Bengal tractor to put bullocks out of work

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  • Published 22.02.14

New Delhi, Feb. 21: A tractor made in Bengal may help India shed bullocks from its farms.

One of the world’s smallest tractors, developed in a government laboratory in Durgapur and specially tailored for farmers with small land holdings, has passed field tests and is ready for production and roll-out.

The tractor named KrishiShakti, developed by engineers at the Central Mechanical Engineering Research Institute, has just received certification under the Central Motor Vehicles rules and will be produced by Howrah-based Singha Components, a private company.

The 12 horsepower mini-tractor will cost less and demand lower operating costs than standard tractors used in farms across the country today and allow farmers with small patches of land to mechanise tilling and ploughing operations, a CMERI scientist said.

“We’re hoping this will help finally eliminate the drudgery associated with bullock-based ploughing,” Palash Maji, one of three mechanical engineers at CMERI who led a 12-year research effort to develop the new tractor, told The Telegraph.

India’s agricultural statistics suggest that 80 per cent of farming households across the country hold 36 per cent of the cultivated land. The average land holding of an Indian farmer does not exceed the size of a soccer field.

“Despite decades of mechanisation, we still see bullocks ploughing farms with small land holdings,” said Krishan Murari Lal Pathak, deputy director general of animal sciences in the Indian Council of Agricultural Research.

Standard tractors used on Indian farms are larger, rated at 18 horsepower or higher. These larger and more powerful vehicles cost about Rs 4 lakh or higher, and consume three to four litres of diesel per hour of operation, Maji said.

KrishiShakti is expected to be priced below Rs 2 lakh and, he claimed, will work on less than two litres diesel per hour.

Singha Components plans to roll out the first tractor in about three months and has set a target of producing 50 to 100 over the next year. “Small landholdings are common among farmers across eastern India, they’ll make up our primary market,” said Pabitra Singha, the company’s director.

“Most farmers use tractors — those who don’t own tractors hire them whenever necessary,” Ranjit Karna, who cultivates wheat, mustard and vegetables in Bihar’s Siwan district, told this newspaper. “And how widely this new tractor will be accepted will depend on its economics.”

Agricultural researchers say the relatively small two-metres turning radius of the new CMERI tractor will make it easy to operate on even extremely small patches of farm land. The smallest of tractors currently used in India have a turning radius of about four metres, Maji said.

Senior scientists say the greater the spread of mechanisation, the shorter the time spent on preparing soil for cultivation. “Even in small farms, a tractor will save time and can help increase yield,” Subramanyam Ganesan, a principal scientist in the ICAR’s agricultural engineering division told this newspaper.

“This becomes particularly important when the period between two crops is very short.”

CMERI engineers say their new tractor could also be used to draw a trolley carrying up to 2500-kg load. The bigger tractors in use today can move loads of up to 6,000-kg.

The CMERI, a laboratory under the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research, began working on KrishiShakti in 2002 and had transferred the technology to Singha Components by 2009.

The tractor was certified earlier this month by the Central Farm Machinery Training and Testing Institute, Budni (Madhya Pradesh) after more than six months of field trials.