Tech-savvy farmer sows seeds of hope in cotton fields

(Xinhua) 13:15, September 11, 2023

URUMQI, Sept. 11 (Xinhua) -- What does it take to complete the successful cultivation and harvesting of cotton on fields spanning over 300 mu (20 hectares)?

Arkin Reyim, a cotton farmer from Yuli County in the Bayingolin Mongolian Autonomous Prefecture, northwest China's Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, has the answer: some agricultural machinery and intelligent equipment.

Located on the northern edge of the Taklimakan Desert, China's largest, Yuli boasts favorable conditions for the growth of cotton, such as a dry climate and abundant light and heat.

About 90 percent of China's total cotton output comes from Xinjiang. Data from the region's agriculture and rural affairs authorities shows that over 90 percent of the cultivation and harvesting of cotton is carried out by machines.

Arkin Reyim, 51, tends over 20 hectares of cotton fields. After more than three months of growth, his fields are full of cotton bolls and he is expecting to harvest in October.

He was born into a herding and farming family and spent his childhood playing in the pastures. As he was growing up, he saw how hard the older generations had to work, using traditional farming methods and tools. He also saw how automation has boosted productivity and saved labor.

In the past, cotton was planted in small plots of land. Many people plowed the land with ox carts, and tractors were only used if the farmers found themselves more in prosperous circumstances, he recalled.

After marrying in 2004, he contracted 100 mu of cotton fields, spending all his savings and taking out a loan of 40,000 yuan (about 5,544 U.S. dollars). The same year, he repaid the loan and earned some money through selling cotton. Thereafter, he became even more determined to continue with farming the crop.

With nearly 20 years of cotton growing experience, Arkin Reyim has become a veteran farmer in the village. However, his experience has been very different from the older generations.

Nowadays, many cotton farmers use intelligent equipment such as unmanned tractors and drones installed with the BeiDou Navigation Satellite System, which reduce the time and labor cost of cotton planting, he said.

Besides using a string of mechanized techniques for cotton planting and harvesting, he also relies on drones to spray pesticides and defoliants.

"Previously, it was time-consuming and laborious using manual methods and tractors to spray pesticides on cotton fields. Now, the task can be finished on fields spanning hundreds of mu in one day using drones," he said.

According to the Yuli County technical school, more than 660 people have been trained in driving agricultural machinery so far this year, with courses covering the basic knowledge and driving theory.

Besides cotton, Arkin Reyim also plants silo corn and raises sheep, cattle and poultry. He plans to raise more poultry next year.

He is also busy renovating his own yard, as he has another plan -- running an agritainment business.

Arkin Reyim's younger daughter, who helped in the cotton fields during the recent summer vacation, has entered junior high school and hopes to become a doctor.

"I hope she will study hard and acquire more knowledge, so that she can see the wider world," said Arkin Reyim.

(Web editor: Zhang Kaiwei, Liang Jun)


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