Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Maha Harvesting Paddy using the tractor driven thresher known as Tsunami

As previously documented I showed how I used a small Chinese built combine harvester to cut, thresh and bag the paddy from my property in Minneriya.

In this blog entry I show the other principal alternative used. My sister’s property adjoining mine has fields that are water retaining, under current conditions the harvester will get stuck in the mud.
We therefore have no option but to hand cut the paddy and then transport it to a point from where the thresher is used to separate the straw from the paddy using a machine colloquially known as the tsunami.

A viper (polonga) was seen while collecting the cut the paddy, so had to be killed.

We had a serious problem in finding labor to cut paddy, as there are just no people willing to work in Polonnaruwa. There are people who come from outside called mattayas( I don’t know why they are called that) who take a contract for the property to cut and bring the paddy to a specific point. The usual charge is Rs8000 an acre but in this case due to some fields where one’s legs get stuck in the mud slowing the process, they charge a higher amount.

In my desperation, I had to pay Rs700 a day and find people to cut this paddy, and due to the labor problem my cutting got seriously delayed. If one cannot cut the paddy by a certain date, the stalks can dry out too much. It is called “pahi karawela” which is what happened to me. So when I mill my paddy, the grain breaks up pretty badly, making it difficult for me to sell the rice. The only partial solution for me is to have the paddy parboiled, and then mill it as the parboiled paddy does not break up like the way the kekulu does. The rice in this field was white Pokuru Samba, the 4 month variety.

A further fact was that when it is too dry, many paddy seeds fall on the ground in the cutting process, and also as much of the area had fallen paddy contributing to a further loss of the harvest. Accordingly I suffered a considerable loss due to the delay in being able to cut the paddy.

The one advantage of cutting by hand is that the stalks dry out, and after threshing the paddy can be stored directly without drying. In the case of a harvester, one has to dry the paddy as can be seen in an earlier blog, before sale or storage.

The thresher charge is at the rate of Rs3,600 per hour and in my case there were 42 bags that took 70 minutes to thresh costing Rs4,200, making the threshing charge the equivalent of Rs100 a bag that weighed approximately 50kg each.

On balance it is more economical to use the harvester as it can work day or night and usually have your paddy cut when needed. I will in future have to do what is necessary to drain the water from the fields and reduce the wetness in order to use the harvester.

the parade of paddy bags to be sewn up prior to loading

the final act is to load the paddy bags onto my pick up to take to my place to be stored for milling and delivery to my customers of fresh rice.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Amberella plucking – a great way to shake a tree and rain 200kg of fruit - (spondias dulcis)

There was this tree in my sister’s property loaded with Amberella, and even thought the fruit is smaller than on my trees, there were distinctly a huge amount. I would like to know if this is a budded tree that has got so big, as I don’t have budded varieties on my property, and the trees grow very tall, but here the branching seems to have happened from the bottom.


We determined the easiest way to pluck this was to shake the branches once we climbed the tree and it rained down on us. A few shakes later, the time it took to collect this lot was greater, whereas we should have laid a tarp on the ground and let it all fall into it to be bagged.

We cleaned half the fruit of the tree and got 200kg of fruit. While I retail my fruit on home delivery at Rs80/kg, what we I get at the wholesale market is another matter. The fruit once plucked cannot be kept for more than a week, and so has to be disposed off immediately. I am likely to get between Rs20 and Rs25 per kg, while if the fruit was a little larger a further Rs5kg would have been a likely price.

In the next door property, Gamini the neighbor told me that last week, he had collected 9 sacks of this fruit with still more left on the tree, and took it to the Dambulla wholesale market where he received Rs14,000. It is therefore possible that on the two fruiting seasons of a large Amberella Tree at its peak, one is able to harvest Rs30,000 of fruit on a wholesale basis. There is no care required, just the work in harvesting the fruit, and that only is just to shake and pick up!

I would not recommend anyone to grow a bud tree that fruits early, but the fruit is small, and hence my suspicion this may have been a budded tree that just grew and grew. The traditional tree grows 40 to 60f tall, but the wood is not worth anything. The fruit of the traditional tree is also about twice the size of the budded tree and fetches a higher price and the tree also yields a lot more fruit.

If only I could have made Amberella Chutney with this, I could have bottled and sold it over the months, but in the current state of the enterprise, I don’t have the expertise and time to do so. The tree grows quickly, but does not have an infinite life, with many dying after about 10 years. It is one fruit I think that probably yields pound for pound of tree weight more than any tree I can think of.

The various pics are of the fruit, tree, and the plucking and collecting process to interest the reader of the possible and normal. Thankfully this one crop was saved from theft.