Friday, May 8, 2009
The solution to the water issue
I have a Sifang type Chinese built, 12hp two wheeled tractor that I use for my cultivation. Under the circumstances, due to the requirement of a large quantity of water over a short time to completely flood the fields, I decided to purchase a 3inch Solex brand pump that would run on the tractor power, once another set of fan belts are fitted to the tractor to work the pump. Typically in Sri Lanka when one decides on something, it is not easy to obtain all the supplies in one place to fulfill one’s expectations. So I had to hunt around and check prices and decided it would be worth driving to Dambulla about 55km from here to get a better deal.
The Solex pump at Sara Lanka, an agricultural supplies place, cost me Rs9,675/-, but the 3inch Alkathene cost me Rs10,700. The bends and couplings added a few more thousand, and the foot valve was not available so I had to hunt around for it separately. All in all it was an expense of about Rs25,000 to get all the necessaries to set up, and get the pump working. I already have a 2inch kerosene engined pump that I have been using for the past 3 years, which when used in conjunction with the 3inch one will allow me to flood the fields once a week in about a 8hr session.
I have therefore set up the steps to look at the overall costs of this whole operation, to see if this is a viable alternative under the circumstances, and to show people that rice cultivation is or is not viable if one has to lift the water from a water source. This will then give an indication of the waste of water, and the opportunity cost of water the farmers in my area who have much better paddy lands receive free from the state (nominal cost of about Rs250 a year) In Sri Lanka what is given free is not appreciated and is in fact wasted and misutilized.
To make the whole process a little more energy efficient I may have to replace a wheel on the tractor when I am using the pump, which was a suggestion from a neighbor and will see how that improves performance. This whole investment will also give me an added advantage I have hitherto not had, of being able to put an intermediate crop on the land after harvest of paddy, which will also be a soil enhancement.
Suggestions for this are green gram, which has the advantage of adding nitrogen content into the soil, but the disadvantage of manual picking every other day once the crop comes into bearing. I wonder how the Australians do it as they are some of the largest farmers of green gram along with dhal, which they have a ready market in India. The dhal and green gram of good quality I sell in my retail shop on the farm comes from Australia, the lower quality comes from India. This is another indication of the effectiveness and the productivity of large scale operations, like the ones in Australia as opposed to the very small operations we have in Sri Lanka.
This is just the start, I have a lot to learn from growing a new crop, and will also be a guinea pig of the CIC establishment, with me not them taking all the risks, with most of the reward in profitability going to them. If it is successful, I will at least be able to claim credit in pioneering higher value rices to satisfy increasing consumer desire for quality.