting on Boosting

agricultural mechanization in rice-based
systems in sub-Saharan Africa, under the
Global Rice Science Partnership (GRiSP),
inspect a mini-combine prototype designed
by a local manufacturer.
Marco Wopereis, africarice

wheels to make it a four-wheel

Named ASI after the three
main partnersAfricaRice, the
Senegal River Valley National
Development Agency (SAED), and the
Senegalese Institute of Agricultural
Research (ISRA)the thresher went
through several adaptations to
ensure that it met the requirements
of producers and women rice farmers
engaged in threshing activities.
ASI was commercially released
in Senegal in 1997. Since then, ASI
has become the most widely adopted
thresher in Senegal, with major
impact on the rice production chain.
A study showed that, with six
workers, ASI yields six tons of paddy
per day vis--vis one ton by manual
threshing and four tons by Votex, the
alternative small-scale thresher that
was available in the Senegal River
Valley. Moreover, with a grain-straw
separation rate of 99%, no additional
labor is required for sifting and
winnowing compared to Votex,
which could not properly separate
Rice Today April-June 2012

grains from straw after threshing.

In other words, it reduces labor
requirements, freeing up family
members, particularly women,
for other useful tasks; speeds up
the postharvest process; allows
production of a higher quality
product with lower risk of damage;
and increases the marketability of
local rice in the face of imports.
Recognizing its immense value
for the country as a technical solution
that is acceptable to everyone in the
rice-growing community, including
women, the Grand Prix du Prsident
de la Rpublique du Sngal pour
les Sciences (Special Prize of the
President of Senegal for Scientific
Research) was conferred in 2003 on
the ASI thresher team. The team
included AfricaRice Deputy Director
General Marco Wopereis, who had
served as an agronomist in the SaintLouis Station of AfricaRice in the 90s
and was closely involved in all the
stages of ASIs development.
An impact study conducted by
AfricaRice in Senegal 12 years later

in 2009 showed that ASI continued

to be one of the most important
improved postharvest technologies
in the Senegal River Valley, helping
irrigated rice farmers to cope with
labor scarcity. For farmers, the ASI
thresher is a time- and labor-saving
device with a high grain recovery

Spreading across the region

As ASIs popularity grew among

the rice farming community and
its impact continued to ripple
outward and change the lives of
rural households, the experience in
Senegal was successfully extended
to several West African countries
(Cte dIvoire, Burkina Faso, Ghana,
Mali, Mauritania, etc.), where each
country further adapted the machine
to suit its own specific conditions and
released it under different brands.
ASI has recently spread to
Central African countries Cameroon
and Chad. Here, the local artisans,
who were trained by AfricaRice and
partners, were inspired to develop

a series of modified prototypes for

various crops. In 2011, the Chad
government gave ASI high praise
at the countrys 50th anniversary
celebration, where local ASI models
were publicly displayed.

Why ASI clicked

Labor is a serious concern in subSaharan African agriculture since

many labor-intensive tasks in crop
production are carried out manually.
For example, rice threshing and
cleaning are manually carried out
predominantly by women, who
spend hours on these back-breaking
operations. This not only affects their
health but also the grain quality and
profitability of rice.
Field surveys carried out in
the 90s in the Senegal River Valley
revealed that the lack of improved
practices and machinery resulted in
postharvest rice crop losses of up to
35% and poor grain quality due to
inefficient manual threshing.
The surveys also revealed other
constraints, such as the frequent
Rice Today April-June 2012

by Savitri Mohapatra

shortage of labor during rice harvest

and postharvest periods and the
unsuitability of existing systems that
were too costly, time-consuming, or
labor-intensive during peak labor
demand. Consequently, paddy may
sit in the field for weeks or even
months waiting to be harvested or
threshed; quality then deteriorates
because of exposure to the elements
and shattering.
Therefore, in response to the
demand from rice stakeholders,
AfricaRice decided to adapt and
introduce ASI in the region by
creating a coalition of partners.
The partnership model made the
technology relevant. AfricaRice is
now using this model to forge a new
partnership and alliance to further
develop rice harvest and postharvest
technologies in sub-Saharan Africa.
Now, the Center is introducing
and adapting a small affordable
combine harvester in the Senegal
River Valley for timely harvesting
and threshing. The adapted
prototype combine harvester, which
is under tests, not only harvests
small farm plots more quickly, but
also provides threshed and bagged
grain of high quality, making it more
attractive to local traders.
Given the examples of ASI
and the mini-combine harvester
introduced by AfricaRice and
its partners, a number of rice
stakeholders from sub-Saharan
Africa who met in July 2011 to
develop a road map for sustainable
mechanization of the rice sector
emphasized the value of smallscale, locally adapted machinery
specifically targeting labor-intensive
They also recommended that
governments consult research when
importing machinery to ensure its
efficacy and durability under African
farming conditions, and that capacity
be built to provide after-sales support
for farm machinery. Thus, the ripples
created by ASI continue to expand.

flatbed dryers

martin gummert

Eclipsing the sun:

PhiliPPine Rice Research

institute engineers demonstrate
the reversible flatbed dryer to
farmers in Agusan del norte,

nou Kim Sean (right), farmer and

chairman of the Pursat Rice millers
Association, adopted the technology
and built a recirculating batch dryer
with 12-ton capacity.

trina leah mendoza

Millions of Asian farmers struggled with poor-quality sun-dried grain until a mechanical
flatbed dryer adaptable to the tropics was developed in the Philippines in the 1970s

t first, the flatbed rice grain

dryer did not take off in
most countries because of
the high-cost kerosenefueled burner. Its 1-ton drying
capacity per batch was too big for
small farmers and too small for the
commercial sector.
It was only in Vietnam where the
technology was successfully adapted,
thanks to a version modified by Nong
Lam University (NLU). By 2005,
around 4,000 dryers with 4- to 8-ton
capacity were installed in the Mekong
Delta, all using rice husk as fuel.
Neighboring Lao PDR, Cambodia,
and Myanmar had no dryers at that
time. Indonesian dryers mostly
installed by the government were not
being used. And, only a few dryers
based on the Vietnamese design were
used in the Philippines.
The International Rice Reasearch
Institute (IRRI) began working with
NLU, national partners, and private
stakeholders in 2006 to introduce the
flatbed dryer in Southeast Asia.


Dr. Myo Aung Kyaw from the

Pioneer Postharvest Development

Group (PPHDG) and Mr. Tin Oo,

a manufacturer, participated in an
IRRI-organized dryer manufacturing
training by NLU in 2006.
After the training, they installed
the first pilot unit in Myanmar,
which sparked the production and
installation of dryers at rice mills and
with farmers groups. By 2012, more
than 70 dryers had been installed by
the PPHDG, 80 by Mr. Tin Oo, and
150 by others who had copied the
The Pioneer postharvest team
confirms that 13,700 farmers are
benefiting from the dryers that they
have installed, and about 35,000
farmers are already benefiting from
more than 300 dryers in the country.


In the tidal lands of South Sumatra,

low-quality discolored rice was
common because of delays in
handling and drying. This was
caused by shortages in labor
and poor postharvest facilities.
Then, AGRINDO, a machinery
manufacturer in Java, introduced
a kerosene-fueled flatbed dryer in
South Sumatra in 1995. Unfortunately,
Rice Today January-March 2013

users abandoned the dryer because of

rising fuel costs.
In 2003, a rice-husk-fired dryer
with 3.3-ton capacity was developed
by the Indonesian Center for Rice
Research in Sukamandi, and
introduced in South Sumatra by the
Assessment Institute for Agricultural
Technology in Palembang. IRRI
helped by transferring a bigger
and more efficient fan to a local
manufacturer in Palembang. Come
2010, around 200 dryers were
installed in South Sumatra, mainly by
rice millers. Four local workshops are
now producing dryers there, with one
shop in Palembang already making
good-quality dryers.
In 2012, IRRI provided additional
training on blower testing and
manufacturing of an improved rice
husk furnace.

The Philippines

Most Filipino farmers rely on the

sun to dry their grain, but now they
face quality problems because of
unpredictable weather.
In the past few years, the
Philippine Rice Research Institute
(PhilRice) worked with NLU to bring

in the second-generation flatbed

dryer with reversible airflow from
Vietnam to the Philippines.
IRRI supported a participatory
verification of the initial units of these
dryers through the Irrigated Rice
Research Consortium (IRRC) and
an Asian Development Bank (ADB)funded postharvest project. And, the
Philippine Department of Agriculture
funded 10 units installed at PhilRice
These dryers are now distributed
to end users through PhilRice and a
postharvest learning alliance. Both
serve as platforms in which the
dryers can be evaluated in a business
model context with end users and
supporting institutions such as
nongovernment organizations, local
government units, and IRRI.


The need for mechanical dryers

in Cambodia sprang from the
proliferation of combine harvesters in
the country.
Now, with around 2,000
combines being used, large amounts
of grain harvested need to be dried.
Sun drying is no longer suitable (see
Machines of progress, Vol. 9, No. 3,
pages 38 to 41 of Rice Today). Thus,
the ADB-IRRI project transferred the
flatbed dryer from Vietnam to a local
manufacturer in Cambodia.
From one demonstration unit
installed with a farmers group in
2007, Cambodia now has hundreds of
flatbed dryers. The private sector has
realized the benefits of mechanical

drying and several companies have

invested in the technology. Nou Kim
Sean, a rice miller who partnered
with the project, has now designed a
recirculating batch dryerthe next
level of the technology. In 2012, IRRI
tested the dryer and assisted him in
coming up with an improved second

Key ingredients

Previous attempts to introduce

mechanical dryers for rice have failed
because of unsuitable technologies,
high fuel costs, and markets that
accepted sun-dried paddy without a
price penalty.
However, increased harvest
volumes and markets becoming more
quality-conscious pushed the need
for mechanical dryers in Southeast
Asia over the last decade.
Within a few years, neighboring
countries adopted the dryers because

of the dryers adapted design, the

use of rice husk as fuel, as well as the
facilitation of technology transfer and
support to local manufacturers.
Each country had local
champions who drove the
technologies even beyond project
horizons. Multistakeholder platforms
such as learning alliances helped
in linking actors across sectors,
capturing the learning, and making it
available for others.
All these were key ingredients
that helped move flatbed dryers from
Vietnam across Southeast Asia.
Mr. Gummert is a postharvest expert
and Ms. Mendoza is a communication
specialist at IRRI.
For a related video about the flatbed
dryer in Cambodia, see
trina leah mendoza

by Martin Gummert and Trina Leah Mendoza

martin gummert

An iRRi technician assists in

installing a privately owned flatbed
dryer with rice husk-fueled furnace
at the foot of mt. Sierra madre in
cagayan Valley, Philippines.

Rice Today January-March 2013


joseph rickman (8)

It takes sound business

principles and planning to
introduce farm equipment
in a sustainable way


A big hit in Africa

by Joseph Rickman

farmers life has never

been an easy one.
Before farmers can
reap the full benefit of
their harvest, they have to do many
energy-sapping tasks: plowing,
planting, irrigating, weeding,
harvesting, threshing, transporting,
and storing.
Traditionally, most activities on
small rice farms require long hours
of work, using a lot of family labor or
energy. Studies show that, for each
ton of rice produced, more than 7,000
megajoules of energy are needed,
whether provided by humans or
In physical terms, work or energy
is a function of force and distance.
The more force you need to apply or
distance you need to travel, the more
energy is required. The faster you
accomplish this, the more power you
exert. When humans or animals work
in the field, the problem is that they
can supply only a finite amount of
energy at a given time. When they get
tired, efficiency drops and so does the
quality of work.
Are machines the answer?
Although humans and animals have
limited energy over time, machines
dont get tired, and they can get the job
done much faster without sacrificing
quality of work.
For instance, to plow a hectare
requires 150 person-days to finish,
12 days when animals are used, a
day with a 2-wheel tractor, and 12
hours with a 4-wheel tractor. The
same amount of energy of about 1,500
megajoules is required to do the job.
The difference is in the time.
Aside from time, labor cost
should also be considered. Using a
machine or hiring a contract service
provider is cheaper. The cost for
one-pass plowing using animals, a
2-wheel tractor, or a 4-wheel tractor

Small equipment:

Humans and machines

by Joseph Rickman and Paula Bianca Ferrer

is US$4050 per hectare depending

on the locality while manual labor
costs more than $200 per hectare,
and the job done is no better than the
mechanical output anyway.
In terms of harvesting, hand
harvesting and threshing cost
$100120 per hectare and hand
cutting with mechanical threshing
costs about $80 per hectare, which is
similar to combine harvesting that
costs $80100 per hectare.
When a machine is introduced
into a farming system, it often brings
with it other benefits. The engine can
be used as a power source for other
machines such as threshers, water
pumps, and electricity generators.
Moreover, a farmer who owns a
machine such as a 2-wheel tractor or
thresher can do contract service work
for other farmers.
Rice Today April-June 2012

Technical loopholes

Good management and

understanding of the machine
and the farming environment
are all critical and should not be
overlooked. For example, when
mechanical threshers were brought
to Mozambique from Asia, all had
broken down with mechanical
problems within 2 months. The cause
of the problem was that farmers had
always cut the straws long enough for
easy grip when they manually flailed
them over a drum to release the
grain. However, mechanical threshers
require short straws to be efficient.
Another problem encountered
was that the farmers normally left
their rice crop in the field until the
moisture dropped to 1516%, which
made it easier for threshing. The
mechanical threshers, however, were

designed to thresh grains at 2022%

moisture, which not only gets the
crop out of the field 34 weeks earlier
but also gives higher grain yield of a
better quality. Farmers who were not
used to managing grain with high
moisture thus faced a problem. This
resulted in a second technology, solar
grain drying, which could dry the
grain to 14% moisture for safe storage.
The biggest lesson here is that its
very important to analyze the entire
production chain before introducing
new equipment.

