Machines ease rural labor shortage

Updated:Mar 26,2020 10:52 AM China Daily

A farmer uses a machine to plant soybeans in Bozhou, Anhui province. [Photo by Liu Qinli/For China Daily] 

Holding a remote control, Gong Ming, a farmer in the eastern province of Anhui, skillfully operated three drones that were spraying herbicides on 100 hectares of winter wheat.

"Each drone carries 20 kilograms of herbicides and can spray more than half a hectare in 10 minutes," said Gong, adding that it used to take a whole day to manually spray 1.33 hectares of farmland.

This is the "golden time" for spring plowing and sowing in China. While villagers are confined at home to curb the novel coronavirus outbreak, modern technology has come to the fore, helping to mitigate the temporary labor shortage and secure a bumper harvest.

Zhao Jinbao, 56, runs a machinery cooperative in Huoqiu county, which offers mechanized services to local farmers via 50 agricultural drones and 28 rice transplanting machines.

"We have disinfected the village with five drones, and four other drones have helped farmers spray herbicides on 386 hectares of wheat," said the 56-year-old, who plans to rent more land this year.

According to the provincial agricultural and rural affairs department, 1.4 million agricultural machines will be put into use for this year's spring farming season, including 450,000 fertilizing and sowing drills, and about 4,000 drones.

In addition, online services are also lending farmers a helping hand during this special period.

Lovol Heavy Industry, one of the country's leading agricultural machinery businesses, is cooperating with several companies to offer free online services that will allow farmers to receive timely suggestions and information about planting and online financing.

In Ningyang county, in East China's Shandong province, more than 1 million farmers can purchase materials and select machines online.

Agricultural experts are also going online to show farmers how to take care of their land. About 10 WeChat groups have been set up in Zanhuang county, in the northern province of Hebei, to solve farmers' problems in terms of production, animal husbandry and orchard management.

At the same time, farmers are working to improve the quality of their produce.

"I will expand my plantation of high-quality rice from 14 hectares to 26.7 hectares this year, as the price of the new rice variety is more than twice that of the old one," said Chen Xiangsheng, head of a cooperative in Shou county, Anhui.

An Yufa, a professor at China Agricultural University, said, "Modern agriculture is bound to have higher production efficiency, better management and produce.

"The upgrade in agriculture will help farmers to gradually eradicate the old methods of relying on the weather for harvests, and further accelerate the process of agricultural modernization in China."