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CICR Developing Cotton Harvester for Small Farms.

The Central Institute for Cotton Research (CICR) has developed the country's first indigenous, self-propelled stripper type cotton harvester, which is expected to give a new dimension to cotton harvesting on small farms hence anywhere from 1 acre to 3 hectare. This stripper harvester is more suited for Indian cotton as compared to the imported spindle type harvester. The biggest advantage of the harvester is that it costs just one third. This harvester is also suitable for high density planting system (HDPS) cultivation technique.

CICR is also developing a much bigger and modified version of the harvester to compete with international players in the field through a leading Indian manufacturer. CICR director Keshav Kranthi told that the first prototype of the harvester with 55-60 HP output is expected to come for trial to Nagpur in November. The commercial manufacturing of the harvester is, however, scheduled for March 2016. Central Institute for Research in Cotton Technology (CIRCOT) has also contributed technically in designing the pre-cleaning unit in the up scaled version.

While the self-propelled indigenous version already in use at CICR costs 3-3.5 lakh, the tractor mounted version could range from 7-8 lakh. The indigenous version, which has to be driven by the farmer, is a result of three years of work by CICR scientist under the Technology Mission on Cotton.

CICR director also said "Initially, CICR scientists started work on the machine in 2012 under a project on machines by the crop production division of the institute. It all began with a small cotton picker. The institute has already filed a patent on the machine."

Gautam Majumdar, scientist for farm machines and power, says that India needs small harvesters for both technical reasons as well as the cost involved in spindle based harvesters. The institute is also trying to improve on the machine by adding a stationary but effective pre-cleaner unit to the machine so that farmers could remove maximum possible trash from cotton. With this additional unit the cost could rise to 4-4.5 lakh.

He said "Global manufacturers like John Deere and New Holland all use spindle based technology, which cannot work for Indian farms. Hence, CICR developed the stripper type harvester. But our machine works on just 17 HP and is a riding type, which means that the farmer has to run it. It has a limitation that it has a jerking effect, uses very low power engine. Hence to make it more effective, stable and safe we decided to modify the version and approached an established industry. The up scaled version would be costly for an average farmer. But if the farmer can use the machine as an entrepreneur and rent it out to farmers in villages around him, it can be a very successful business."