Gears in place

In rice-producing countries where

mechanization is at an early stage,
many nuts and bolts have to be
in place to develop a sustainable
industry. Experiences from Asia
and from some parts of Africa

indicate that farm equipment can

be introduced in a sustainable way
through sound business principles
and planning. Governments,
training institutes, international
organizations, NGOs, financial
institutions, and the private sector all
have a role to play.
The governments main role
is in the importation and testing
of new equipment, as well as in
the development of import and tax
policies that support importers,
dealers, and local manufacturers.
Vocational training institutes need
to develop curricula that focus on
mechanization and can provide both
technical and basic business planning
and training for operators, mechanics,
and artisans. Extension offices and
NGOs need training to extend and
support mechanized agriculture.
Credit institutions need to be
encouraged to structure loans to suit
farmers and contract service suppliers.
Most importantly, there must be
champions for rice mechanization
who will link to all the stakeholders
and who must be supported by the
government to drive the process
from introduction to adoption.
Mr. Rickman is an IRRI senior scientist
and regional coordinator for East and
Southern Africa.
Rice Today April-June 2012

number of examples in
Africa tell stories of how
farmers have successfully
adopted small-scale equipment,
which is now being manufactured
The model of adoption has
generally been the same. Once
a suitable machine is identified,
it is tested under a range of
local conditions, modified when
necessary, promoted by the
government, and then linked to a
local entrepreneur.
The use of locally
manufactured mechanical
threshers in Senegal is one very
good example (see story on pages
30-31). When this equipment
imported from the International
Rice Research Institute in the
Philippines was brought to
Africa, the government, together
with the Africa Rice Center and
a local manufacturer, extended
its use to the broader farming
community. Now, more than 400
of these thresherswhich have
been adapted to local conditions
are being used in Senegal.
In Tanzania, more than
600 two-wheel tractors, which
were imported from Thailand,
are now being widely used for
rice production. Local dealers
in Dar es Salaam support these
tractors by supplying spare
parts and training operators
in using and maintaining the
equipment. In Madagascar,
locally manufactured mechanical
weeders have been adopted
widely. These weeders were
originally imported from Asia but
are now being fabricated locally.
In all of these cases, adoption
and promotion have been based
on sound business principles,
without government subsidies.


ith her tiny frame, bluntcut bangs, and trendy

outfits, 28-year-old
Truong Thi Thanh Nhan
looks more like a school girl than
a farmer. Nhan earned her degree
in software programming from the
University of Science in Ho Chi Minh
City, Vietnam, in 2010. But, after
graduation, she agreed to her parents
wishes to oversee their family farm
in Dak Lak Province in Vietnams
Central Highlands.
In December 2011, Nhan started
the daunting task of managing
their almost 70 hectares of land. She
started planting rice twice a year on
20 hectares of their farm. Once a year,
Nhan also grows maize and pumpkin
on 10 hectares each. Although her
familys farm is located on a steep
slope, bringing water into the field
was easy because the field was next
to a water canal. It was managing the
watermaking sure that higher areas
were reachedthat was the problem.
Most of the rice plants in higher areas
die because they lacked sufficient
water. She had no choice but to hire
many laborers to replant the field.


A flair for laser

Story and photos by

Trina Leah Mendoza

Truong Thi Thanh Nhan doesnt look like a typical farmer, but
she is proving to be a powerful "engine" for growth in Vietnams
farming communities


Rice Today October-December 2013

In early 2012, Nhan chanced upon a

show on a Vietnamese TV channel
that featured rice farmer Nguyen Loi
Duc from Tri Ton District, An Giang
Province. She found herself glued to
the channel as Nguyen was sharing
his experiences and the benefits
from laser leveling his 150-hectare
field. With her interest piqued, she
searched the Internet to learn more
about the technology.
With laser leveling, a transmitter
placed at the side of the field sends
a laser beam to a receiver, which is
attached to a leveling bucket drawn
by a tractor. Then, a control panel
mounted on a tractor interprets the
signal from the receiver and opens
or closes a hydraulic valve, which
in turn raises or lowers the bucket.
The bucket then drags and drops soil
across the field to make it even.
Nhan, together with her family,
visited Nong Lam University (NLU)
in Ho Chi Minh City. They were
briefed on the technology by NLU

staff member Tran Van Khanh, a

principal lecturer on agricultural
machinery, and Phung Anh Vinh
Truong, a researcher who became
Nhans husband in 2013 and now
helps her manage the farm.
Engr. Khanh emphasized
the benefits of the technology
and assured Nhans family that
the International Rice Research
Institute (IRRI) also provides
technical support. Nhans family
was convinced and
decided to buy laserleveling equipment
and a drag bucket
from a Saigon-based
distributor, Ideal
Farming Corporation.

Loads of benefits

They began using

laser leveling in their
rice-growing area.
Now that 9 hectares
of our rice field have
been laser-leveled,
the benefits have
been tremendous,
Nanh says. We save
on water because
we dont need to
pump more water to
reach the once-high
areas. With even water coverage, the
crops are healthy and thrivingand
we dont need to hire laborers for
Laser leveling their land had
other benefits too. Fertilizer is now
spread evenly among the crop,
saving as much as 77 kilograms per
hectare. Pests, which used to hide in
uneven spots, can no longer do so,
resulting in less pesticide applied.
Weed control is also easier. Herbicide
spraying has been reduced to one,
before the emergence of rice, unlike
before when they sprayed herbicide
twice during the season. The yield
from the laser-leveled field during
the dry season, from January to
May 2013, was higher at 6.7 tons per
hectare compared with 4.5 tons per
hectare for the unleveled field.
The laser-leveling equipment,
however, is subject to wear and tear.
Nhans husband, Truong, shares

that the usual challenges they face

with laser leveling have more to do
with fixing the equipment when it
breaks down. It usually takes a week
to repair the system, and Truong,
being an agricultural engineer by
profession, does it on his own in
their workshop. However, since they
live in a rural area where power
shortages are common, repairing
broken equipment takes more time
and effort.

postharvest technologies organized

by the Asian Development Bank-IRRI
Postharvest Project.

A role model

Although Nhan is not a typical

Vietnamese farmer, she has
managed to turn their farm into a
productive and efficient business.
But, many people are surprised
by Nanhs decision to be a farmer.
They do not understand why a
young lady like her,
with a background
in software
programming from a
prestigious university,
would want to go
back to agriculture.
For Nhan, it
was no surprise.
Her parents both
grew up on farms,
and agriculture was
part of their family
tradition. Going back
to her roots made
her happy and she
is optimistic about
NhaN aNd her husband Khanh are
her future. She hopes
changing farming practices and the
that, with a new
image of farmers in Vietnam.
generation of farmers
like her, it will be
possible to change the
general perception of farming.
Spreading the word
Nowadays, young people think
But, overall, Nahns decision to
that farmers are old-fashioned, poor,
purchase the equipment is proving
to be a very wise one. As the
and lack social standing, and that
neighboring farmers witnessed the
returning to the farm is a last option,
improvements on Nhans rice farm,
says Nhan. I am a smart, young,
it wasnt long before they sought her
dynamic person, and even though I
help. She already provided laseram a farmer living in an area without
leveling services to one farmers
many comforts and I face difficulties
2.7-hectare rice field in December
with finances and managing people,
2012 and she has plans to do more.
I know that I am on the right path
After I finish leveling our
toward a stable income and a
20 hectares of rice farm and our
sustainable future.
maize farm, we plan to rent out our
I am contributing to food
equipment to other farmers, not only
sustainability for my region and
for rice but for other crops as well,
country, which young people now
says Nhan.
rarely do. And, I have my family to
Nhan is now also on a
thank for helping me be the farmer
mission. An advocate of laserthat I am now.
leveling technology, she shares
her experiences in adopting laser
leveling with representatives from
Ms. Mendoza is a senior communication
both the public and private sector
specialist with the Irrigated Rice Research
during meetings and seminars on
Consortium at IRRI.
Rice Today October-December 2013


Even grounds
by Bianca Ferrer

Laser land leveling is

fast changing the face
of traditional farming in
South Asia


A lAser land leveler plows a field in the

village of Matiala, western Uttar Pradesh.

helps give us a much better crop stand,

he concludes.
Leveling the land using laser
systems has also become a source of
income for farmers as they rent the units
to fellow farmers at 500 rupees ($1) an
hour. Sometimes, these farmers hire out
the system to three to four other farmers
to level their fields, working in shifts.
The laser land levelers give the farmers
an extra source of income aside from
helping increase their productivity, cites
Dr. Gupta.
Farmers in India enjoy benefits
similar to those enjoyed by farmers in
Pakistan, from where Dr. Gupta and his

VillAgers helP a local service provider,

who rents out a laser land leveler to
farmers, do land surveys.

Rice Today April-June 2011

raj gupta, rwc (3)

ew countries in Asia are

familiar with precision land
leveling or laser land leveling,
but, in India, the technology
has already been adopted in many
states and it has almost become an
indispensable tool in agriculture.
Through laser land leveling, farmers
are able to save water and reduce their
irrigation cost because laser-leveled
fields, unlike traditionally leveled fields,
allow better water coverage and more
efficient irrigation.
Around 7,000 Indian farmers now
own 10,000 laser land levelers and close
to 1 million hectares of land in India have
been laser-leveled.
For traditional agricultural
practices of the rice-wheat farming
system, pump irrigation is common,
says Raj Gupta, regional facilitator of
the Rice-Wheat Consortium (RWC) for
the Indo-Gangetic Plains. Electricity
consumption from pumping underground
water can reach 800 kilowatts per hectare
per year and leveling the land could help
save up to US$65 million annually.
Laser leveling allows us to use
more efficiently water that, at times,
becomes scarce, he added. Also,
compared with unleveled or traditionally
leveled fields, laser-leveled fields can
save 18 centimeters of water. With about
1 million hectares of land that has been
laser-leveled, this translates to 2 cubic
kilometers of water savedroughly the
size of a lake that is 2 kilometers long, 1
kilometer deep, and 1 kilometer wide.
Laser leveling not only allows
even distribution of water so that it can
be used more efficiently but it also leads
to better nitrogen-use efficiency, which

colleagues from the RWC first stumbled

upon the technology.
In 2002, the RWC team visited
farmers fields in Pakistan. During the
field trip, they saw fields that had been
laser-leveled. We got good feedback
from the farmers, explains Dr. Gupta.
They liked laser leveling very much
because it helped them save water, get
extra income from renting out the units
to other farmers, and increase their
productivity. So, we decided to introduce
laser land leveling in India.
In the same year, a laser landleveling unit was supplied by Spectra
Precision, Inc., a dealer in Hyderabad,
India, and was brought to a farmers field
in Haryana for testing. However, the
technology was not a success because the
system buckled and was taken back for
further improvements. It did, however,
provide two important lessons: that
the units automatic hydraulic scraper
bucket should be assembled with locally
available materials and that local service
providers had to be able to handle defects
in their small workshops.
After the first unsuccessful attempt,
the RWC asked Joseph Rickman, an
agricultural engineer at the International
Rice Research Institute (IRRI), to

develop a hydraulic scraper bucket for

a 50- to 60-horsepower tractor that was
fitted with a laser land-leveling unit. As
he had gained much experience from his
projects in Cambodia and Thailand, Mr.
Rickman developed an automatic scraper
bucket with Beri Udyod Ltd., a local
manufacturer, which offered him free
use of its workshop facilities. As a result,
they were able to build the hydraulic
scraper bucket using local automobile
components and they connected it to a
tractor-driven land-leveling unit.
The machine was tested on a farm
in Karnal Province and the results were
encouraging. This then led to a larger
demonstration and a training workshop at
the Indian Agricultural Research Institute
in New Delhi, where about 200 agriculture
professionals, service professionals, and
local manufacturers attended.
Through an initiative to promote
laser land leveling in northern India,
similar to Spectra Precision, Inc., in
southern India, another manufacturer
came onto the scene and forayed into
manufacturing units that copied the
hydraulic scraper bucket from Beri and
used a locally-procured control valve
mechanism. Competitive manufacturing
was born with Leica Geosystems and
Beri producing the same units and nine
other suppliers that came on board later.
In 2005, the Atomic Energy
Commission in India also developed
a prototype of a laser land leveler but,
although it was successfully developed
using locally-available materials, it failed
to be mass-produced. Meanwhile, Indias
private sector also developed prototypes
of laser land levelers and, at the same
time, through contacts with foreign
suppliers, imported other units from the
U.S. to India.
Many on-farm demonstrations,
field days, and training workshops took
place. Units were produced in Karnal,
Ludhiana, Uttar Pradesh, and Bihar
by 2006 so the technology could reach
farmers fields more effectively. One of
the farmer-service providers, Ranjeet,
together with his brother, undertook more
than 200 field demonstrations in Bihars
12 districts covering West Champaran to
Purnea from 2007 to 2008.
Through subsidies provided by the
state governments of Haryana, Punjab,
Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, and others, farmers

