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Small farm mechanization through Custom Hiring Centres for farm machinery

Small farm mechanization through Custom Hiring Centres for farm machinery

Climate vulnerability

Drought, Excess rainfall

Existing practice

Average operational land holding size in the country is estimated at 1.16 ha. About 80% of the land holdings are operated by small and marginal farmers owning <1 and 1-2 ha holdings, respectively. These farmers cannot invest in costly farm machinery and depend on hiring of implements to carryout agricultural operations in their fields. In rainfed areas, the window for taking up of timely land preparation, sowing and inter-culture operations is narrow especially in the low rainfall zones. Failing to exploit this limited window often leads to a compromise on productivity and efficiency in crop production. In high rainfall areas dominated by heavy soils, drainage is more crucial to prevent damage to crop from excess soil moisture in the root zone especially in pulses, oilseeds and cotton. Labour shortage at peak times of demand is a serious problem faced by farmers. Adoption of climate resilient practices such as soil incorporation of legume catch crops and crop residues to improve soil health and resource conservation technologies are linked to timely access to appropriate farm machinery at reasonable cost. Several options are now available to increase the efficiency and timeliness of agricultural operations even on small farms by using farm machinery.

Establishment of village level custom hiring centre for farm machinery

Mechanization brings in timeliness and precision to agricultural operations, greater field coverage over a short period, cost-effectiveness, efficiency in use of resources and applied inputs, conservation of available soil moisture under stress conditions and provision of adequate drainage of excess rain and floodwaters. Custom hiring centres (CHCs) for farm implements were established in 100 NICRA villages which could successfully empower farmers to tide over the shortage of labour and improve efficiency of agricultural operations. A committee of farmers' nominated by the gram sabha manages the custom hiring centre. The rates for hiring the machines/ implements are decided by the Village Climate Risk Management Committee (VCRMC). This committee also uses the revenue generated from hiring charges for repair and maintenance of the implements and remaining amount goes into the revolving fund. There are 27 different types of farm machinery stocked in 100 CHCs, the most popular are rotavator, zero till drill, drum seeder, multi-crop planter, power weeder and chaff cutter. Each centre was established at a capital cost of Rs 6.25 lakhs funded by the NICRA project.

Impact of custom hiring centres

Custom hiring centres for farm machinery enabled farmers to access implements to take up several climate resilient practices and technologies in NICRA villages.

  • Tribal farmers' of Umrani village in Nandurbar, Maharashtra face the problem of long dry spells and low yield and hence demonstration of in-situ conservation of soil and water and sowing across the slope in 10 ha area covering 25 farmers resulted in 11-13 % increase in soybean yield and conserving valuable top soil from erosion.
  • In recent years, delay in onset of monsoon rains coupled with deficit rainfall in July is adversely affecting transplanting of paddy in Bihar. Demonstration of direct seeding of rice with drum seeder at Saran resulted in timely sowing, save nearly 25 litres of diesel and 35 man days for transplanting and saving of pumping by 3 hours per ha thereby reducing cost of cultivation and increasing grain yield by 17%.
  • Demonstration of in-situ moisture conservation through broad beds prepared across the slope for cultivation of rabi sorghum in 4.8 ha at Baramati, Maharashtra resulted in increase in crop yield by 3 times i.e., 11.3 q/ ha compared to 3.8 q/ha in untreated control.
  • Use of seed cum fertilizer drill facilitated crop diversification in Satna, MP with pulses and oilseed crops where rice-wheat is the predominant system.
  • In NICRA villages in Madhya Pradesh, farmers who adopted broad bed furrow planting method in soybean with BBF planter avoided damage to the crop due to excess rainfall in kharif 2013 season and realized about 40% yield advantage compared to flat bed sowing
  • Terminal heat stress in wheat drastically affects seed set and reduces grain yield. A key adaptation to avoid this stress is to ensure timely planting of wheat. Hence, demonstration of wheat production for timely sowing, resource conservation and to enhance productivity was taken up. Wheat was sown directly after harvest of rice using zero till seed drill in 25 ha involving 105 farmers. Zero tillage saved cost of field preparation, saved labour and increased grain yield.
  • In Kota, Rajasthan water availability is a major limiting factor for sustaining wheat productivity in the village. Hence, furrow irrigated raised bed (FIRB) system of wheat cultivation was promoted to enhance crop yield (10%) and water productivity in 40 farmers' fields by using FIRB machine. Several advantages with FIRB system over flat bed system of wheat cultivation include saving up to 25% seed, irrigation water by 30% and saved time required for irrigation.

Management of custom hiring centre

An innovative institutional mechanism was put in place at the village level for management of the custom hiring centre for farm machinery. Village Climate Risk Management Committee (VCRMC) was constituted comprising of 12-20 villagers with nominated members as President, Secretary and Treasurer. A bank account is opened in the name of VCRMC and is operated by any two signatories. The committee fixes the charges for hiring for different implements and hiring rates are to be displayed prominently. Farmers' contributory share towards inputs like seeds, fertilizer, animals etc., is also deposited in the bank account. The revenue and expenditure details must be shared with the general body periodically.

Advantages of Custom hiring centres

  • Provides access to small and marginal farmers to costly farm machinery
  • Facilitates timeliness in farm operations and efficient use of inputs
  • Promotes adoption of climate resilient practices and technologies by farmers because of availability of appropriate machines at reasonable hiring charges
  • Reduces drudgery
  • Promotes increase in cropping intensity wherever feasible
  • Facilitates crop residue recycling and prevents burning of residues
  • Reduction in cost of cultivation
  • Provides work opportunities to skilled labour and small artisans

Custom Hiring Centers: Early Lessons

  • Water saving devices especially drip and sprinkler sets are very popular in areas predominant with horticulture crops.
  • Seed cum fertilizer drills helped in introduction or expanding the intercropping area.
  • This also helped improve fertilizer use efficiency, as fertilizer placement particularly urea, DAP was appropriate. This has implication in reducing nitrous oxide emissions.
  • Deployment of power weeders in CHCs helped timely weed control, which improved the water and nutrient use efficiency
  • Different kinds of crop threshers available in CHCs enabled farmers in timely harvesting operations at a lower cost. This could help avoid crop damage in weather abbreviations such as cyclone, frost etc.
  • Zero till drills helped save time, water, fuel and escape terminal heat stress besides enabling farmers to make early harvest of rabi crops.
  • Broad bed furrow technology for wheat, soybean, and maize saved crop damage due to excess soil moisture by aiding quick drainage and avoiding water stagnation
  • There is a need for positioning multiple numbers of equipments like planters, zero till drills, harrows, weeders etc.

Revenue generation from hiring

Zone KVKs (number) Revenue (Rs.)
I 12 164540
II 15 284822
III 17 341955
IV 13 94158
V 13 332124
VI 7 519605
VII 14 437986
VIII 9 422648
Total 100 2597838

Scale of operation

Over 1000 demonstrations with energy efficient implements were successfully conducted in the NICRA villages by hiring from CHCs covering 22000 ha and 30000 farmers. Cumulative revenue generated from CHCs is 26 lakhs with an average revenue generated per centre ranging from Rs. 7000 to 74000.

Source: Smart Practices and Technologies for Climate Resilient Agriculture

Last Modified : 3/1/2020

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