The agricultural sector, long considered the backbone of the Fijian economy, has always seen mechanization as the way forward. Modern agricultural techniques have enabled better investment and commitment in the sector.
A good example of this is a simple machine introduced by the Ministry of Agriculture in 1987 which was invented to facilitate the task of transplanting rice in irrigated and rainfed rice planting areas.
Fiji time recorded this milestone reached on September 4 of that year and captured the “enormous relief” expressed by many farmers, especially those who did not have enough laborers on their farms. The manual rice conveyor, as it was called, had very few moving parts.
Since there was no fuel consumption, the machine required little repair and maintenance as only very few nuts and bolts were used in its construction. Moreover, it weighs only 26 kilograms, which makes it portable and easy to use.
The man responsible for introducing and modifying the manual transplanter, Prakash Chand Girdhari, said that all of its features made it the ideal small machine for rice farmers in developing countries where farmers did not need machines. complex in their operation.
Besides this simplicity, the machine had many other advantages for rice farmers in irrigated and rainfed areas.
On the one hand, it has reduced the time needed to transplant an entire rice field.
Preliminary studies at the Koronivia research station showed that an area of land that took 288 hours to transplant by hand could be completed in 80 to 100 hours with the use of the manual rice transplanter.
Mr Girdhari said the machine was a time saver.
“Plus, it also reduces the drudgery – a lot of manual labor, so we minimize that and make transplanting easier,” he said in the article.
“Also, spacing is very important, this is not a problem with the use of the manual rice transplanter, a spacing of 20 cm by 20 cm, which is maintained thus allowing an optimal population of the plants, and if we have optimal population, we have optimal yields.
This was very important because the farmer transplanting by hand would not be able to maintain the 20cm by 20cm spacing which meant they would not be able to maintain an optimal plant population. .
The manual rice transplanter also helped to reduce the number of seedlings used per mound.
Although this could be regulated by seed sowing rate, using the new transplanting method the seeding rate could be reduced to 40-45/kg per ha, which meant good seed saving.
By using the machine, a farmer has also maintained the correct depth which is a very important factor in planting rice.
“If done manually, the farmer is not able to maintain the same depth because he is planting by hand and a shallow depth is important to increase tillage.”
If the seeds were planted more than 4cm deep, the original roots begin to decay and new roots begin to appear. This meant that the plants could not recover early and therefore tillage time would be lost.
“But using the transplanter, when we plant at a depth of 2-3cm, the original roots start working immediately and the other plants plow after 10 days,” Mr. Girdhari explained.
Another significant impact of the manual rice transplanter is its ability to tackle the problem of crop regrowth in paddy fields, especially in the irrigated perimeter.
“Spontaneous cultivation is the major problem in all the irrigated perimeters of the country. Experience has shown that transplanting can greatly reduce this problem, but like manually transplanting a rice field is time-consuming and labor-intensive.
“Manual rice transplanter is the answer to this frustrating problem as it is time consuming and also minimizes labor.”