were soon able to purchase their own

units, which they also rented out to
other farmers. A cooperative in Patna
and Samastipur districts in Bihar called
the Primary Agriculture Credit Society,
along with a farmers seed village in
Begusarai, promoted laser land leveling
together with their other resourceconserving technologies.
The Department of Agriculture
in Bihar also bought five units of laser
land levelers for demonstrations in
2008-09. During the same years, Dr.
Apurba Chowdhury and his team from
Uttarbanga Agriculture University
procured three units of laser land levelers
in Kochbehar and Dakshin Dinazpur for
farmer participatory trials.
Moreover, Dr. Paritosh Bhattacharyya
from the West Bengal Department of
Agriculture took seven more units of laser
land levelers to different districts of West
Bengal. This then became a collaborative
effort with the Indian Council of
Agricultural Research.
The experiences gained in farmers
fields helped further improve laser land
levelers. Punjab Agriculture University
also took the initiative of modifying
the hitch system for the scraper bucket,
allowing it to improve its turning radius
by 27% and the maneuverability of
tractors in small fields.
Another innovation made on the
machine was the addition of a quickrelease hydraulic coupler that enabled it
to be attached to or detached from the

tractor. This helped free the tractor when

the laser land leveler was not in use and
restored the tractor to being a multiutility
vehicle. This led to a total of 20 units sent
to Bihar, West Bengal, Punjab, Haryana,
and western Uttar Pradesh.
Since then, more improvements were
made on the leveling unit such as adding
double wheels to it to reduce the load on
the tractor, which increased the machines
capacity by 25%. An improvement
that included a powered mast for finer
elevation setting of the receiver not only
enhanced mast-receiver control on the
laser land levelers but also boosted fuel
and tractor efficiency during leveling.
Like in India, where the technology
started with one unit, but has now grown
to 10,000 units, farmers in Bangladesh
and Nepal, where the technology was
introduced in 2008, are also keen to
purchase more, says Dr. Gupta.
Each country now owns three units
and the technology has been introduced
in the Cereal Systems Initiative for South
Asia, a collaborative project among
IRRI, the International Maize and Wheat
Improvement Center, the International
Food Policy Research Institute, and the
International Livestock Research Institute.

With joint efforts among different

organizations and Consultative Group
on International Agricultural Research
centers, laser land leveling could
become an indispensable tool for
agriculture in Bangladesh and Nepal,
holding lots of promise for farmers.
UsAiD AgricUltUrAl advisor robert Bertram
(right) tests a laser land-leveling unit with
indian agronomist r.K. Naresh (left).

Rice Today April-June 2011


Technologies meet farmers

n Asia, where about 90% of rice is

grown, hundreds of millions of rural
poor grow rice on less than a hectare
of land.
Producing affordable rice for the
poor has been a challenge for the last 50
years. During the 2008 rice price crisis,
changes in rice availability and price
caused social unrest in some developing
countries. The International Rice
Research Institute (IRRI) estimates that
an additional 810 million tons of rice
need to be produced each year to keep
rice prices stable.
The challenge now is to grow more
rice with less land, less water, and less
labor amidst climate change.

A regional approach to food security

In 1997, the Swiss Agency for

Development and Cooperation (SDC)
began funding the Irrigated Rice
Research Consortium (IRRC), which
provides a platform for partnership in
research and extension in the intensive
lowland irrigated rice-based production
Initially, the IRRC focused on
integrated pest management (IPM)
and nutrient management. However,
since 2002, the IRRCs research has
featured water-saving technologies, labor
sustainability (including direct seeding
and weed and rodent management),
postharvest management, crop health
initiatives, and, recently, climate change
in 11 countries: Bangladesh, Cambodia,
China, India, Indonesia, Lao PDR,
Myanmar, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Vietnam,
and the Philippines.
The IRRC develops partnerships to
identify the needs of rice farmers and
potential solutions to their problems,
and to facilitate the adoption of suitable
technologies. It provides a range of
technologies for rice farmers and other
stakeholders in Asia to improve their

david johnson

Hundreds of thousands of Asian farmers are adopting a range of IRRC-facilitated

technologies because of the many impressive economic, social, and environmental benefits

A fArmer in myanmar directly seeds

his rice crop using a drum seeder.

livelihoods and increase rice production

to maintain food security.
Hundreds of thousands of Asian
farmers are now adopting these
technologies because of impressive
economic, social, and environmental
benefits. This article examines some of
these successes.

More rice, less water

Irrigated lowland rice is usually grown

under flooded conditions, and kept
flooded to help control weeds and pests.
However, researchers found that rice
needs to be continuously flooded only at
the flowering stage. Through alternate
wetting and drying (AWD), a watersaving practice, fields can be dried
for 110 days before being re-flooded.
Farmers can save 1530% of water and
still harvest the same yields. The water
saved can be used to irrigate more fields,
thus increasing overall production. If
AWD were to be adopted all across
Asia, the amount of water saved in one
Rice Today October-December 2011

year would equal 200 times the water

consumption of Paris for a year.
The IRRC Water-Saving Work
Group led by IRRI water scientist Ruben
Lampayan began studying AWD with
Philippine partners and farmers in
several national irrigation systems in
2002. In 2009, the Philippine government
approved the endorsement of AWD for
nationwide adoption. By July 2011, more
than 80,000 Filipino farmers had adopted
Introduced in Bangladesh in
2004, AWD is now being promoted
by government and nongovernment
agencies. The secretary of the Ministry of
Agriculture endorsed AWD in 2009, and
directed the governments Department
of Agriculture and Extension (DAE)
to promote the technology nationwide.
Along with other agencies, the DAE
promoted AWD in over 50 districts in
2010. Field studies reported a decrease
in pumping cost and fuel consumption,
and an increased income of US$6797

by Trina Leah Mendoza and Grant Singleton

per hectare. In 2009 alone,

A fArmer from Vinh Phuc Province,
Vietnam, uses the leaf color chart
partners reported 120,000
to check the nitrogen needs of his
farmers adopting AWD.
rice crop.
The private sector
promotes AWD by
producing tubes that are
used to monitor water
levels in the field. Although
thousands of farmers are
practicing AWD in the
country, a 2010 adoption
study reported that, with
millions of farmers still to
be reached, adoption is in
its infancy.
Around 40,000 farmers
in Vietnam are practicing
T.T. son
AWD, and more farmers
are expected to be reached through a
smallholder farmers in Ha Tay and Ha
new IRRC-An Giang Department of
Nam provinces, respectively. Farmers
Agriculture and Rural Development
who used SSNM reported a reduced use
initiative: the One Must Do, Five
of pesticides.
Reductions Program. In 2010, Lao PDR,
Encouraging farmers to use SSNM
Indonesia, Myanmar, and Thailand
has been a challenge because it is
started or successfully demonstrated
knowledge-intensive and many factors
need to be considered, such as crop yield
and the use of organic materials. This has
slowed down farmers adoption of these
Personalized precision farming
improved practices.
Most farmers lack knowledge on the
But, this speed bump did not slow
most effective use of fertilizer. They
Dr. Buresh and his group, who
either apply too much or too little, or
for ways to make their science
apply it at the wrong time. Too much
for the farmers. The leaf color
nitrogen fertilizer leads to increases
was developed as a tool for
in diseases and pests, damage to the
the nitrogen needs of
environment, and low profit. For more
an estimated
than a decade, IRRI soil scientist Roland
which has
Buresh, leader of the IRRC Productivity
and Sustainability Work Group, has been
working with partners in Asia to provide
site-specific nutrient management
(SSNM) practices for rice.
Farmers learned about the use of
Since 2003, correct fertilizer timing
and phosphorus fertilizers,
and application rates have greatly
new knowledge on other
increased farmers yields compared with
They were able to save
traditional practices. Yield increases
in production costs and
from adopting SSNM have improved
net returns by $100 to $300 per hectare
principles were
per year in China, India, Indonesia,
decisionVietnam, and the Philippines. An impact
making tool called Nutrient Manager
assessment study on SSNM in the Red
for Rice. A farmer or extension worker
River Delta in Vietnam revealed a 2%
only needs to answer about 15 questions
and 3% increase in net present values for
Rice Today October-December 2011

and, within 510 minutes,

a fertilizer guideline is
provided for a field. In 2010,
Web and mobile phone
versions were developed
in the Philippines. Web
applications of the Nutrient
Manager are now available
for Guangdong, China, and
Indonesia, while applications
for Bangladesh, Vietnam,
southern India, and West
Africa are under way.

Saving labor and water costs

In the Indo-Gangetic Plain,

which covers most of
northern and eastern India,
and almost all of Bangladesh, farmers
face rising costs, waning productivity,
worsening soil health, and labor
shortages, as many people move to the
cities to find work. Farmers depend on
the monsoon rains, and they cannot plant
if the rains come too late.
Led by IRRI weed scientist David
Johnson, the IRRC Labor Productivity
and Community Ecology Work Group
promotes direct seeding of rice as an
alternative way to establish a crop. In
direct seeding, pregerminated seeds
are sown directly into a nonflooded but
saturated field, using a drum seeder.
Direct seeding allows quicker land
preparation, and farmers can save 20%
in labor costs and 30% in water costs.
It takes 50 person-days to transplant a
hectare of rice, but it takes only 2 persondays to directly seed using a drum
Direct-seeded rice matures 1015
days earlier, allowing farmers to plant
other crops earlier. In a partnership
with Indias Ramakrishna Mission in
2010, direct seeding (wet or dry) in 90
farmers fields helped the early harvest
of autumn and winter paddy, providing
new opportunities for improved winter
cropping practices through earlier timing
of planting, new cultivars, and new crops.
An earlier winter rice harvest meant
earlier potato planting and a larger potato

Chris QuinTana

It is not uncommon for farmers to

lose half of their entire crop to rats,
because rat damage is usually patchy
and family rice plots are small, says
Grant Singleton, IRRC coordinator and
rodent expert. Surprisingly, only 10% of
the many different species of rodents are
pests in agriculture. The challenge is to

postharvest losses by providing best

practices and technologies to farmers and
other stakeholders. Since 2005, activities
have been funded by SDC and the Asian
Development Bank.
The mechanical flat-bed dryer,
which produces better quality rice
than sun drying, was introduced in
Cambodia, Myanmar, and Lao PDR.
Farmers groups and private companies
themselves provide funds to install
more dryers in different provinces. As

develop ways to control the pests without

greatly affecting those that are beneficial
in our environment.
Farmers are adopting a simple,
environment-friendly community
method called ecologically based rodent
management (EBRM). With EBRM,
farmers are encouraged to conduct
control methods as a community, such as
planting synchronously and hunting rats
together. EBRM reduces rodent damage
by 3350%, and increases rice yield by
25%. It also reduces rodenticide use by
EBRM has been adopted as the
national policy for rodent management
in Vietnam, Indonesia, and Myanmar. It
also was recently included in a national
integrated crop management program in
Indonesia, which was promoted through
50,000 farmer field schools in 2009 and
The impact of rodent outbreaks
in different parts of the world was
highlighted in the 2010 book Rodent
outbreaks: ecology and impacts,
published by IRRI.

In northwest Bangladesh, direct seeding, combined with

early-maturing varieties, appropriate weed management,
and crop diversification, is helping to ease seasonal hunger
called monga.

rAt PoPulAtIons can be successfully managed if

farmers work together as a communityapplying
their control at the right time and in the right


Asian rice farmers lose 3050% of

their earnings from harvest to market.
IRRI postharvest specialist Martin
Gummert leads the IRRC Postproduction
Work Group in tackling problems on
Rice Today October-December 2011

T. Mendoza (2)

Reducing postharvest losses

many as 35,000 farmers in Myanmar

benefited from using flat-bed dryers. In
Cambodia, traders pay 20% higher for
dry paddy, and an additional 1012%
for mechanically dried paddy. In the
Philippines, third-generation flat-bed
dryers were transferred from Vietnam,
and adaptation trials are ongoing.
Stakeholders in Cambodia,
Indonesia, Myanmar, Lao PDR, Vietnam,
and the Philippines tested small-scale
hermetic (airtight) storage systems for
grains and seeds. Local distributors were
established as well. An impact survey
indicated that Cambodian farmers who
use IRRI Super bags reduced their seed
rates by 22 kilograms per hectare. In
Myanmar, a locally manufactured bag
for rice seeds was developed, with over
10,000 bags sold to farmers.
Partners share their experiences
in using these postharvest technologies
through national learning alliances
(LA) in Cambodia, Vietnam, and the
Philippines. Five regional LAs have been
established in Vietnam.

