At a time when several States, including Karnataka, are witnessing unrest among sugarcane farmers who are agitating for remunerative prices, the Coimbatore Regional Centre of the Central Institute of Agricultural Engineering (CIAE) has developed an innovative mechanisation package that can help increase sugarcane growers’ incomes by significantly reducing the cost of cultivation.

Experts feel that two mechanisation packages could help boost income.

The mechanisation package for sugarcane bud chipping reduces the requirement of seed cane for sowing by about 90 per cent, while the mechanical transplanter for sugarcane bud chip settlers (the seedlings that have been developed from the sugarcane bud chips) reduces planting costs by about 40 per cent.

Conventional method

Under the conventional method, planting of sugarcane is done through stalk cuttings, where nearly three-fourth foot (about 20 cm) of sugarcane cuttings having bud in the middle, is used. According to CIAE Senior Scientist Ravindra Naik, the conventional method of planting using stalk cuttings is becoming uneconomical as the cost of the ‘seed cane’ used for planting accounts for nearly 20 per cent of the total cost of sugarcane production. Indian sugarcane farmers use 10 tonnes of seed cane a hectare, under the conventional method. However, using only the buds could reduce the seed cane requirement by about 90 per cent and thereby reduce the costs to a great extent, he said.

Delicate work

But scooping off the bud chip from the sugarcane, without causing any damage to the bud, is a delicate and time-consuming exercise as approximately 24,700 buds are required for sowing on a hectare of land. To tackle this problem, the CIAE has developed three models of bud chipping machines, including the peddle-operated and motorised ones, which can chip the bud with precision and speed.

While the pedal-operated bud-chipping equipment costs Rs. 5,00o to Rs. 6,000, the cost of the motorised bud chipping machine is in the range of Rs. 20,000 to Rs. 25,000.

According to Dr. Naik, these bud chips will have to be raised in a nursery for six to eight weeks before transplanting in the field, for better results. But manual transplanting of the sugarcane bud chip settler is tiresome, labour-intensive and time-consuming.

To overcome this, the CIAE has developed mechanical transplanter in collaboration with the Sugarcane Breeding Institute, which can complete transplantation process on 0.15 hectare of land in an hour.

While the manual transplanting costs about Rs. 9,000 a hectare, the mechanical transplanting may cost Rs. 5,500.

The cost of the mechanical transplanter is Rs. 80,000 and the payback period is about 27 months, Dr. Naik points out.

For details on the mechanical package and equipment, contact, Ravindra Naik, Senior Scientist, Central Institute of Agricultural Engineering, Regional Centre, Coimbatore – 641003, Tamil Nadu, Ph: 0422-2434276; email:naikravindra@ gmail.com

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