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Combine harvesting

The use of combine harvesters according to Ahmad Fauzi Puasa of Malaysia is necessary because farm labour is in short supply. Thailand faces the same situation. Ahmad states that the requirements for the successful adoption of combines include proper water management for uniform plant growth and contiguous paddy fields to allow mobility. US-made combine harvesters are used extensively in the State of Kedah in Northwest Malaysia. Harvesting contractors work the fields by crawling over the levees. Initially the combined grain was transported to the processing plants in bags, but it is believed that bulk wagons must have been introduced by this time.

In the Philippines, a pioneering service group that specializes in consolidated and mechanized land management of small farms is introducing Korean made combines. Boru Douthwaite (UK) confirms that public sector R & D should focus on harvesting. Axial flow threshers can handle the wettest crop; further work on mechanical threshers would be of marginal value.

Suraweth Krishnasreni (Thailand) reports that there is a declining labour force in Thailand. Mechanization of farm operations including harvesting is imperative for Thailand. Imported combines did not gain favour in Thailand, because were too big, too expensive, and were inappropriate for the high moisture grain. The Agricultural Engineering Division of the Department of Agriculture collaborated with the private sector to manufacture a combine. The combine contains: IRRI designed axial flow thresher, mounted on a chassis, secondhand 80-100HP diesel engines used as the primary power plant; transmission and steering mechanism constructed from surplus truck parts; a harvester consisting of a 3 meter cutter bar, a feeding reel and straw auger to feed the threshing and cleaning unit; tracks for mobility with sprockets and a chain to which wooden shoe tracks are mounted. (Note: Some parts are locally manufactured, while others use secondhand Caterpillar sprockets.) Early models used cables to run the harvesting unit. Current models use hydraulic controls. Thai combines have a capacity ranging from 0.42 to 0.9 hectares per hour. Suraweth stated that there are 8 local Thai manufacturers of combines, who produce about 400 units annually. In 1997 there were about 2000 units already being used, mainly in the central rice area of Thailand. According to Suraweth there is still much design and development needed to improve performance, but the Thai rice farming industry is happy with the combine. IRRI has purchased a unit to be tested in its experimental fields, and operators conducting the trial, approve the Thai combine compared to the others under review.

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