Successes in Sulawesi

Through country outreach programs

in Myanmar, Vietnam, Indonesia, and
the Philippines, combinations of IRRC
technologies are showing positive results
in trials in farmers fields.
From 2008 to 2011, an IRRC-led
project funded by the Australian Centre
for International Agricultural Research

After A suCCessful field trial, the women in

Bone, south sulawesi, proudly carry the seasons
bountiful rice harvest.

focused on raising rice productivity in

South and Southeast Sulawesi, two major
rice-producing provinces in eastern
Farmers in four villages tested
AWD, integrated pest management, and
direct seeding (using a drum seeder) with
appropriate weed management. EBRM,
storing seeds using the IRRI Super bag,
and fertilizer management (using a soil
test kit and the computer-based Nutrient
Manager) were also benchmarked.
Farmers obtained a substantial
increase in yields of 0.5 to 2.3 tons per
hectare. The increase in mean farmer
income ranged from 22% to 566%,
significantly higher than the 10% target
of the project.
The number of farmers adopting
direct seeding almost doubled in
Southeast Sulawesi, from 26% in the
2008 wet season to 48% in the 2010 wet
None of the farmers had heard of the
Nutrient Manager in 2008, but, in 2010,
1455% of the farmers had heard about it
and 1020% had used it.
Compared with farmers in control
villages, the number of farmers with
improved knowledge on key insect pest
management principles doubled. For
water management, none of the farmers
had heard of AWD in 2008, but, in 2010,
1980% of the farmers in the project
villages had adopted AWD.
The projects adaptive research
Rice Today October-December 2011

approach was integrated into a national

program called Integrated Crop
Management-Farmer Field Schools.

Closing yield gaps in Southeast Asia

The IRRC has proven to be an effective

platform for delivering new technologies
to small-scale rice farmers across Asia.
With over a decade of valuable learning
experiences under its belt, the IRRC
envisions that it will continue to provide
scientific leadership and essential
networks for environmentally sustainable
increases in rice production in Southeast
Asias main rice bowls.
The impacts have been impressive
so far, and the IRRC, through its
national partners in both the public and
private sector, has a key role to play in
facilitating food security in the region.

Dr. Singleton is coordinator of the IRRC.

GranT sinGleTon

Ecologically based rodent management

men, women, and childrenand their

dogshunt rats together in An Giang,

M. CasiMero

harvest, and reduced fungicide usage and

drought risk.
In northwest Bangladesh, direct
seeding combined with shorter duration
rice varieties, appropriate weed
management, and crop diversification is
helping to ease monga, a seasonal hunger.
Each year, farm workers suffer from
monga from September to November as
they wait for the wet-season harvest.
In monga-affected districts of
Rangpur and Nilphamari, farmers who
directly seeded their rice got higher net
returns in both the wet and dry seasons.
Yields of directly seeded crops in the wet
season were higher by 493 kilograms
per hectare, and total production costs
were lower by $47 per hectare than on
farms with transplanted rice. Planting of
potato, maize, and wheat on time in the
dry season allowed farmers to sell their
crops at higher prices, because they were
able to harvest earlier when supply in the
market was still relatively low. On-time
planting of these dry-season crops also
resulted in better yields. Net incomes
of farmers who directly seeded during
the wet and dry seasons were higher by
$441 per hectare than for farmers who
With the earlier harvest of the
directly seeded rice crop in the wet
season, 5559 person-days per hectare
can potentially be hired during
harvesting, thus easing the problem of

ChIldren And their families across Asia have

more reasons to smile as the IrrC continues to
help bring rice to their tables.


is increasing farmers incomes

and strengthening communities
in Bangladesh

D succe

lmost 90% of the 11 million

hectares of rice that are
planted each season in
Bangladesh is transplanted
seedlings are grown in nurseries
then moved to the eld. It is a
heavily labor-intensive process,
requiring nearly half-a-billion
person-days across the country. In
the past, rural laborers abounded,
but increasing labor out-migration
to city areas and a shift towards
alternative rural employment has
seen a severe shortage of hands
available for transplanting rice.
This scarcity of farm workers
is hurting Bangladeshi rice farmers
on several fronts. The most obvious
impact is an increase in labor costs.
Also, the optimal planting periods
for the boro (dry) and aman (wet)
seasons are relatively short.
A lack of workers
means not all
farmers can
plant their
rice on time.
leads to latematuring rice,
the risk of crop
losses at the tail
end of both seasons
due to hailstorms or
ooding from rain during
the boro season and due to drought


An improved way of planting rice

A PLASTIC DRUM SEEDER holds six or eight perforated cylindrical drums housing pregerminated seeds that
are dropped in rows as the seeder is easily pushed or pulled along by a single person like Filipino farmer
Jimmy Gonzales at walking pace. M. Zainul Abedin (below left), who led the drum-seeding trial, is interviewed about the technology by Bangladesh TV Channel i during a eld day in Pabna. The media has played a
crucial role in raising awareness of drum seeding throughout Bangladesh.

during the aman season. These

factors, combined with increasing
costs of other inputs and a falling or
stagnant market price for rice, are
diminishing the economic viability
of rice production in Bangladesh.
But a simple, inexpensive piece of
equipment has the potential to change
the face of rice farming across the
country. The drum seeder (see photo,
opposite) is a lightweight device
made from high-density plastic with
a cost of around US$40 and a life of

Story and photography by

Leharne Fountain

Rice Today September 2005

Rice Today September 2005

6-8 years. Originally designed by the

International Rice Research Institute
(IRRI), improvements by researchers
and manufacturers in Vietnam have
substantially reduced the weight, cost
and usability of the device. It consists
of six to eight cylindrical drums
along a central axis. Each drum is
studded with holes through which
pre-germinated seeds drop neatly in
rows on puddled soils as the drum
seeder is pulled along. The drums are
supported by a large plastic wheel at
each end, allowing the whole system
to be easily pulled along by a single
user at walking pace. Drum seeding
has already had success in Vietnam
as a seed-saving strategy, but its
capacity to save labor is profound:
while it may take up to 50 persondays to transplant 1 hectare of rice,
direct wet seeding with a drum
seeder takes barely 2 person-days.
Bangladeshs rst drum-seeding
trial, conducted during the 2003
aman season a collaboration
between IRRI and the Bangladesh
Rice Research Institute (BRRI),
funded by the International Fund for
Agricultural Development (IFAD)
was a comprehensive success. In
the trial, led by M. Zainul Abedin,
Farming Systems Specialist in

IRRIs Social Sciences Division,

and implemented by BRRI Chief
Scientic Ofcer Musherraf Husain
and participating farmers, drum
seeding resulted in an average
18% higher yields and 6% reduced
costs compared with transplanting,
and drum-seeded crops matured
an average 10 days earlier. Whats
more, drum-seeded rice gave an
average gross return 21% higher
than for transplanted rice. This
translates to more than double the
average prot a boost of around
$120-150 per hectare per crop.
All those involved saw the
technology as cheaper, requiring
less labor, producing higher yields
and resulting in better plant growth.
The only areas of concern were
the potential cost of acquiring a
drum seeder, uncertainty over
availability, and weed management.
More recently, though, a followup IFAD-funded project, aiming
to accelerate the adoption of the
technology, has given IRRI and
BRRI, with the assistance of

the Bangladesh Department of

Agricultural Extension (DAE),
the chance to solve some inherent
problems and lead the spread of
drum seeding in Bangladesh.
Dr. Abedin developed guidelines
for technology adoption using a
community participatory approach
to research and extension. One key
to the approach is a pre-adoption
analysis that takes into consideration
institutional, technical, policy,
social and economic factors that
may help or hinder adoption. This
means understanding an entire
farming community, not just
individual farmers. Many farmers
grow other crops in addition to
rice, so the approach must consider
how drum seeding will affect their
whole farming system. The product
of a Bangladeshi farm family
himself, Dr. Abedin emphasizes
the value of allowing farming
communities to make their own
decisions, and to recognize they
have the ability to experiment, take
calculated risks and innovate.

Fifty-six groups across the

country decided to try drum seeding
during the 2004 boro season, in the
hope the technology would spread
out from these points. Establishing
a drum-seeded crop requires earlier
irrigation than does transplanting,
so owners of tube wells each
of which usually irrigates several
rice farms were the rst people
contacted in each location.
Its useless, says Dr. Abedin, to
get the farmers involved if they cant
irrigate their crop at the right time,
so it was crucial that we included
the well owners. Understanding,
and working within, the existing
community structures is essential.
Extraordinary pace
Now, after just three growing seasons,
the popularity of drum seeding is
spreading at an extraordinary pace.
Some 4,000 Bangladeshi farmers in
more than 300 groups are already
using the technology, with hundreds
more seeking access to drum seeders.
Dr. Abedin attributes the
successful adoption of drum
seeding in large part to the
projects community participatory
approach and, critically, the early

establishment of research linkages

with development and policy
makers, entrepreneurs and the
media. Ultimately, though, it comes
down to the farmers themselves.
It was the farmers who
experimented with the technology
and were condent of success, even
in the face of skepticism, he says.
The researchers were continuously
learning from farmers and integrating
these lessons into the work plan.
Farmers also trained other farmers.
Working with groups of farmers
helps establish ongoing, communitylevel monitoring and evaluation, and
ensures that drum-seeding success
stories spread rapidly to neighbors.
The project abounds with stories
about farmers like Abdul Aziz, from
Gazipur district northeast of the
capital, Dhaka. Aziz soldiered on even
while neighboring farmers scoffed,
believing he wouldnt harvest any
rice from his drum-seeded crop. At
55 bigha, or just under 8 hectares (7

bighas equal 1 hectare), Azizs farm

is large by Bangladeshi standards.
He started growing drum-seeded
rice during the 2004-05 boro season.
Previously, his entire crop was
transplanted, requiring 25 laborers
per 5 bigha. For the same area, drum
seeding required just a single laborer.
Aziz explains that on top of
the labor savings, he increased his
yield by 0.5-0.8 tons per hectare,
and he harvested 10 days earlier
than previously with transplanted
rice. He has more money in his
pocket and he intends to invest it
outside of rice farming, to increase
his earning capacity and diversify
his income. Many of Azizs fellow
Gazipur farmers are now eager to

try drum seeding for themselves,

and he is only too happy to share his
knowledge and experience and
his drum seeder with them.
Its a common theme: skeptical
neighbors become true believers.
Mohammad Ghiasuddin, who owns
a very small farm in Mymensingh
district north of Dhaka, has already
harvested three drum-seeded crops.
After just one season, both he and his
neighbors, who had originally thought
him mad, were convinced of the
virtues of drum seeding, and he too
has shared the technology with them.
In this way, from farmer to
farmer, the technology is spreading.

FARMER Jamal Sheikh (opposite)

discusses his drum-seeding experiences
with Channel i director Shykh Seraj during
the Pabna eld day. Looking on are State
Minister Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir
(in white), BRRI Director of Research
Niloofar Karim (right of minister) and
Dr. Abedin (left of Seraj).


Rice Today September 2005

Rice Today September 2005


RICE FARMER Abdul Ahad stands beside a

shallow tube well, which irrigates crops on
several farms during the boro (dry) season.
Because they control irrigation, tube well
owners are crucial to the success of drum
seeding, which requires earlier irrigation
than does transplanting.

TOWEL BUSINESSMAN Haji Shahabuddin (above) approached BRRI, eager to try drum seeding on his land, after seeing the technology showcased on the local
television program Soil and man. Farmer Mohammad Ghiasuddin (above right) stands in front of his drum-seeded crop. Filling drum seeders is easy for Filipino farmer
Hernando Bambo (below) simply open the hatch in each drum and pour in the pregerminated seeds.


Field days, often attended by

hundreds of farmers, give drumseeding converts the chance to
inspire others to try the technology.
At a eld day in April 2005, three
farmers shared their experiences of
drum seeding with a crowd of nearly
400 farmers and extension workers
from around Pabna, 240 km west of
Dhaka. One of the speakers, Jamal
Sheikh, described the experiment he
and some fellow farmers performed
to try and reduce both the need
for irrigation and the cost of land
preparation by adopting a zero-tillage
technique that made use of residual
moisture in his eld from receding
oodwaters and which, in concert
with drum seeding, gained them
yields at least 20% higher than for
transplanted rice. It is this spirit
of innovation and determination
that has stirred pride in those
already drum seeding and
inspired their counterparts.


