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Mechanization in Sugarcane Cultivation

Mechanization

Why mechanization in sugarcane?

In the conventional system, for cultivating sugarcane in an acre (0.4 ha) of land about 1170 man hours and 130 bullock pair hours are required, which is laborious hence it not only increases drudgery but also cost of production. Moreover, due to attractive job offers and wages in non-farm sectors, labourers are reluctant to work in sugarcane fields. In States like Punjab and Haryana where the use of farm machinery are quite high, the cost of cultivation excluding the cost on family labour and fixed costs is around Rs. 35,000 per acre; approximately 45-48% of the total cost goes to payment on human labour and only 15-16% is spent on machinery rent including transport. Therefore, to increase net returns from sugarcane cultivation there is a need incorporate cost effectiveness in the production system. Mechanization is the immediate option through which there is possibility of minimizing expenditure on human labour. Mechanization has brought about significant improvement in agricultural productivity in developed countries. Taking into consideration the time, precision of field operations, increased input use efficiency and productivity per unit, there is a need to making sugarcane cultivation at least a semi-mechanized one by popularizing machinery like sugarcane cutter planter, inter-culture implements, tractor-mounted-sprayers and harvesters which are available in the country. If the initial cost of machinery is high, then it can be hired on co-operative basis.

Preparatory Cultivation

Preparatory Cultivation

Disc ploughs and mould board ploughs can be used for initial ploughing once in a year. Secondary tillage operations can be carried out using leveler, tyne and disc harrows and rotavator. The rotavator are used before planting and after harvest of ratoon crop to pulverize soils, to cut, shred and mix sugarcane residues with soil. After field preparation, the ridger-cum-bund maker is used to make irrigation channels, ridges across or around the field. Green manure crop like Dhaincha (seed rate 12 kg/acre) is sown before taking up sugarcane. The whole plant is incorporated in situ at 45 days using disc harrow two times, allowed for decomposition for a week followed by a turning in using disc harrow. Dhaincha has 0.62% N and it adds up to 40 kg N /acre. In situ incorporation of green manures gives beneficial effects to the soil and cane yield may go higher by 4-7 t/ha.

Mechanization in planting:

Tractor drawn cutter-cum-planter In the sub-tropical India sugarcane is planted by conventional flat system and ridges and furrows system although special systems like paired row planting, trench planting and ring pit planting are encouraged. The flat system of planting involves repeated ploughing using country plough, compacting by planking, opening shallow furrows (8-10 cm deep) at 75 cm, placing setts manually behind the plough, and covering setts by planking. It is a labour intensive operation. In the ridges and furrows system furrows are opened at 15 cm deep and at 90 cm inter-furrow space using tractor-drawn-ridger. Setts are placed in furrows and covered manually. The tractor drawn ridger is profitable to use. Planting at 90 cm distance makes convenient to adopt tractor drawn implements or power tillers for inter-culture operations like weeding and earthing up.

Single & paired rows

Single and Paired row planting

The single row and paired row planting in trenches is advocated in some parts of India where soil is light textured or saline or saline-water-irrigated. It involves making U-shaped trenches of 25 cm depth and at 90 cm inter-row space using tractor mounted Trench Opener. The implement opens two trenches at a time; the 3rd and 4th trenches are opened in the second pass with the help of inter-row distance guider fitted on either side. Setts are planted in one row either across or along the trench. The paired row planting ridger draws 120 cm wide raised bed at the centre, two furrows on either side of the raised bed at 30 cm spacing, the 3rd furrows, another raised bed and 4th furrows are opened in another turn.

Trench maker that can be attached behind a tractor The spacing between center of two adjacent trenches is 120+30=150 cm. Sugarcane setts are planted manually on either side of the trench bottom (120-30:30 cm spacing) and covered with soil slightly. Irrigation is given only in the furrows (FIRB method). The system permits better light interception and thus gives higher yield. Therefore, the additional cost incurred on trench making can be compensated by its higher cane yield and by raising inter-crops such as garlic, onion, chickpea, cucurbits, potato and tomato.

Ring-pits, trenches, furrows

Forming ring pits, furrows and trenches using mechanical means

tractor mounted pit-maker

The ring pit system of planting gives 20-25% higher yield than ridges and furrow method, permits use of drip irrigation system, and gives sustained ratoon yield for 4-5 years. In this system, circular pits of either 60 cm diameter are dug to a depth of 30 cm with the help of tractor-mounted single row or two row digger. A gap of 60 cm is provided between adjacent pits on one either side. About 2,700 pits per acre are formed. The pits are refilled with loose soil and FYM to a depth of 15 cm. About 22 two-budded setts are placed per pit like spokes in wheel and covered with soil to a thickness of 5 cm.

