DO ST :4- in -1 rice harvester addresses agri labor shortfall
One of the many problems that beset the rice production in the country is the lack of appropriate tools and equipment that fit the local agricultural setting.
According to data, the percentage of areas that use efficient mechanized harvesting equipment are still low at 2.2 percent. This can be attributed to the high cost of acquiring equipment, the unavailability of parts and after sales servicing.
Moreover, due to these reasons, local farmers are more akin to manual harvesting methods.
This gruelling work requires 16 days to 25 days of toiling to complete one hectare of rice field.
However, the long and arduous labor does not compensate the farmers as manual method, including threshing, cleaning and bagging, can also result to 4.3 percent in losses.
Due to its laborious nature, the rice sector now is faced with labor shortage aside from production losses due to inefficient harvesting practices.
To address this looming problem, the Department of Science and Technology ( DOST), through the Philippine Council for Agriculture, Aquatic and Natural Resources Research and Development ( PCAARRD), has partnered with the Philippine Rice Research Institute ( Philrice) in developing efficient equipment and machines that will help enhance the country’s rice productivity.
Under the Farm Mechanization Program, Philrice developed the Rice Combine Harvester, a four- in- one machine that combines reaping, threshing, cleaning, and bagging operations.
It is a crawler- type harvester, equipped with rubber tracks, hydraulic assisted reel and header. It is powered by a multiple three- cylinder water cooled 29 horsepower diesel engine with a six- speed transmission drive for high, low and reverse modes.
It has header that cuts and gathers the standing crops while the feeder transfers the cut crops into the thresher.
The thresher on the other hand, separates the grains from the rice stalks while the grain cleaner assembly separates the grain from the residual materials. Cleaned grains are brought to the grain tank and readied for bagging.
The compact four- in- one harvester is suitable for small- sized plots and irregularly- shaped fields which are common in the Philippines. It is relatively cheaper against imported rice combine harvesters that are already in the market.
Currently, the machine can harvest rice at about 2.5 hectares of rice fields per day. The technology will help augment the shortage in manpower during harvest season.
According to Science Secretary Fortunato T. de la Peña, the combine rice harvester will contribute in enhancing the quality of locally harvested rice.
“This is not high technology but it is appropriate to the needs of our farmers to help them reach productivity,” explains dela Peña.
The DOST- PCAARRD together with Philrice plan to license the technology in the future to interested local machine fabricators to roll out the technology and introduce it to various farmers’ cooperatives.