Involving Bangladeshi policy

makers in the adoption process
provided a major boost. From an
early stage, Dr. Abedin realized
government support would be
critical (see Grain of truth on page
38). The team fostered relations
with the Bangladesh Ministry of
Agriculture and subsequently secured
government funding of 10 million
Bangladeshi taka (US$156,000),
which was mainly used to buy
an extra 2,500 drum seeders.
The government also pledged to
subsidize the cost of drum seeders for
farmers. The media have also been
instrumental in increasing awareness
of drum seeding. Many people not
only rice farmers approached
BRRI and DAE for information on
trying drum seeding after seeing
stories about the technology on
television or in the newspapers.
But there is still work to be
done. Research is still identifying
the varieties and areas
most suited to drum
seeding, particularly
taking into account
land, soil and existing
cropping systems. Weed
management is also an issue,
as is the availability of the drum
seeders, and the possible need
for adaptations. And although
scarcity of labor is the primary
basis for using drum
Rice Today September 2005

seeding, in some areas the technology

has the potential to displace jobs.
Researchers need to be aware
of their social responsibility to see
that there is no serious effect on rural
employment, cautions Dr. Abedin.
However, the economic boost caused
by drum seeding should create jobs
elsewhere to absorb displaced labor.
IRRI, BRRI and the DAE
are currently in discussions with
Bangladeshi entrepreneurs interested
in manufacturing drum seeders
locally, and two companies have
already manufactured prototypes.
This sort of enterprise can help
the availability of drum seeders
meet the rising demand.
Major shift
Drum seeding represents a major
shift from transplanting, and there
is a need to manage the change
and create an environment that
allows change nationally. Training
farmers and both government and
nongovernment extension workers
is of paramount importance. An
IRRI-led meeting in June 2005,
attended by senior government
ofcials and high-level research,
extension, nongovernmental,
media and business personnel,
established a 5-year plan for
transferring drum-seeding
technology. Following this, the
government has given the go ahead

to the project team for an additional

investment of around 100 million
taka ($1.56 million) to continue
the work to spread drum-seeding
technology across Bangladesh.
Originally, the only planned
benet of drum seeding was the
cost saving from reduced labor
requirements. It was expected,
however, that this would be offset
slightly by an increased need for
weed management. As it turns
out, farmers have also experienced
improved plant growth, increased
yields and earlier plant maturity,
and they have used fewer seeds.
The latest results of drum
seeding across the country show
yield increases of up to 20% in
both boro and aman seasons,
and up to double the net prot,
translating to additional income,
over transplanted rice, of 7,00010,000 taka ($110-160) per hectare
per season, a signicant boost for
most Bangladeshi rice farmers. Drum
seeding also frees family labor, which
has wide-ranging social benets.
Even with modest projections,
Dr. Abedin believes drum seeding
can have a profound impact. If
drum seeding works on only 4

million hectares, he explains,

a 15% yield increase equates to
3 million tons of extra rice with
very little extra investment. I
believe drum seeding has the
potential to change the landscape
of rice farming in Bangladesh.
Rangpur Dinajpur Rural Service,
a participating nongovernmental
organization, sees early harvest and
increased yield as more than just a
way to reduce monga (starvation)
during the pre-harvest period in
October and November. First, early
harvesting generates employment
for landless laborers, providing them
income to buy food. Second, the early
harvest and increased production
make food available to vulnerable
farmers during the monga period.
The farmers themselves are
overjoyed by the results and are
eagerly sharing the technology with
other farmers. Dr. Abedin has also
witnessed benets of the technology
that run deeper than this the spirit
of innovation and entrepreneurship
among farmers and the strengthening
of communities through working
together are just as signicant.
Drum seeding is helping to
advance rice farming in Bangladesh.
Rice Today September 2005

The father of farmers

n his own words, Ayub Husain is a father of

farmers. Husain was part of the rst group
of farmers to receive drum-seeding training
from BRRI. He then trained others, beginning
with ve farmers in two locations during the
2003-04 boro (dry) season. In the following
aman (monsoon) season, just two farmers used
the drum seeder. The next boro season, though,
more than 60 farmers sowed 15 hectares by drum
seeding, including almost a hectare of Husains
own land. Wanting to spread the word, he joined
forces with IRRI and BRRI to hold a farmer eld
day, which was attended by the State Minister
for Agriculture.
Inspired by the results in his own area,
Husain set out 500 km across Bangladesh, where
he led trials in the hometown of the Finance
Minister to raise government awareness of the
technology. The trials were not as successful as
hoped because of unsuitable conditions, but
neither he nor the farmers were discouraged;
these same farmers are now testing the seeder
in the aus (pre-monsoon) season.
What motivates a farmer to go to such
lengths? Husain claims his mission is simply
to help his fellow Bangladeshi farmers, as most
grow enough rice merely to feed themselves and
their families, and many struggle to produce
even that. By instilling farmers with a spirit of
innovation, he believes Bangladeshi society as
a whole can move forward. Husain has seen that
partnerships between farmers, scientists and
researchers can increase productivity, and he
wants scientists to help farmers realize that they
can take a technological approach to solving
problems and improving their farming.
While Husain travels around the country
spreading the news about drum seeding and
other technologies, his family looks after the
farm. It is more important, he feels, to dedicate
his time to benet the entire country. This selfprofessed father of farmers doesnt expect any
payment for his work: parents dont expect to be
paid for being parents, he says, For Husain, it is
a reward in itself to watch his children the
farmers he has mentored growing up.

Its success so far conrms that

simple and relatively inexpensive
technologies can be effective. It
goes much further, too. The drumseeding experience is proving that
working with communities in the
testing, adaptation and adoption of
appropriate technologies, and linking
policy makers, entrepreneurs and
other stakeholders early on in other
words, engaging from the beginning
those who stand to benet and those
who have the power to help can
have a profound and lasting impact.

The not-so-silent revolution

Motor pump diagram

The widespread use of small engines for water pumps and boat motors gave rise to profound
changes in the Mekong Delta

uring the Vietnam War,

the Mekong Delta was
perhaps best known as a
Cold War battleground.
While the war raged, however, a
technological revolution, every bit as
profound, was underway as farmers
began adapting small engines for
water pumps and boat motors. Since
the introduction of these engines
in the early 1960s, almost every
household managed to acquire one.
Mounted on a water pump, these
engines enabled farmers to irrigate
crops and double their yields. Higher
yields permitted other purchases
from bicycles and Honda motorbikes
to generators and sewing machines
(see I remember Honda rice on pages
39-44 of Rice Today Vol. 5, No. 4). As
the war escalated in the late 1960s
and the Vietnamese governments
authority deteriorated in the
countryside, a sort of fragmented


modernization was underway. After

a relatively brief respite after 1975,
imports of these engines have surged
since the 1990s.

Invasion of the small engines

Across monsoon Asia, a similar

small-engine revolution occurred.
Powering scooters, three-wheeled
trucks, boats, and water pumps,
low-horsepower (hp) engines
have radically altered the social
and ecological fabric of rural life.
Almost everyone is familiar with
their sounds, if not their operation.
Rarely a moment exists in the rivers
or fields when one does not hear the
percussive rattling of a motor. Such
goods first became widely available
in the 1960s. And, since the 1980s,
their use has grown exponentially.
The adoption of cheap internal
combustion engines to power pumps
allowed farmers to start growing

with high-yielding rice and fertilizers

that have become the norm today.
These pumps have played a pivotal
role in what Francois Molle and
others call a silent revolution.1

Local ingenuity

Although American and international

aid missions were usually quick to
claim the credit for winning hearts
and minds via such introductions of
new machinery, American technical
advisers were, for the most part,
the spectators, and local farmers
the inventors. Robert Sansom, a
Rhodes scholar who studied the
rural economy of the Mekong Delta
in 1966-67, noted that an enterprising
Vietnamese dredging mechanic
adapted an impeller to build a
shrimp-tail pump (may bom duoi
tom) out of the engines available in
1963.2 By 1967, he sold some 80,000
pumps across the delta and made

a sizable fortune. It was only after

Dr. Sansom related his observations
to officials at the U.S. Agency for
International Development (USAID)
in Saigon that Robert Komer, an
American ambassador and head of
U.S. President Lyndon B. Johnsons
nation-building operations, considered
the revolutionary implications.
Farmers, working in muddy
fields far removed from agricultural
extension offices, experimented with
engines for several years before
the Americans and the Saigon
government paid any attention. The
ironic role reversal here was not
simply a case of the tail wagging
the dog, however. The Americans
played a supporting role in this
takeoff story through a Commercial
Import Program that promoted the
widespread importation of American
technology at cut-rate prices. There

Big engines vs. small engines

To understand both the popularity of

the small engines and the challenges
faced by governments and people in
the region today, one must consider
the problems inherent with the older,
state-managed forms of large water
pumping stations and canals (big
engines). Reclamation programs
initiated by the French colonial
government produced an agricultural
landscape that depended on large
inputs of labor and funding. In the
Mekong Delta, this infrastructure fell
into disrepair as Japanese military
occupation (1940-45) gave way to
almost three decades of fighting.
Throughout this era, engineers, social

scientists, and aspiring Vietnamese

nationalists all debated the future of
water management in the delta.
After the Geneva Accords were
concluded in 1954, the U.S. advisory
mission in Saigon immediately
embarked on an ambitious scheme to
use its own big machines, especially
a fleet of multimillion-dollar, cuttersuction dredges manufactured in
Baltimore, Maryland.
President Ngo Dinh Diem
presented Americans with ambitious
plans to resettle hundreds of
thousands of northern Vietnamese
refugees on abandoned rebel-held
lands of the delta, and Americans
responded by sending several
dredges to clear the main canals
for these grid-like projects covering
thousands of hectares. With a surge
in violence in 1959, communist
insurgents began a concerted effort
to attack the American machines.
In new settlements across the delta,
platoons of a new Peoples Liberation
Armed Forces scattered settlers and
then opened fire not on government
troops but on the dredges. While
Many advanceMents in vietnam's agricultural
mechanization started with small engines introduced
in the early 1960s.

martin gummert, irri

by David Biggs

were other factors, too, particularly

the involvement of Asian technical
advisers. In the same town where
the dredge mechanic improvised
the shrimp-tail pump, Taiwanese
advisers successfully introduced
the first high-yielding rice varieties
from the International Rice Research
Institute (IRRI) that could produce
more rice when irrigated.

Molle F et al. 2003. The Groundswell of Pumps: Multilevel Impacts of a Silent Revolution. Paper prepared for the ICID-Asia Meeting, Taiwan.
Sansom R. 1969. The Motor Pump: A Case Study of Innovation and Development. In: Oxford Economic Papers, New Series, Volume 21, Number 1. p 109-121.


Rice Today October-December 2013

Rice Today October-December 2013


A not-so-silent revolution

The shift to an agricultural economy

dependent on small engines began
simultaneously at many sites across
the region in 1963. American and
Vietnamese archives suggest after
the President of South Vietnam, Ngo
Dinh Diem, was overthrown in 1963
the way was opened more importers
to participate in American-backed
programs. Four years later, in 1967,
American officials first noticed the
demand for this equipment, and
they began promoting motorized
equipment in their overall nationbuilding strategy. Among Englishlanguage sources, the best known
account of the shrimp-tail pumps
development comes from Dr.
Sansoms 1967-69 research.
A severe drought in 1962
prompted farmers around the town of
My Tho to start major canal projects
to save their harvest. One prosperous
farmer in a nearby village bought a
diesel-powered centrifugal pump
for roughly US$600. Another farmer
witnessed how the pump effectively
lifted water into that landowners
fields and quickly grasped the value
of motorized irrigation. This man
had worked on French dredges as a
mechanic in the 1940s, so he set to
devise an impeller similar to suction
dredges in use after 1945. After
several unsuccessful trials with a
French bicycle motor and a Japanese
4-hp engine, he purchased a 4.5-hp
Clinton engine, and within months
turned a profit by renting out this
improvised pump. In 1964, dealers
improvised their own impellers
and tin sleeves. Across Asia, sales
of similarly made motor pumps
increased steadily. In each place,

locals circulated their own stories of

IRRIs high-yielding rice also
played an important supporting
role in the small-engine revolution.
Privately owned water pumps
allowed farmers to more reliably
irrigate fields planted with one of
the early high-yielding varieties,
IR8, introduced in 1966. This variety
required about 30 fewer days to
mature than most varieties, and
it was extremely responsive to
nitrogen fertilizers, but it required
steady irrigation for maximum
By 1967, 80,000 shrimp-tail
pumps were in use based on
an American estimate citing
import statistics for 4-hp engines.
With Dr. Sansoms revelations
to colleagues at USAID and
successful IR8 trials, American aid
officials were aware that a kind
of agroeconomic revolution was
underway. Meanwhile, war-related
violence escalated and the canal
infrastructure deteriorated further.
By 1974, a Dutch advisory team
estimated that more than a million
pumps were being used across the
delta for irrigation and flood control.

of the biggest bottlenecks to the rapid

sale of engines in the 1960s was not
supply or even hard currency, but
the arcane process in which only
farmers lucky enough to acquire a
license were permitted to buy an
engine. Navigating government
and insurgent checkpoints also
slowed the transport of equipment
from Saigon docks to the delta with
bribes and taxes, thus raising the end
price. Government bans also aimed
to prevent the sale of boat motors
to insurgent-controlled areas. By
restricting the sale of engines and
even rice seed in government-held
areas, the end result was to spur rice
production in liberated zones.
Thus, the shrimp-tail revolution
became an integral part of the
Vietnamese revolution, too. An

American report in 1970 noted

that government bans on the sale
of equipment had resulted in the
rapid movement of equipment
into territory held by the National
Liberation Front (NLF). With rice
prices at all-time highs in 1970, much
of the rice was then being sold in
government-controlled markets to
generate cash.

Postwar epilogue

Although academics have extensively

examined mechanization, the
rural cash economy, and the Green
Revolution in most of monsoon Asia,
the role of small engines has been
largely ignored.
The rapid adoption of these
engines raises important questions
about the states role in managing

water resources. This is an

increasingly difficult task even in
countries such as Vietnam that
advocate a form of state-managed
The postwar government in 1975
first supported a model of centralized
state control over irrigation with
large irrigation stations and masslabor public works campaigns. After
1986, with Vietnams liberalization
policy, imports in boat motors,
motorized pumps, and other
equipment surged as the state
reduced its obligations. This smallengine revolution produced a kind
of ecopolitical impasse in which
states and their constituencies were
at odds over measures to divide
up increasingly scarce resources.
This resulted in some notable


the insurgents deliberately shifted

targets, the new socialist government
in North Vietnam also favored
big-engine approaches to irrigation.
Insurgents appropriated smallengine technology for immediate
tactical needs, but the general
attitude in the north was that
irrigation was the responsibility of
the state, typically involving mass
labor campaigns and Russiandesigned pumping stations.

