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Modernization, mechanization make farmer's life a breeze
China Daily
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Modernization, mechanization make farmer's life a breeze

As Chen Yulan used her mobile phone, a drone began to fly slowly above the rice field, spraying pesticide. Standing at the edge of the field, Chen smiled and chatted with her husband, Qu Junzhi, about this year's harvest.

"The drone flies automatically and avoids obstacles, and it takes less than 10 minutes to spray 6,666 square meters of rice fields," said the 44-year-old farmer from Xinyunshan village in Liuyang city, Hunan province. "It saves a lot of labor."

In addition to knowing how to control the drone, Chen is a skilled tractor driver and operator of agricultural machinery — like the harvesters, rice-seedling transplanting machines she uses in her rice fields during the busy season — and is deeply tanned from long hours in the sun.

With the support of advanced technology and agricultural machinery, she is able to manage 86.67 hectares of farmland by herself, and she is also at the forefront of efforts to lead 120 village households to prosperity.

She said she has now realized her dream of no longer having to work as a migrant, as she is able to earn more from farming in the village.

In response to the national call to bolster food security, she has been growing double-crop rice on some 60 hectares of land, 20 hectares of single-crop rice and 4.66 hectares of tobacco. She also plants vegetables in her greenhouses in the offseason to make more money.

In August, the Hunan Provincial Department of Agriculture and Rural Affairs listed 60 cooperatives as modern agricultural machinery demonstration cooperatives, and the Silei Agricultural Machinery Cooperative, which is now run by Chen, was the only one in Liuyang city included on the honor roll.

When Chen quit her job in Guangdong province and returned to look after her family in 2009, becoming an agricultural machine operator was the last thing on her mind. Chen, who had left her village to find work at the age of 18, said that she returned home when she had not been happy with her job outside, which involved a great deal of travel.

Xinyunshan is an important farming village, where people mainly grow rice, tobacco and vegetables. At first, Chen did farm work with her husband, but quickly realized that changes had to be made. "The fundamental way out for agriculture lies in mechanization," she said.

At first, she worked from dawn to dusk.

"Spraying for insects was terrible. It was done manually at the time, and it was hard work pulling the long spraying tube, especially as women aren't as strong as men," she said.

The spraying was so tiring that she once cried after returning home.

Chen Silei, her 16-year-old daughter, recalled that her mother would be exhausted and hardly able to move after finishing a day's work. "As her daughter, I also had to help with the farm," she said.

Chen Yulan was not willing to accept her economic situation.

In 2017, she set up the Silei Agricultural Machinery Cooperative with five other households to mechanize rice production and offer agricultural services to neighboring farmers.

After years of development, the cooperative has grown to 30 members with 40 sets of agricultural machinery valued at over 5 million yuan ($730,000).

Today, a drone can spray 13.33 hectares of farmland a day, which saves a lot on costs, as labor is expensive.

"Working on the farmland has become easier since we started using the agricultural machinery," she said.

As she has become more wealthy, Chen has sought to help other villagers. The cooperative employs 40 villagers during the busy season, paying 450,000 yuan in wages each year.

"Chen has not only become rich through modern agriculture, she's also created employment opportunities and is helping the other villagers make money, too," said Li Fuzhen, deputy Party secretary of Xinyunshan, adding that Chen has become a leader of the village's agricultural development.

As the government has increased its support for rural agricultural development through initiatives such as financial subsidies and land use rights, Chen feels she should work harder to repay society.

She said the cooperative plans to improve its agricultural services, strengthen its ability to help more villagers become wealthy, and play a major role in rural vitalization and agricultural modernization in the years to come.

Chen also plans to build a rice cultivation demonstration base that integrates cultivation, planting, management, harvesting, processing, storage and marketing to realize the development of the whole industrial chain from seeding to harvesting and marketing in the future. She is also looking to develop her own organic rice brand.

China DailyShen Yi

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