There is no doubt that farm mechanisation is one of the most effective ways for farmers to boost productivity, especially in labour-intensive tasks such as earthing up. With the exponential rise of sugarcane farming across the country, which requires repeated earthing up, many manufacturers nationwide have been capitalising on this opportunity by selling power tillers to India’s farmers.
Farmers have been buying these machines, sadly at the cost of their own safety and even lives.
The risks of power tillers in sugarcane fields
The Bureau of Indian Standards clearly states that a power tiller’s rotor should not be allowed to move when the vehicle runs in reverse gear. This guideline has been created for very sound reasons. When a farmer runs a power tiller in reverse, especially in models without seats, the machine effectively moves towards the farmer as he walks backwards. If he stumbles on a stone or plant, he runs the risk of having his limbs or entire body shredded by the powerful rotor.
Most manufacturers do oﬀer safety catches that prevent the rotor running while the machine is in reverse, but these are easily modified by farmers, because that’s the only way they can complete their tasks.
Making safety an integral feature of earthing up
Given that India is the world’s second largest sugarcane producer in the world, the potential for accidents caused by power tillers takes on enormous proportions.
It is obvious that a solution to the dangers of earthing up must be found. Instead of rushing into quick stopgap solutions, manufacturers need to find out why so many farmers are choosing the dangerous option of running the machine in reverse while earthing up.
Interactions with farmers tell us that the task of earthing up can only be done when the rotor and wheels of the machine to run in opposite directions. With the power tillers currently available in India, this can only happen if the tiller runs in reverse gear.
The need for power tiller manufacturers is to take a completely fresh look at the design of power tillers, and come up with models that do not force farmers to choose between productivity and safety.
Only then will the rewards of sugarcane farming in India be as sweet as the crop for farmers.