Inefficiency and insurgency

Although American advisers and

Vietnamese officials in Saigon
generally supported modernization,
their reactions to the improvised
pumps and shrimp-tail motors
ranged from concerns about
inefficiency to outright opposition.
American advisers, in memos and
promotional literature, favored
the more efficient single-purpose
centrifugal pumps while ignoring
the importance of the shrimp-tail
as a twin-use pump/motor. Local
government representatives often
refused to publicize the shrimp-tail
pump because it was only 540% as
efficient as the centrifugal pumps.
In keeping with the USAID line on
inefficiency, Vietnamese publications
on motorized water pumps excluded
the shrimp-tail from the lineup.
The South Vietnamese response
ranged from obstructionist to
concerns over military security. One
Rice Today October-December 2013

disasters such as a 2002 forest fire

that consumed much of the U Minh
Forest, a freshwater area with cajuput
trees that once protected a large rear
base for the NLF. The pumping of
groundwater on surrounding farms
lowered the water table in the forest
and dried out the layer of peat, which
fueled the fire.
Advances in small technology
since the 1960s, the not-so-silent
revolution, have literally empowered
millions of individuals to improve
crop yields and to survive ecological
challenges brought by natural
and social changes. However,
to the extent they contribute to
groundwater depletion and other
problems, they point to a presentday predicament for states trying
to manage increasingly scarce
water resources. The turn towards
everyday technology since the 1960s
has produced a middle ground
on which farmers and states alike
must navigate landscapes shaped
both by small-engine technology
and aging networks of levees,
canals, and older works. States
have, for the most part, been left
in the dust and engine exhaust of
the small-motor revolution, and it
remains a challenge for experts and
intellectuals to catch up and respond
to this trend.

Dr. Biggs is an associate professor of

history at the University of California at
Riverside. His research reflects interests
in Southeast Asia, environmental
issues, and agriculture. His most recent
book is Quagmire: Nation-Building
and Nature in the Mekong Delta
(University of Washington Press, 2011).

This article is an edited excerpt from

an essay by the same author. See Small
Machines in the Garden: Everyday
Technology and Revolution in the
Mekong Delta on pages 47-70, Vol.
46, No. 1 of Modern Asian Studies.
This is reprinted with permission from
Cambridge University Press.

vietnaM's Green revolution

started when farmers in the
Mekong delta adopted ir8,
irri's first high-yielding rice.

Rice Today October-December 2013


s m a r t e r,
c l e a ne r

Other beneficiaries

h e at

Dr. Pat Borlagdan

isagani serrano, irri (4)

by Rona Nia Mae Rojas-Azucena

A new design of a rice hull furnace has not only improved

grain quality, but has also made drying cleaner and easier

f the searing heat wasnt

enough, the thick, dark
smoke that engulfed the area
surrounding the furnace made
the workers want to give up. The
smoke wasnt confined only to the
immediate vicinity, but it affected
neighboring areas as well. This
smoke machine was the inclinedgrate design of a rice hull furnace
used to provide heat to a flatbed
dryer that is used to dry rice.
The workers couldnt stay long
near the furnace because it was too
hot, says Jose Gagelonia, a flatbed
dryer operator in the province of
Nueva Ecija, Philippines, about the
old furnace of his dryer. The smoke
and ash coming from it irritated our
neighbors, who said that they ended
up smelling like smoked fish.
The furnace, a key component
in flatbed dryers, greatly affects the
quality of the seeds and grains dried
in it. Rice farmers and seed producers
who came to Mr. Gagelonia to have
their produce dried often ended up
with grains that were unevenly dried

and reeked of smoke. Because of this,

they opted to have their grains sun

Cleaner heat

Now, thanks to the new semiautomated downdraft rice furnace

(dRHF) designed by experts at the
International Rice Research Institute
(IRRI), farmers and seed producers
have a better choice.
In the old updraft furnaces,
ashes were sucked from the top of
the burning husk, especially when
the grill bed was stirred or fed with
rice hull. The new dRHF allows hot
air to go down into the chamber and
blower (downdraft) instead of being
blown upward and outward. This
produces clean hot air because the
burning husk on the combustion grill
filters the ashes.
The dRHF has an automatic
feeding mechanism that controls the
amount and frequency of the rice
hulls fed into the combustion grill
using a programmable electronic
timer connected to a motor. This
Rice Today October-December 2013

produces a clean and steady

combustion, resulting in a constant
drying air temperature.
The cleaner combustion greatly
reduces machine operators exposure
to heat and smoke because they need
to check on the new furnace only
every half hour (instead of the old
practice of every 5 minutes) during an
8-hour operation.

Perseverance and perfection

The dRHF was first developed

through collaboration between
IRRI and Hohenheim University
in Germany, in the 1990s. It was
intended to be used for drying
systems with small energy
requirements. However, the concept
was not successfully introduced
to its target market in Southeast
Asia, setting back the testing of the
furnaces design.
Fortunately, Nong Lam
University in Ho Chi Minh City,
Vietnam, an IRRI collaborator,
continued working on the design
of the dRHF. Its improved design

was tested for commercial use in

three 4-ton-capacity flatbed dryers
in Vietnam before IRRI adapted it
for further testing at Philippine pilot
Although the development of the
dRHF was partly supported by the
Irrigated Rice Research Consortium
through the IRRI Postharvest Unita
lack of funds and ideal test sites for
adaptive research in the Philippines
proved to be a challenge. The solution
arrived in 2010 when Generoso
Bautista, an agricultural engineer by
education and a commercial airline
pilot by profession who had just
acquired a rice farm in the province
of Batangas, became interested in
flatbed dryers.
I wanted to build a more
efficient flatbed dryer for my own
rice farm, explains Capt. Bautista.
Then I came across an online Rice
Today article, Machines of progress,
which featured IRRIs postharvest
technology package and its impact
on the lives of farmers (see pages
38-41, Vol. 9, No. 3 of Rice Today). He
contacted Martin Gummert, head of
IRRIs Postharvest Unit, who referred
him to Pat Borlagdan, the engineer in
charge of the testing of the dRHF in
the Philippines.
On his farm in Batangas, Capt.
Bautista and Engr. Borlagdan
spent hours going over the design
and discussing the parts that
needed tweaking. I financed the
construction of the furnace, while Pat
provided technical assistance, says
Capt. Bautista.
After 2 years of hard work, Capt.
Bautista is now the proud owner of a
rice hull furnace with aerodynamic
fan blades.
We could safely work around
the new furnace without worrying
about the heat and smoke, says farm
manager Luis Soliban, Jr.

In Kidapawan, North Cotabato, the

National Food Authority, one of the
first recipients of the dRHF, suffered
from high costs of drying and grain
quality losses until the new furnace
was installed in its warehouse.
In Peablanca, Cagayan Valley,
Don Lister, an entrepreneur, wanted
to learn more about rice postharvest
losses. While searching the Internet,
he read a story about mechanical
dryers using rice husk furnaces. He
wasted no time in contacting Engr.
Borlagdan, who sent him diagrams of
the flatbed dryer, blower, and dRHF.
After months of coordination, the
6-ton-capacity flatbed dryer with the
dRHF was finally launched in March
If the family can harvest rice,
thats good, says Mr. Lister. But, if
we can help other farmers save their
harvest, thats even better.
Interest in the furnace has
continued to spread. Early technology
adopters believe that the dRHF
is a simple technology that the
government should support and

Marketable technology

Mr. Gagelonia runs a semi-automated

dRHF and he manufactures made-to-

order furnaces after he and 19 others

attended training provided by IRRI
on rice husk furnace manufacturing.
All materials used for fabrication
are sourced locally, making them
more affordable. He has already sold
12 rice hull furnaces to farmer groups
and seed growers from all over
the Philippines. He has also made
smaller furnaces to fit dryers with
lower capacity.
Capt. Bautista, on the other hand,
still wants to continue improving
the machine and he is now in the
process of developing another type of
furnace. In fact, an all-steel furnace
sits in a shed on his farm, waiting to
be taken to another farm for further
Other training participants have
also started making and marketing
their own machines. Mr. Eugene
Manalo from Laguna and Mr. Antonio
Caspillo from North Cotabato have
manufactured and sold the dRHF in
their respective provinces.

Partnership forged in heat

Engr. Borlagdan, though no longer

with IRRI, still provides technical
assistance and shares his experiences
to help improve the operation
and maintenance of the furnace.
He credits the public-private

Jose GaGelonia is an early adopter

and manufacturer of the downdraft
rice hull furnace.

Rice Today October-December 2013


M.N. Budhar (2)

get their

The old updraft furnace with inclined grate (a) carried fly ashes into the dryer and manual rice hull feeding resulted in uneven temperature. With the
new downdraft furnace (B), the automatic feeding device and downward airflow produced clean, hot air and constant temperature for the flatbed dryer.

by M.N. Budhar

partnerships that had been formed

for the successful adoption of the
dRHF technology.
Partnering with the private
sector during the early testing
stages became a valuable reference
point when technological trials by
government agencies failed, Engr.
Borlagdan explains. It was easier
to show that the dRHF works, and

is actually being used by the private

The IRRI postharvest team,
in collaboration with the Asian
Development Bank, has now taken
steps to transfer the dRHF technology
to other countries such as Cambodia
and Indonesia.
Farmers should be aware
that the technology is available to

them, adds Capt. Bautista. With

support from both the private and
public sector, technologies such as
the dRHF could go a long way in
improving the quality of riceand
lifeof farmers.
Ms. Rojas-Azucena is a public relations
specialist at IRRI.

Drum seeding finds its way

back to Tamil Nadu as farmers
learn how to control weeds
effectively and maximize
profits using the technology

luis soliBan Jr, a farm manager, is happy

at how clean and stress-free his working
environment has becomethanks to the
downdraft rice hull furnace.


Rice Today October-December 2013

onsumers in Tamil Nadu, a

predominantly rice-growing
state in India, who preferred
millet grains, particularly finger
millet, for hundreds of years, have shifted
to rice because it is considered a status
Rice is important and will continue
to play a vital role in food security for
millions of people in India. The future
of Indian food security and foreign
exchange through rice exports will also
largely depend on desired production
and productivity. Opportunities are great
for attaining high yield in rice through
proper agronomic management practices,
low-cost mechanization in seeding and
weeding, and suitable establishment
techniques. The need for increased
food production at prices affordable to
consumers and profitable to farmers has
been a concern for all.
Tamil Nadu has been recently
dominated by the industrial sector

Mr. Chakravathy decided to use a drum

seeder this year to sow his new crop.

compared with other states. Rice

is grown in all of Tamil Nadus 30
districts comprising a total rice area of
2.05 million hectares. For example, in
Dharmapuri and Krishnagiri districts,
located in the northwestern agroclimatic
zone of Tamil Nadu (see map), rice is
the staple food crop. It is cultivated on
65,000 hectares in spite of a lack of water
and labor resources, the high cost of
cultivation, and less profitability. These
two districts are situated near industrial
cities, which lure farm laborers with high
wages and stipulated work hours.
Industrialization led to increased
labor migration to city areas and a shift
toward alternative rural employment,
and caused a severe farm labor shortage.
Consequently, it also increased the cost of
labor during peak farming operations such
as transplanting, weeding, and harvesting.
In Tamil Nadu, transplanting is
traditionally done only by women. The
task is labor-intensive and cumbersome.
Rice Today April-June 2011

The major farm activities such as

preparing and managing the nursery,
pulling out seedlings, transporting and
distributing them to the main field, and
transplanting them consume 2530% of
the total cost of cultivation in transplanted
rice. Moreover, expansion of irrigated
area, the availability of short-duration
high-yielding rice varieties, availability
of herbicides to control weeds, increased
transplanting costs, and declining
profitability of rice production have forced
many farmers to shift from transplanting
to direct seeding on puddled and leveled
soils under irrigated conditions. For this,
a drum seeder, a wetland implement,
greatly helps the rice-farming community
by directly sowing germinated rice seeds,
in lines, in the field.
The drum-seeding concept was first
developed and tested by the International
Rice Research Institute (IRRI) and
its plastic version was developed by
Cantho Plastics in Vietnam. Its prototype

a youNg farmer demonstrates

the use of a plastic drum seeder.

