While the cost of agricultural production is ever on the rise with everything related to farming including agro inputs i.e. seeds, fertiliser, and irrigation becoming more expensive and labourer shortage getting more acute, a new farming method, Samaloy (synchronised), is offering big promise.
This farming method is different from the usual ones.
Farmers plant the same variety of rice on all the plots in a field. In this method, all processes starting from transplanting seedlings to harvesting the crop on all the plots are performed at the same time using modern machinery.
Because the farming method will be applied on a large scale, the use of machines in all processes will be cost-effective.
Dr Md Shahjahan Kabir, director general of the BRRI, told TBS, “Samaloy farming means we plant crops at the same time and also reap them at the same time using machines.”
He further said that the production cost is reduced by at least 25%-30% if farmers grow paddy in the synchronised farming method.
Along with the Department of Agriculture, the BRRI is also supporting the farmers who are cultivating paddy in the Samaloy method in various ways, said Shahjahan. The BRRI has paddy harvesting machines in its headquarters and 11 regional offices, he said, adding that those machines invented by the BRRI will be given free of cost to the farmers of different places for harvesting paddy.
According to the Agriculture Information Service, the way to make rice farming profitable is to reduce production costs. And to reduce production costs, there is no alternative to synchronised cultivation.
According to the findings of the Bangladesh Rice Research Institute (BRRI), synchronised paddy cultivation reduces the cost of production by at least 25%-30% and increases the farmers’ profit. And through this method, the farmers of the country have gradually started to get used to modern farming, it says.
Officials said the government is providing extensive incentives to farmers to popularise this method.
Farmers in all the agricultural blocks created under the government initiative are being provided with seeds, plastic trays needed for planting seeds, and chemical fertiliser free of cost. The government is also paying the costs of transplanting seedlings and harvesting paddy.
The success of farmers of the blocks is motivating other farmers in the neighbourhood to shift to the new farming method, they added.
In 2019-20, some 600 acres of land in 12 districts were brought under synchronised boro farming in an exhibition. Because the initiative saw success, the new farming method gained popularity among farmers quickly.
This boro season, a total of 5,550 acres of land at 110 blocks in 61 districts have come under the new method of farming, with all these farmers getting government incentives. Besides them, farmers in different regions are using this method at their own cost.
A group of 109 farmers from three villages of Cumilla’s Burichang upazila has cultivated high-yielding paddy on 50 acres of land in the Samaloy method of farming.
Sultana Yasmin, agriculture officer of Burichang upazila, said, “First, we explained the benefits of this method to the farmers and then we informed them about the government incentives. We have organised 109 farmers to grow paddy together but the cultivation is being done without removing the boundaries of their plots.”
Muhammad Mahabub who owns an acre of land in the block told TBS, “We the farmers of three villages have jointly planted boro paddy. The government has paid the cost of fertiliser, seeds, plastic trays, and transplanting seedlings. Also, the cost of cutting and threshing paddy using machines will be borne by the government. We have to bear the costs of preparing land and irrigation only.”
Imam Hossain from Narilya village under Dhanbari upazila of Tangail is one of the 50 farmers of the village who have cultivated boro paddy in a Samaloy block. He told TBS that the use of modern machinery and synchronised farming has reduced the cost of paddy production to a great extent.
Earlier, the cost of planting paddy in one bigha of land was Tk2,000, but doing the same task using a rice transplanter requires less than Tk1,000.
The cost of transplanting paddy seedlings in one hectare of land in the conventional method is around Tk12,000-16,000 depending on the area, while the same task costs less than Tk10 when machines are used.
Similarly, harvesting paddy with a combined harvester costs Tk3,500-4,000 per hectare, which requires about Tk18,000-20,000 if manual labour is hired. Thus, if only mechanisation of planting and harvesting is possible, the production cost of rice can be saved by more than Tk20,000 per hectare.
Even though the government has paid all the costs, except for that of preparing land and irrigation, this year, we will stick to the new farming method even when the government will stop providing incentives.
Last year, farmers cultivated boro paddy in Samaloy method on a 50-acre block of land in Mathpara village of Chaugachha upazila under government incentives. Seeing that, Nazrul Islam, hailing from another village of the upazila, along with 12 more farmers jointly cultivated paddy on 13 bighas of land in synchronised farming method at their own expense. This year, another 10 farmers joined the group and the total area of land has reached 50 bighas.
Nazrul Islam told TBS that they could produce 20-21 maunds of paddy per bigha using the conventional method of farming, but the yield grew to 24 maunds last year with the new method. Besides, the cost of farming is also lower in the synchronised farming method, he added.
The agriculture department says it is difficult to use large agricultural machinery on small plots of land. Therefore, area-based farmers have been organised to jointly cultivate the same variety of paddy on larger plots of land at the same time using modern agricultural machinery.Following this method, the use of agricultural machinery is increasing. And, the cost of production is also decreasing.
Again, this method of cultivation is very useful for dealing with any kind of natural disaster because if any disaster is foreseen after the crop ripens, the crop can be easily harvested by agricultural machinery which is not possible if we rely on manual labour, the department said.
Sadid Jamil, managing director of agro machinery importer and supplier Metal (Pvt) Limited, told TBS, “As of now, our success in farm mechanisation is limited only to tilling lands, irrigation, and threshing with almost 95% or slightly more of these tasks are done with machines. But the mechanisation rate in harvesting is only around 5-6 % and it is less than in transplanting seedlings.”
“Our backwardness in mechanisation of harvesting and transplanting seedlings are causing great losses for the farmers and the country,” he said, adding that mechanisation of agriculture is urgently necessary.
Badal Chandra Biswas, director general of the Department of Agricultural Extension, told TBS that the government is providing up to 50%-70% subsidies to increase the use of agricultural machinery to deal with natural disasters and labour crises. “This is because there is no alternative to farm modernisation if we are to reduce production costs. And the use of machines is a must for the modernisation of agriculture.”
The synchronised method of crop production ensures the best use of machinery in every stage of production, he noted, adding, “This is a smart or modern method of agriculture. Now we are providing incentives to encourage our farmers to adopt this method. Once they are accustomed to the method, they will continue with it together in their own interest.”