Farmers in South Maharashtra cultivate onion as a cash crop during the Rabi season (October to January). But transplanting 8 to 10 weeks-old seedlings to the main field is a labour intensive operation.

Mr. Pandharinath Sarjerao More, a farmer in Ahmednagar, Maharashtra, on the banks of the river Godavari (45 km from Shirdi), noticed a scarcity of skilled farm workers during planting season. Even with adequate farm hands, a lot of expense incurred in transporting them from their villages to the farm everyday.

Requirements

As for quality harvest, accurate row and plant spacing, and handling transplants without damage was required, he decided to develop a device to mechanize the sowing of onions.

He failed in his initial attempts to make a fully automatic version. The problem lay in separating, picking up, and dropping individual seedlings.

Total cost

Spending a month on various configurations, he finally built a semi-automatic working model at a cost of Rs 18,000.

The tractor drawn onion transplanter performs three functions at a time — transplanting, applying fertilizers, and digging irrigation channels.

The unit assembly consists of a cultivator frame, fertilizer box, fertilizer conveying tubes, trays for keeping the seedlings, two ground wheels, furrow openers, chutes to deliver the seedlings, and seating arrangement for up to four people.

The working width of the equipment is 4.5 ft with 8 furrow openers. An empty machine weighs about 3 tonnes. Additional fertilizer drilling arrangement weighs another 0.5 tonnes.

Metering mechanism

The machine retrofitted to a 22-35 HP range tractor moves forward and the star wheel type metering mechanism gets the drive to release the fertilizer in the tubes.

On the field, the speed of operation is kept at 1-1.5 kmph. The seedlings are delivered manually in the delivery chutes for planting.

Row-to-row distance of about 17 cm and plant-to-plant distance of 8 cm can be maintained using this machine, whereas conventional methods usually achieve a distance of 22cm and 11 cm respectively.

Two depth controlling wheels fitted on either ends of the equipment maintain the uniform depth of planting, which is kept at 1 cm.

“In the conventional method of planting, it is very difficult to maintain straight rows, which is a barrier in mechanical weeding.

However, this machine facilitates the mechanical weeding thereby reducing the cost of weeding,” explains the farmer.

Using the machine, a hectare (2.5 acre/day) can be planted. One driver and four workers are needed to operate it and the machine is superior compared to the conventional methods which cover 0.05 hectare per day.

80 per cent savings

At Rs 1,000 per hectare, this machine achieves a cost savings of 80 per cent in transplantation cost in the region.

“Also, in the conventional method of onion planting, about 1, 70,000 to 1, 90,000 seedlings per acre are transplanted using 40 people whereas 20,000 to, 25,000 seedlings per acre can be transplanted using this machine. Owing to the uniform furrow and spacing, mechanical harvesting of onion becomes easier once transplanting has been done. This also results in uniform bulb size, which fetches a good price in the market,” says Mr. Sitaram Kesri, a farmer who benefited from using this machine.

Open source

The machine also sows seeds of cereals and pulses. The farmer declared the technology as open source for people and firms to manufacture or sell as per requirements.

Though he did not want a patent for this machine, the National Innovation Foundation (NIF) filed a patent in More’s name.

Some manufacturers in Pune and Nasik and Ahmednagar are manufacturing and selling the transplanter to customers.

On an average, the machine costs Rs. 30,000 with a fertilizer drill and Rs 18,000 without it.

Officials from Directorate of Agriculture, Government of Maharashtra and National Research Centre for Onion and Garlic, Rajgurunagar, Pune and a number of farmers using the machine are giving positive feedbacks.

For more details readers can contact Mr. Pandharinath Sarjerao More, At. & Po., Sangavi Bhusar, Kopargaon Ahmednagar, Maharashtra 423602, phones: 02423-262070, 202070, mobiles: 9881269253 and 9420748253.