model was refined by the Tamil Nadu

Agricultural University (TNAU) in
Coimbatore, India. The Regional
Agroindustrial Development Cooperative
Kerala Ltd. (RAIDCO), in India, is the
authorized manufacturer of the drum
seeder prescribed by TNAU.
The plastic drum seeder consists of
four drumseach can hold 2 kilograms
of seeds at a time. This eight-row drum
seeder requires only 9 kilograms of
pulling force to operate. Without the seed,
the machine weighs 8 kilograms. And, it
requires two persons to cover 1 hectare
and costs about US$88 for each unit.
The use of drum seeding in sowing
of sprouted seeds in puddled fields has
already been proven successful in many
countries such as Thailand, Vietnam (see
Drumming up success on pages 22-27
of Rice Today Vol. 4, No. 2), Myanmar
(see Drum seeders pick up the beat in
Myanmar on page 3 of Ripple Vol. 3, No.
2), Bangladesh (see The direct approach
on pages 12-18 of Rice Today Vol. 5,
No. 2), and the Indo-Gangetic Plains of
India (Direct seeding of rice gets warm
approval in the Indo-Gangetic Plain on
page 11 of Ripple Vol. 1, No. 2). Farmers
in Tamil Nadu have also accepted the
drum-seeding technology because it

cuts labor and seed costs, speeds up the

planting process, provides higher yields,
or at least yields similar to those of

Watch out for the weeds

Although farmers had been quick to
adopt drum seeding, they forgot to
control weedseither manually or
chemicallyduring the early stage of
crop growth despite the recommendation
of researchers and extension workers.
Consequently, weeds invaded the crop
and reduced yields drastically. Farmers
also had to shell out extra money to
remove the weeds. Because of this, the
drum-seeding technology was perceived
as no longer viable.
Reportedly, weeds can reduce yields
by as much as 5060% in direct-seeded
rice. To prevent this loss, early control of


tamil Nadu

Rice Today April-June 2011

Gains in drum seeding

P. Gunasekaran, a small farmer in Annamaaipatti village in Dharmapuri
District and a regular visitor to RRS in Paiyur, witnessed the success of
a 2-year experiment on drum seeding combined with weed control
methods versus transplanting practices. He adopted drum seeding
and mechanical weeding technology in his 0.4-hectare field. He and
his wife did the sowing, weeding, and spraying. Only for harvesting
and threshing did he hire some labor. He proudly said that his crop
yielded 40 bags (each bag weighs 75 kilograms) of moist-free rough
ricean amount never yet recorded in his rice-farming experience.
Besides this record yield of 7.5 tons per hectare, he could reduce
cultivation expenses to a tune of US$76which came from the
time saved in nursery establishment and management, lower seed
requirement (from 30 kilograms to only 10 kilograms of seed), less
labor cost for transplanting, and less manual weeding cost. Most of
all, he felt happy just being relieved of the drudgery in putting up
a nursery and managing it and transplanting along with laborers.
Satisfied with the technology, he encouraged other farmers to adopt
this technology.
Another beneficiary of RRS is G. Ekambaram, a progressive rice
farmer and rice mill owner, who has adopted the latest technologies
in rice cultivation for the past 3 decades in Pothapuram village
near Kaveripattinam town in Krishnagiri District. RRS scientists
usually conduct on-farm trials first in Mr. Ekambarams field for easy
technology dissemination. His paddy farm is situated in a rice belt
where labor is scarce and costly and transplanting of seedlings is
seldom done at the right time. This forced him to adopt drum-seeding
technology. The first time he tried this technology with chemical

weeds is imperative. Although manual

weeding can control weeds effectively,
it is difficult, time-consuming, and
costlyespecially when labor resources
are not readily available.
In the past, farmers failed to shift
from transplanting to direct seeding
effectively because they lacked
knowledge of weed management using
herbicides. Fear of handling herbicides,
lack of skill in spraying, lack of
knowledge in using an optimum dose, and
unavailability of wide-spectrum herbicide
to control diverse weed flora prevented
the success of drum-seeding technology.
Revival of drum-seeding technology
The key to successful direct seeding
on a large scale lies in the way farmers
manage their weeds and crops. Thus,
to revive the drum-seeding technology
and to respond to the needs of farmers,
experiments were once again conducted
in the Paiyur RRS. A study investigated
the effect of initial weeding, weeding
interval, and frequency of weeding by
mechanically using a cono weeder and
compared it with chemical and manual
weeding control in direct- or drumseeded puddled rice.
A study conducted in 2007 showed
that mechanical weeding and soil stirring

control of weeds was

during the dry season of
2000 in a smaller patch of
0.14 hectare. However, the
preemergence herbicide
applied at 8 DAS did not
control many weeds,
which caused damage to
the crop. So, he decided
to apply herbicide
with safener, which is
a substance applied to
reduce the effect of the
herbicide on crop plants.
In the wet season of 2000
and 2002, he extended
this technology to his
FarMer P. gunasekaran hopes to revive
his farm with the help of drum seeding.
entire farm of one and a
half hectares. The drum
seeder combined with chemical control of weeds increased the net
income of his rice crop by reducing the cost of cultivation. In 2003 to
2006, because of a water shortage, nonavailability of herbicide and
safener, and a lack of finances, he was not able to cultivate rice.
During the wet season of 2007, he sowed his crop using a drum
seeder and adding mechanical weeding in his agronomic practices.
It was then that he was able to harvest a good yield and gain a higher
profit. Satisfied with the benefits derived from the drum-seeding
technology, he spread the news to other farmers. He encouraged them
to use mechanical weeders at the right time.

done at 10 days after sowing (DAS) and

subsequent weeding and stirring done
twice at an interval of 15 days were able
to control weeds effectively and had
maximized productivity and profitability
in a drum-seeded field.
During that time, even while the
experiment was in progress, many farmers
visited the experimental field and saw
the success of the direct-seeded crop.
P. Gunasekaran, a farmer who lives 50
kilometers away from the experimental
station, became interested in the
technology and adopted it on his small
farm (see box for more on his success
story). With the support of RRS, he and
his relatives were able to cultivate a
direct-seeded crop using a drum seeder on
half a hectare of his land. Many farmers
witnessed the practices adopted by Mr.
Gunasekaran and his relatives as well
as the progress of his crop. Hence, other
farmers became interested also. They
were then advised by the RRS scientists to
use mechanical weeding and stir the soil
at appropriate stages using a cono weeder,
which resulted in vigorous crop growth
and good yield. Later on, to celebrate
their successes, the farmers themselves
organized a field day to share the
technology with other farmers in the area.
Through field days, more and
Rice Today April-June 2011

dr. G. uMapathy

dr. G. uMapathy

transplanted rice, and is easy to operate.

In other words, farmers profit more.
Field experiments at the TNAU
Regional Research Station (RRS) in
Paiyur and on-farm trials conducted
in villages of Krishnagiri District
compared traditional transplanted rice
with direct-seeded rice through drum
seeding in 2000. Even then, the results
indicated that drum seeding had a higher
or equivalent yield advantage compared
with transplanting. Plus, it reduced crop
duration by 710 days.

more farmers adopted drum-seeding

technology. Because of the benefits
such as a lower seed rate, no nursery,
no transplanting, no hand weeding, and
less field duration, the drum-seeding
technology regained the confidence
of the farmers. The National Bank for
Agriculture and Rural Development in
Chennai shares this confidence in the
technology by collaborating with RRS
in Paiyur to carry out a scheme for
2010-11, Drum seeding and mechanical
weeding for productivity, profitability,
and prosperity of rice farmers under
a Farmers Technology Transfer Fund
with a budget outlay of $13,890 in 10
agricultural blocks of Krishnagiri District
in Tamil Nadu. The scheme provided
financial support to conduct 20 farmers
field demonstrations to compare drum
seeding with traditional transplanting
and to provide training to 500 farmers.
A drum seeder and cono weeders have
been distributed for free to all farmers
organizations for hands-on trials in the
hope that more farmers will benefit from
this simple yet effective technology.
Dr. Budhar is professor of agronomy at
the Regional Research Station, Tamil
Nadu Agricultural University, India.

A comprehensive action plan to transform rice farming into a vibrant and profitable business
Under the "Mansholt Plan" for rice in Asia, governments are urged to expand farm size, promote
mechanization, and improve yields and farm efficiencies to increase farmers' income.
martin gummert, irri

n 1968, Sicco Mansholt

(1908-95), the European
commissioner for agriculture,
sent a memorandum to the
Council of Ministers of the European
Community concerning agricultural
reform. This plan became popularly
known as the Mansholt Plan.
The plan noted that, despite
costly policies of price and market
support, and despite increases in
production, farmers standard of
living was still way behind that of
other sectors of society.


In recent years, labor migration

from rural to urban areas has
accelerated tremendously in many
parts of Asia. Usually, the able-bodied
young men migrate while the women
and the old stay behind. But, despite
labor outmigration, farm size has
been getting smaller and the number
of farms is increasing.
So, just like Europe in the
1960s, we have to wonder about the
future of rice farming in Asia. Since
prospects of earning a decent income
from rice farming are few, who will
want to produce our rice tomorrow?

A proposal for modernization

Europes farm reformation

At that time, the average farm size in

Europe was 11 hectares. Two-thirds of
the farms were less than 10 hectares,
though it was noted that, with
modern techniques, one man can cultivate
30 to 40 hectares of crop land. Labor
had steadily been migrating out of
agriculture and half of the persons
who run a farm are more than 57 years of
age. There was a lot of concern about
whether young people would still be
willing to keep farming.
The plan also recognized some
issues on the changing role of
women: Elsewhere, every effort has
been madeto liberate women from the
more onerous and unpleasant forms of
workyet the farmers wife finds more
and more that she has to do a mans fulltime job!
Thus, Mr. Mansholt suggested
that production methods change
they should be modernized, and
small farms should increase in size.
The latter was the cornerstone of his
plan: The new structure envisaged rests,
essentially, on enterprises of adequate
Between 1970 and 1980, the
plan faced controversy because
it encouraged nearly five million
farmers to give up farming so that

bas bouman, irri (3)

Modernizing Asian rice production

the remaining farmers could increase

their farm size. However, the plan
included a social component such
as vocational training and welfare
programs so that it would be easy for
farmers to take up new jobs outside

So, maybe its time to develop a

Mansholt Plan for Asias rice
sector. The structural transformation
were witnessing in Asia offers great
opportunities for rice farming to
be vibrant and profitable. Many
examples of progress are already
there, but these need further support.


So, why dwell so much on this

Mansholt Plan? Despite its being
controversial and the differences in
location and time, some conditions of
rice farmers in Europe then and those
in Asia today are strikingly similar.
Asia has about 140 million rice
farms with average sizes of around
1 hectare only. Returns from rice
farming are generally low, only
US$200600 per hectare per season.
Even with a farm size of 2 hectares
and two rice crops a year, income
from rice farming averages only
$8002,400 per year. So, how can any
family live off the income from rice

Increasing farm size (consolidation)

will have to be the cornerstone of
any transformation. Even if yields
increase dramatically, no one can
obtain a decent livelihood from
farming 1 to 2 hectares of rice area.
However, many land markets in Asia
are locked, so different options
for putting more land into single
management units (besides buying or
renting) must be explored.
Some ways of increasing
virtual farm size are already in
progress. For example, China is
experimenting with something
called village farming. Vietnam
is exploring a concept of individual
farmers managing large tracts of
land together in their small farmers,
large farm program. Mechanized
farm operations are increasingly
outsourced so that large tracts of land
can be run by contractors. In this way,
economies of scale are realized.

Rice Today January-March 2014

Rice Today January-March 2014

The Asian situation

by Bas Bouman


The use of farm machines has to

increase for higher labor efficiency,
or at least make it on a par with the
productivity in other sectors of the
economy. In Asian rural areas, labor
is becoming scarcer, which goes
with having more costly labor. This
makes investing in mechanization
more attractive. Already, we
see a rapid rise in mechanized
transplanting, sowing, land leveling,
and harvesting. Some new business
models of the private sector facilitate
the introduction and operation of
farm machines.


Finally, yields and resource-use

efficiencies simply have to go up.
With resources (water, energy,
and labor) becoming scarcer, it is
paramount to produce more with
less. Yields need to go up to meet
the ever-rising demand for food
without bringing new land into
production. In addition, we need to
come up with a more sustainable
and environment-friendly way of
growing rice.
Like the original Mansholt
Plan, we need a social program to
facilitate the transition. Smallholder
famers should find it easy to leave
agriculture. Some investment should
be made in vocational training for
retooling those who want to leave
farming, and in training on modern
production technologies for those
who want to stay. Also, we need to
stimulate rural nonfarm enterprises
so that farmers and agricultural
laborers can stay in rural areas and
not need to migrate to the already
overcrowded cities.

Dr. Bouman is the director of the Global

Rice Science Partnership (GRiSP), the
CGIAR Program on Rice.

The bubble that dries

by Rona Nia Mae Rojas-Azucena

A low-cost solar bubble dryer has been developed to help

farmers dry their rice efficiently.

sheets, a black one at the bottom

where the grains are placed and a
transparent one as roofing. Both
sheets are connected by a zipper.
It's called the solar bubble dryer (or
SBD)solar" because of the ambient
temperature that provided heat from
the sun for the dryer, and "bubble"
because of the dome-like shape of the
polyethylene plastic roof when set up.
The solar bubble dryer was
evaluated for drying efficiency and
grain quality.
Initial results looked promising
and partial data were presented
during the Global Rice Science
Partnership conference held at IRRI
in October 2013.

AnA SAlvAtierrA (2)

Domes of heat

The air pressure from the ventilators

holds up the polyethylene plastic sheet
over the rice grains.

n typical Philippine villages,

rice grains spread out on open
basketball courts or even on
roads to sun-dry were a familiar
scene for Ana Salvatierra, an
agricultural engineer and researcher
from the University of Hohenheim
(UHOH) in Germany.
Sun drying is the most common
drying method in the country, and
also in Thailand, Cambodia, Laos,
and India, among other tropical
countries, because it is cheap. It uses
the sun as the heat source. But, it is
laborious and unreliable. Farmers
need to mix the grains at least every
half hour for even drying. They
need to cover the grains when the
sun is too hot to minimize cracking
from overheating and constantly
keep animals away from the grains.
Obviously, overcast skies extend the
drying period. And, when it rains,
farmers hurriedly collect the grains to
avoid getting them wet.
Engr. Salvatierra believed that
the constant threat of rain made the
traditional practice of sun-drying


grains a terrible waste of farmers

hard work.
Certainly the quality of the grains
decreases and postharvest losses
could increase around 20% or even
more, Engr. Salvatierra laments.

