Monday, May 30, 2011

Mechanizing the Wheat Harvest

Fields in Henan crowded with combine harvesters, hopefully not crashing into one another. This was probably a carefully orchestrated photo-op.

The Ministry of Agriculture has been aggressively promoting mechanization of agriculture. Today's China Grain News web site praises the organization of interregional wheat-harvest teams now at work in Henan Province. Minister of Agriculture Han Changfu calls them China's "Number One Sickle" at a ceremony launching the "battle" for the summer grain harvest.

The ceremony to kick off the wheat harvest was held at 10 am on May 30 in Tanghe County of Henan Province, a major wheat-producing area. After the ceremony the wheat combines took off into the fields. The awe-struck reporter gushes over the line of combines busily harvesting the golden wheat fields.

The article reports that there are 490,000 combine harvesters working on the wheat and rice harvests this year, 20,000 more than last year. They expect the number of interregional harvest teams to reach 310,000. The wheat harvest is 88% mechanized, up 2 percentage points. Mechanization of corn planting is 77%, up 1 percentage point. "What's the significance of 1 or 2 percentage points?" the article asks rhetorically. According to local farmers, it used to take 2 or 3 days to bring in the wheat, but now it is done with just "a bag of smoke."

Young ladies hand a goody bag to a combine driver as he prepares to enter battle in the wheat fields. These are probably college students enlisted to staff the wheat harvest ceremony as part of their "practical training."

The main objective of the mechanization drive is to reduce the time between harvesting wheat and planting a corn crop for harvest in the fall. According to the article, new technology and modern equipment can save time and labor in the whole series of tasks needed for the wheat harvest and corn planting. The reporter says he saw a very interesting phenomenon--large combine harvesters leading the way, closely followed by small seeding machines. "This unusual combination is fighting the summer production battle across the landscape of the central plain's wheat-production area."

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