Trench maker attached to a tractor In the furrow and trench system of planting operations like cutting of setts, its placement in the furrows and covering with soil are done manually hence, takes more time and increases labour cost. Therefore, different models of automated tractor mounted cutter planters have come which can perform operations like furrow opening, cutting and placing of setts, dispensing fertilizers and pesticides in furrows, covering setts with soil in a single pass. The two-row cutter planter designed at IISR (Indian Institute of Sugarcane Research), Lucknow can be mounted on a tractor of 25 hp or above and used for planting sugarcane at 75 cm space. This machine requires 3 persons to operate- a driver, 2 operators to feed sugarcane in the unit. In an about 4 hours one acre field can be planted. The cutter planter is economical than conventional manual planting. Immediately after planting light irrigation is given in furrows, hence no water stagnates and as much as 50% germination is obtained.

Intercultural operations

Inter culture operations

A tractor mounted cultivator designed at Sugarcane Breeding Institute, Coimbatore can be used for intercultural operations like loosening soil, harrowing, and weeding. The tynes are fixed in two lanes just back of each rear tyre of tractor. The width of each lane is 53 cm. An adjustment is necessary in the position of tractor’s wheels. The rear wheels of tractor is fixed in reverse position, thereby increasing the inter-wheel space from 102 cm to 144 cm. With 144 cm inter-wheel space, the tractor can easily pass through sugarcane planted at 90 cm spacing. To maintain weed free crop, intercultural operations are carried out 3 times i.e.at 45-50, 65-70 and 95-100 days after planting. The cultivator can be operated without damage to the crop up to 100-120 days after planting. It has an out turn of 1.5 acre / hour. Another tractor mounted, peg-type cultivator suitable for inter-culture and weeding in sugarcane planted at 70 cm.It has tynes in 3 lanes. In one pass of a tractor 3 rows is harrowed and weeded. This cultivator can be operated by any tractor and without changing the tractor’s rear wheel position at 60 cm row spacing. The out turn of the cultivator is 2 acre /hr.

2-lane and 3-lane inter cultivators

The two or three-row ridger for providing earthing up to the standing crop designed at SBI Coimbatore is also useful. To use the two-row ridger in sugarcane planted at 90 cm space, the position of tractor’s rear wheels is changed reverse. The three row ridger can be used at 75 cm inter-row spacing without changing tractor’s wheel position.

Plant protection

Mechanization in Plant protection

The tractor operated wide swath boom sprayer is useful in spraying of chemicals. The sprayer consist of a 400 litre capacity spray tank, a pressure chamber propelled through tractor’s PTO shaft, suction hose with strainer for taking/filling water from channel, 50 m long delivery hose attached to a extension rod/gun with spray nozzle, foldable swath /wing span with 20 hollow cone nozzles. The width of wing span /boom coverage is 600 cm. The sprayer is being used for variety of operation like spraying weedicide, urea and pesticide. If field is wet or if tractor can’t move into the field (immediately after planting), the long hose along with boom nozzle can be used (for instance, spraying Atrazine). In the early stage of growth (up to 3 month), the tractor mounted with sprayer, after unfolding both side swath /wings can be passed through the field for delivering urea spray or insecticides (to control early shoot borer in plant crop and black bug in ratoon crop). About 0.5 to 1 ha field area can be covered in an hour with the assistance of one labour.

Ratooning

Mechanization in ratoon management

The IISR’s (Indian Institute of Sugarcane Research) tractor mounted ratoon management device is another useful device. This implement carry out stubble shaving, tilling, off-barring and earthing up in one or two passes. The stubble is cut by a sharp edged, jagged and concave spinning disc. The earthing unit i.e. a mould board provides soil cover over the stubble in form of a ridge. This device place FYM and fertilizers simultaneously, dispense liquid insecticides in the soil. An acre of ratoon field can be worked in about 1-1.5 hours as against 6 hours if done manually.

Device for ratoon management

Perspectives

Perspectives on Mechanization in Sugarcane production

Sugarcane planting requires about 140 man-hour and 12 bullock pair-hour/acre with the cost of operation of Rs 3180/acre which can be reduced to Rs. 2500/acre by using tractors. The tractor drawn cane planters are technically better and economically viable. The Agricultural departments and sugar mills in the country are either having or promoting the use machinery like trench opener, pit digger and cane planter-cum-seeder. These machines can be hired and used by farmers. The multipurpose inter-culture equipments would reduce 1/3rd of the total cost (Rs. 5570/acre) incurred on manual labour. The tine cultivator and earthing up ridger needs to be popularized among farmers. The cost involved in manual sugarcane harvesting and transport is about Rs. 8750/acre with 396 man-hours and this alone takes away 24% of the production cost. There is no suitable cane harvester available in India and hence urgent need of developing it. The combine harvesters available abroad were designed for wider inter-row spacing (150-180 cm). We have been testing our varieties for wider row spacing. Tractor is the basic machine on which most of the farm mechanization depends. Tractor ownership is high in this region. In spite of it, mechanization in sugarcane cultivation other than field preparation is yet to pick up. With the synergistic efforts of stake holders, it is hoped that the goal of complete mechanization in sugarcane cultivation would be reached soon.

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