Manual labor, machinery, and equipment are essential agricultural inputs; they are so critical that in their absence, agricultural food production would not be possible. Under some circumstances, what hinders crop production is having no access to enough machinery to obtain the maximum yield from available resources. Therefore, improving and incorporating mechanical technology and its efficient management create alternatives to increase production and food security.

The adoption of farm mechanization in the agricultural production processes of crops, such as rice and beans, is one way in which the Agrobiodiversity Program at CIAT is seeking to comply with the goal of modernizing and optimizing breeding programs. A key factor to achieving this is increasing the evaluation areas for new lines, along with providing the most accurate yield estimate possible for these areas.

The Agrobiodiversity Program incorporated a new Zurn harvester for rice- and bean-growing areas, with the aim of improving the efficiency of their processes. Previously, it would take four people for two days and a half to harvest one hectare manually; using machinery, this can be done in half a day. The harvester has a system called HarvestMaster, which measures yield and saves a lot of time and resources, because the yield is estimated while harvesting. Additionally, both programs can use the same system.

María Fernanda Álvarez

Leader of Rice Program

Producers will benefit, because the lines produced by CIAT will be tested at a larger scale, which guarantees their stability. If weighing is done accurately and whole plots are harvested, the number and size of yield trials may be increased to deliver a product with greater stability in a shorter time. 

For her part, María Fernanda says “we should make sure the data we are recording in the field are reproducible in farmers’ and commercial fields. Moreover, we need to modernize, and as a part of it, we should stop recording data in paper to reduce sources of error. The Zurn harvester, along with the HarvestMaster, will be a key element for data digitalization.”

Broadly speaking, mechanization reduces manual labor. Driving a tractor is less exhausting than tilling the field all day long using a hoe or any other manual tool. A tractor pulling a plow can till a larger area than a man with a manual tool, which increases productivity and reduces operation times.

The Agrobiodiversity Program will continue to lead the implementation of new technologies that may be useful to improve crop and research processes. “We hope the impact will be reflected in the reproducibility of our rice and bean trials,” said Álvarez. 

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