Building bubbles

Meanwhile, Tom de Bruin, president

of GrainPro Inc., a long-time
collaborator with the International
Rice Research Institute (IRRI) and
manufacturer of IRRI Super Bags,
was searching for other ways to
use the sturdy polyethylene plastic
material of the Super Bags.
Martin Gummert, head of the
IRRI Postharvest Unit, supported
the idea of repurposing the plastic
to build dryers for rice grains. Engr.
Gummert and GrainPro sought the
technical expertise of researchers
from UHOH in solar drying. The
project, Development and optimization
of a solar greenhouse dryer for drying
rice, was funded by the Federal
Ministry for Economic Cooperation
and Development (BMZ), German
Rice Today January-March 2014

International Cooperation (GIZ).

Engr. Salvatierra became the lead
project researcher. With IRRI as
coordinator, UHOH, GrainPro, and
local country partners were able
to work together and accumulate
knowledge for the project.
Field testing for a 1-ton-capacity
dryer started during the dry season
in 2011. The dryer design underwent
many changes throughout its testing
phase in the Philippines. The first
prototype had a chimney and steel
pipes that held up the plastic sheet
roof over the rice grains. Technicians
who set up the dryer found it difficult
to pull the plastic sheet over the steel
pipes. The chimney was not very
efficient in drawing air through the
drying tunnel and it also toppled due
to strong rains and wind.
We recorded our observations
and collected data, says Engr.
Salvatierra. Then, we modified the
design of the solar bubble dryer based
on the results from our field tests.
Then the idea for a simple design
came in 2012. It is made of two plastic

The current design now has two

ventilators, in lieu of the steel pipes,
placed at the air inlet at one end
of the dryer to inflate and hold
up the polyethylene plastic sheet,
thus providing the dome shape.
The volume and air pressure
are calculated so the dryer wont
collapseeven if it rains, explains
Engr. Salvatierra.
The ventilators also move the
air inside the dryer, ensuring a
homogenous distribution of heat
and reducing the moisture content.

The drying air leaves the dryer at

the other end through an adjustable
Computer software from UHOH
was also used to simulate the airflow
inside the dryer to study the dryers
performance and to further optimize
its design, to help overcome budget
and weather restrictions.
On a typical sunny day, the
surface of the grains heats up so
much that users need to increase the
frequency of mixing the grains. One
of the features of the solar bubble
design is a rolling bar underneath
the dryer for mixing the grains. It
takes only two persons to pull the
handles of the bar and roll it down
the whole length of the contraption
to mix the grains inside. The roller
has an additional gadget attached to
it that enables it to mix grains more
efficiently and evenly.
This low-maintenance,
environment-friendly, hassle-free, and
portable dryer also uses materials
that are locally available, making
it economical to build. Introducing
a low-cost drying solution into the
market is an important aspect that
could encourage intended users
small farmers, in this caseto adopt
the technology, according to Engr.

The name solar bubble dryer comes from the use

of ambient heat from the sun and the bubble-like
formation of the plastic sheet.

Engr. Gummert believes that

after many attempts with more
complex designs a low-cost dryer for
farmers might now become a reality.
Yet, even at this stage, because of the
positive feedback from the 1-toncapacity solar bubble dryer, some
private millers from other countries
have requested units that can
accommodate 4 to 5 tons of grain.

Fast experiments

The development of the solar bubble

dryer was fast because of IRRIs
partnership with a private company,
says Engr. Salvatierra. GrainPro was
willing to invest in a product they
believed would further help small
Engr. Salvatierra welcomes
the challenge of conducting fast
experiments under different
environmental conditions as the
second phase of the project is
underway. She says that more tests
will take place in other regions of the
Philippines. IRRIs partners in other
countries (Myanmar, Vietnam, and
Cambodia) are also being tapped to
test the dryer, whereas GrainPros
partners are testing the solar bubble
dryer for commodities such as coffee
and maize.
The research team has also looked
into using solar panels to provide
power to the battery of the ventilators.
This enables operation of the dryer in
areas where no electricity is available.
Typically, a well-loaded battery can
run up to 48 hours when charged
by solar power, enough to cover a
drying time of 23 days under rainy
conditions, when traditional sun
drying is not an option. When not
used for drying, the solar panels can
be used to produce electricity for other
purposes, an additional feature for
villages without a grid connection.
It is a matter of adapting
different engineering techniques in
a technology, Engr. Salvatierra says.
And technology, such as the solar
bubble dryer, was adapted to the
needs of the farmerscome rain or
Ms. Azucena is a communication
specialist at IRRI.

Rice Today January-March 2014


grain of truth

grain of truth

Circle irrigation:

a new response to climate change


blake Onken

lobal water scarcity and

its implications for rice
production have been an area
of significant concern and
discussion. Water scarcity is a problem
of sufficient magnitude, that a one-sizefits-all solution is unlikely. Breeding
programs aimed at improving drought
tolerance in rice, as well as innovative
and novel production systems, will be
required to adequately address the issue
of water scarcity, as it relates to rice
production. One topic that has had little
discussion, however, is the use of centerpivot irrigation systems to help resolve
this problem.
Research is currently underway to
evaluate and adapt center-pivot sprinkler
systems to rice production. The impetus
for this research is threefold: to reduce
the water required to produce rice, to
expand the geographic area suitable for
rice production, and, finally, to reduce the
cost of overall production by automating
irrigation operations and fertilizer and
chemical applications.
Center-pivot sprinkler systems have
many advantages over other forms of
irrigation. They apply water much more
uniformly to fields than do either flood
or furrow irrigation; and, since pumping
requirements are reduced, water outflows
are lessened allowing farmers to save
on both water and energy. Moreover,
another added benefit is, fertilizers
and chemicals can be applied through
the center-pivot system with the same
high efficiency as the irrigation water.
This can significantly reduce labor and
application costs. The loss of fertilizers
and chemicals to leaching and runoff
is minimized, thereby increasing input
efficiencies and reducing potential
environmental impacts. Furthermore,
in-season application of nutrients
(particularly nitrogen) through fertigation
enables plants to better utilize the
nutrients, as the system matches the plant
need and uptake.

Center-pivot systems perform well

on sloped fields of up to 30 degrees,
which eliminate the cost of expensive
land leveling operations. Additional
cost savings can be realized from
reductions in labor and expenses for land
repair, heavy tillage, puddling, lateral
canal construction, surface smoothing,
and check (bund) construction and
maintenance. Expansion of rice ground
without expensive land development
can occur by using center-pivot systems.
Areas previously unsuitable for rice
production due to topographic or soil
type constraints may now be considered
for cultivation. Sloped fields, uneven
ground, and lighter textured soils could
all be put into rice production.
Established rice paddies are suitable
only for rice production. To rotate
rice with other crops can be difficult
or impossible. The use of center-pivot
systems would help facilitate crop
rotation for healthier crops and soils. It
would also make farmers more flexible to
respond to changes in markets, weather,
and other conditions. Because a field
irrigated by a center-pivot system does
not require maintaining flood water,
puddling operations, which make crop
rotation difficult would be eliminated.
From a green perspective,
published estimates place the methane
production of rice paddies at between
50 and 100 million tons per year.
Greenhouse gas emissions could be
Rice Today October-December 2009

reduced by not flooding and water

logging rice soils. In addition, reducing
the number of flooded fields would
reduce breeding areas for mosquitoes.
Research performed in Missouri
and Arkansas in the United States and
in Brazil has shown that irrigating rice
with a center-pivot system reduces water
applications from 28% to 50% compared
with conventional flood methods, while
maintaining or improving rice yields.
Reported yields from these studies have
been between 6 and 8 tons per hectare.
Because a center-pivot irrigated field
is never flooded, early season rains are
less likely to drown direct-seeded rice
as it germinates. This was documented
this season in field trials in Arkansas.
While paddy fields had to be replanted
due to excessive spring rains, the centerpivot irrigated field sustained very little
damage. Plus, center-pivot irrigated fields
will dry out more quickly at the end of
the growing season allowing harvest
equipment into the field sooner. Also,
earlier harvesting will reduce yield losses
from seed-head shatter, lodging, and
A number of factors do have to be
taken into account when considering
the use of center-pivot systems for rice
irrigation. The use of blast resistant
rice varieties is essential as overhead
sprinkler systems will regularly wet the
rice canopy. Increased dependence on
herbicides will also occur without flood
water to keep weeds in check. Herbicide
and fungicide programs will have to be
carefully monitored. The cost of these
programs should be offset by reduced
production and pumping costs, however.
Center-pivot sprinkler systems may
not be applicable to every field and every
situation, but the expectation is that,
the advantages of center-pivot sprinkler
irrigation can be successfully adapted to
widespread rice production. More research
is required to confirm the sustainability of
rice yields in using this technology. Early
indications, however, show that centerpivot sprinkler systems will provide the
same water, labor, and nutrient savings for
rice as for other field crops.
Mr. Onken is the director of Application
Engineering & Education of the Lindsay
Corporation based in the United States.

Successful technology adoption

needs support from both farmers
and governments

Farming Systems Specialist, IRRI Social Sciences Division

Through the DAE, the Bangladesh Minister for Agriculture,

nvolving farmers and farming communities in decisions about
new agricultural technologies or management practices and M.K. Anwar, has already allocated 10 million Bangladeshi taka
allowing them to try a technology form the crux of the partici- (US$156,000) to support the project and has pledged to allocate
patory approach to research. Not only does this give farming com- more, as well as subsidize the cost of drum seeders for farmers, with
munities a sense of ownership, it also ensures that the technologies the hope of seeing the technology spread throughout the country
in the next 3-5 years. At every turn, the project team has encourare sustainable under the farmers own management.
But is farmer participation alone enough to ensure that new aged Mr. Anwar and the State Minister for Agriculture, Mirza
technologies are successfully adopted? Even if a new technology Fakhrul Islam Alamgir, to participate in eld days and take other
initially proves acceptable to farmers, it may ultimately be policy opportunities to talk to farmers who have tried the technology. The
support from governments that catalyzes its spread. Attracting team now has a strong rapport with the ministers and their ofces,
and this has been crucial in negotiating
such support requires that governments
further government support. Through
themselves also participate in the technoltheir close interest in the technology
ogy adoption process.
Is farmer participation alone
adoption process, the ministers have
In Bangladesh, the direct seeding of
become powerful allies and champions
rice with plastic drum seeders provides a
enough to ensure that new
of drum-seeding technology.
good example. A drum seeder consists of
In West Bengal, India, where drum
a series of perforated drums supported
technologies are successfully
seeding is in the early stages of trial
between two wheels. Seeds are placed in
and adoption, project leaders have althe drums and the device is hand-pulled
adopted? Even if a new technology
ready fostered relations with Sukhabilas
by one farmer, allowing seeds to fall in
Barma, the Principal Secretary of the
rows into the puddled eld. This technolproves acceptable to farmers, it
states Ministry of Agriculture, and the
ogy offers great potential to save labor and
drum seeder is set to be included under
increase yield and income for Bangladeshi
may ultimately be policy support
a grant program for new innovation and
mechanization. IRRI and its Indian partBeginning in the 2003 aman (monthat catalyzes its spread.
ners have also briefed the Secretary of the
soon) season, an IRRI-led drum-seeding
national Ministry of Agriculture, Radha
trial had ve farmers try the technology in
their elds. By the next boro (dry) season, the trial had expanded Singh, who has pledged her support through further grants to the
to include farmers in 56 locations across the country. Now, after state government. This will see drum seeders available to farmers
just three seasons, demand for drum seeders is rising rapidly. Some at a nominal cost, and associated extension and training activities
4,000 Bangladeshi farmers are currently using the technology, will be provided.
Without such government endorsement, where would the
with hundreds more seeking access to it.
In the early stages of the trials, IRRI, the Bangladesh Rice adoption process be? Certainly, there has been no problem in
Research Institute and the Bangladesh Department of Agricultural convincing farmers of the benets of drum seeding. But without
Extension (DAE) supplied drum seeders to participating farmers. nancial and policy support from the governments of Bangladesh
This was designed to be a starting point rather than a sustainable and West Bengal, the spread of the technology would ounder.
approach. In the longer term, IRRI envisioned a local manufacturer Allowing private enterprise to manufacture and distribute drum
producing and selling drum seeders as a business venture, and seeders IRRI and its partners cannot simply continue to hand
local farmers purchasing directly or through retailers. But this is them out also needs trade and investment policy support, areas
not something that IRRI and its research and funding partners well beyond the jurisdiction of the technologys researchers and
can achieve alone it requires the backing of the Bangladeshi developers.
In short, participation with governments as well as farmers
government. Sure enough, encouraging government involvement
has been a critical part of ensuring the policy support needed for in technology adoption ensures a far greater chance of ongoing
widespread adoption of drum seeding.


Rice Today September 2005


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