Across China: Digital innovation transforms wheat harvesting in China's breadbasket province-Xinhua

Across China: Digital innovation transforms wheat harvesting in China's breadbasket province

Source: Xinhua

Editor: huaxia

2024-06-09 12:54:00

ZHENGZHOU, June 9 (Xinhua) -- To the roaring of a combine harvester, Xie Guobing, a seasoned harvester driver in central China's granary province of Henan, effortlessly and leisurely, tapped on his cellphone before starting the large machine, with row upon row of golden wheat rippling behind him.

Two hours later, standing beside freshly harvested wheat emitting a rich cereal aroma, the 55-year-old noticed a finish button pop up on his cellphone application, displaying the precise measurement of the area reaped by the machine.

Xie and countless other farmers and agricultural workers in Henan are readying themselves for the burgeoning wave of digitalization and intelligentization, which serves as the latest and seemingly the most powerful engine to propel the development of agriculture after mechanization.

This application used by Xie was developed in collaboration between the Henan provincial agricultural machinery and farmland development center and the National Institute of Agro-machinery Innovation and Creation (CHIAIC). It is the mobile version of the Henan agricultural machinery cloud platform.

"We usually use this feature when harvesting for large grain producers," said Xie while demonstrating the application to Xinhua. "It's accurate and eliminates the need for manual measurement." He added, "It has many other functions as well. For instance, if a farmer doesn't have a harvester, he can search for the nearest one, click 'contact driver,' and make a call directly."

On the desktop version of this cloud platform, various pages display the locations of harvesters, agricultural machinery repair points, service centers, and grain dryers, providing real-time monitoring of the province's wheat harvesting progress.

According to Zhao Huawei, director of the agricultural machinery department at the Henan provincial agricultural machinery and farmland development center, the platform was developed in 2022 and requires the installation of a smart terminal for the BeiDou position system on agricultural machinery. "We initially conducted a two-year pilot program in cities like Luohe and Xinyang, and this year, we are rolling it out across the entire province," Zhao said.

"Its primary function is for emergency responses in agriculture," Zhao explained. "For instance, if rain is forecasted in a specific area, we can promptly dispatch harvesters to accelerate the harvest and ensure grain dryers are ready. Additionally, it provides information, measurement, and maintenance services to harvester drivers and connects farmers with available drivers. Another key function is monitoring the harvested area across the province."

Henan is the largest wheat-producing province in China, accounting for one-quarter of the national output, with a planting area of over 85 million mu (about 5.67 million hectares). The large-scale mechanized harvesting usually takes around 13 days. This year, an estimated 200,000 combine harvesters were racing against time to complete the harvest.

Completing such a large-scale wheat harvest in a short period, especially given adverse weather conditions like rain, requires not only maximizing the utilization of harvesters but also ensuring efficient machinery maintenance, in a digitalized and intelligentized manner.

At the Weichai Lovol intelligent agriculture service department in Dengzhou, computer screens display real-time data on this leading agricultural equipment maker's operating combine harvesters, including model, location and factory information. Detailed information on the usage and stock levels of various parts is clearly visible, with alerts for low inventory levels.

Dai Jiwei, a harvester driver from Heze City in neighboring Shandong Province, encountered an issue while harvesting wheat in Dengzhou City, Henan Province, when a circlip on his harvester went missing. But, fortunately, this situation allowed him to experience firsthand how advancements in intelligent agriculture helped resolve the problem within one hour.

After receiving Dai's phone call, a maintenance engineer arrived at the site within half an hour with the appropriate parts for his harvester model. In just 20 minutes, the engineer replaced the circlip and the belt, getting Dai and his harvester back to work.

"Combine harvesters produced in recent years are equipped with positioning systems," said Zhang Linhao, head of the service department. "This not only aids local authorities in allocating agricultural machinery but also facilitates rapid maintenance services."

By utilizing satellite remote sensing, the Internet of Things, and big data technologies, agricultural authorities can precisely predict the optimal wheat harvest period, providing valuable information services for large-scale mechanized harvesting, according to the Dengzhou intelligent agriculture center. Additionally, through computer data calculations, a big data model of wheat yield per mu has been established, achieving a prediction accuracy of 93 percent.

"I've used six harvesters over the years, and each generation is better than the last, from 65 horsepower to 220 horsepower, from harvesting 80 mu a day to 150 mu a day. Now, with the smart terminal installed, many tasks can be completed through my cellphone. It's incredibly convenient," said Xie, enjoying his 21st year of driving a harvester.