Thursday, 9 July 2015

Combine harvesters used for rice production in Central Laos

Combine harvester is commonly used to harvest rice crops in neighbouring Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam, but it is of limited use in Central Laos where rice is mostly harvested by hand. However, the shortage and high cost of labour at the time of harvesting in recent years make it difficult to sustain manual harvesting methods. Combine can harvest rice crops quickly in the field–often 2-4 hectares a day. This makes it suitable in areas where there is not enough labour to harvest rice crops in a timely manner. Farmers in Central Laos often mention difficulty in introducing combine to the area due to: small and irregular rice fields, lack of resources to dry harvested paddy rice, and high fees charged by the combine contractor (commonly 20% or more of harvested rice).

Combine harvester performance is compared in small fields is typical in Tung village, Khammouan and larger field in Pakpung village, Bolikhamxay. Source: Professor Shu Fukai

A joint National Agriculture and Forestry Research Institute (NAFRI, Laos) – University of Queensland (UQ, Australia) research project funded by ACIAR is evaluating combine performance under different conditions. Conditions being monitored include field size, land levelling and plant and soil conditions at the time of harvesting. The main project activities in the first year have been working with farmer groups to develop larger, levelled fields of around 5 hectares in each of the target villages to test combine performance. The dry season crops have just been harvested in four villages in Central Laos. The information will be used to estimate labour productivity and cost/benefit of combine harvesting under different conditions.

In each village a dryer has been installed and its performance compared with sun-drying method. The artificial drying can be particularly crucial for dry season crops when combine harvested rice cannot be dried because rain often comes at the end of the dry season. Millers have been interviewed around their capacity to dry combine harvested paddy rice.


Combine harvester performance is compared in small fields is typical in Tung village, Khammouan and larger field in Pakpung village, Bolikhamxay. Source: Professor Shu Fukai

The project has also interviewed combine harvester contractors. The business is new to the Lao lowland areas, and hence there are a limited number of contractors, but the business appears to be going well and the sector is likely to expand. One contractor commented that she cannot manage all the requests received for combine harvesting and she is starting night shifts in order to double the harvesting capacity.

The project hopes to assist with the timely and cost effective introduction of combine harvesters to the area.

By Professor Shu Fukai, Project Leader


Further information about this project can be found on the ACIAR website:

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