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Young farmers cotton on to high-tech help

Updated: 2023-12-22 09:05 ( CHINA DAILY )
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An agriculture drone. [Photo provided to China Daily]

The IoT can accurately issue pest warnings for early intervention by unmanned aerial vehicles, reducing overall pesticide use. Remote-sensing drones can create weed distribution maps, guiding precise herbicide application to significantly cut down on its usage.

In 2021, during irrigation, Ai walked more than 10 km a day to open the valves of the traditional irrigation system. There were more than 40 hydrants and he had to look for them one by one. To free himself from this toil, he upgraded them to intelligent valves.

More than 100 soil sensors are positioned across the field, alerting farmers when the soil moisture drops while transferring data to the automatic irrigation system, which will then open the smart electric valves to water the plants, stopping as soon as the soil moisture reaches the correct levels.

Solid fertilizer has been replaced by fluid fertilizer, so there is no need for workers to guard the stocks. Instead, they mix the fertilizer with water and feed the plants through the irrigation system. By operating on a tablet computer, Ai and Ling can manure the land easily and accurately, largely saving water and fertilizer.

"Compared with the traditional pattern, we don't need long-term workers. About 80 percent of our daily work, such as irrigation, manuring, weeding and pesticide spraying, can be completed by machines," Ai says.

In general, compared with traditional cotton planting, Ai and Ling reduced pesticide usage by 36 percent, water by 60 percent and labor by 93 percent.

Before harvesting, they use drones, rather than wheeled machines, to spray defoliant, so as to prevent plants from being crushed. A drone completes the whole task in two to three days. In comparison, it would take 10 days using tractors.

This year, Ai and Ling harvested a total of 1,191 metric tons of cotton, that is, 420.9 kilograms per mu, compared with the 403.6 kg per mu last year.

In 2022, costs at Super Cotton Farm were about 2,379 yuan ($333.3) per mu, a drop of 419.6 yuan compared with traditional large-scale cotton fields nearby. This year, they have cut costs by a further 180 yuan per mu.

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