Plough Depth Sensor

 

Team: Ritu Goyal, IIT Delhi | Paras Chopra, IIT Delhi | Girish Joshi, RGIPT Jais

 

Problem Statement

 

Optimum depth of tillage operations is required for better yield of crops. Soil profile including moisture content, compactness and texture affects the depth of operation. Farmers using the bullock drawn plough try to maintain the depth of operation based on their experience, however it is very difficult to know the variation until it is too much. Therefore, there is need of developing a low cost sensor and alarm system, which may give alarm, if there is variation in depth of operation. The farmer can accordingly adjust the depth of ploughing by adding/removing weight on the plough or changing the angle of beam.

There is need of developing a low cost sensor which can be used to sense depth of operation irrespective of tillage implements (plough, harrow, cultivator, seed drill, etc.) and alarm in case the variation is beyond the pre-set limits.

 

Sensor Guidelines

  1. The sensors and alarming system should be low cost, robust enough to work in agricultural fields.

  2. The attachment should easily be fitted with the existing tractors and its attachments (tillage implements)

  3. The unit should consume minimum power; preferably it should have its own power source

  4. The unit should have provision of setting the optimum depth of operation and allowable variation, which user may adjust according to type of crop

  5. The unit should be compact in design and light weight. 

 

Prior Art Searches

 

Regions of high mechanical resistance in the soil may arise naturally, by compaction from heavy farm machinery, or by the formation of plough pans. Compacted soils with high strength reduce growth rates of crop roots and thus limit the acquisition of water and nutrients by the plant. This may affect crop yield and require tillage practices to reduce soil compaction. Although conventional methods of crop management provide similar soil conditioning across the entire field, different parent material, topography, and past management can cause a significant variability in soil compaction. Depth of ploughing affects both perennial weed infestation and yield levels consistently. Depth of ploughing and sowing depends on the crop. Every crop has optimum depth of sowing. If the seeds are sown deeper then the tillering is delayed. Therefore, sensing the depth of tillage operations is important as it provides a feedback to the framer to correct for any irregular tillage that might have occurred.

Methods developed for online depth sensing till now use ultrasonic sensors to find the depth of ploughing. One of the challenges associated with the ultrasonic sensors is that they cannot accurately measure the distance in presence of dust particles and grass on farm. In another method, a swinging arm type of frame height sensor was designed to measure the distance variation between the soil surface and the frame of sensor system. 

 

Mind Mapping

 

The preliminary mind map was constructed with the prior art search of the problem statement. We considered the need, methods, sowing mechanism, error tolerance, and reason for depth variations. We also thought about the tools used in farming, crop selection, and depth of sowing.  

 

 

Prof Anil Gupta gave feedback on the Mind Map. He suggested us to include Hindrances that affect the soil, the complementary problems associated with our project like seed counting and even spacing, and the type of sensors. 

 

 

The seeds must be sown at optimum depth for higher yield and this depth is specific to the seed.

 

Farming Tractor Implements

  1. MB Plough

  1. Cultivator

  1. Harrow

  1. Manual Seed Drill

  1. Rotavator

 

 

Field Visits

 

The team went to villages around Grambharti for field visits.

 

Field Visit 1: Amrapur

 

Person met: Surendra Singh Rathod (9924510631) and his son Jayaraj (9924477831)

 

Q: What crops do you grow?

A: Almost all the seasonal crops. It depends on the season. Right now we have just sown cotton is one field and preparing another one for cotton. In winter season we grow vegetables like Green Chilli, Brinjal, Cabbage, Cauliflower. Other crops are castor, Jwar,Bajra, and Okra.

 

Q: How much is the area that you farm on?

A: 17 acres. But the land is distributed into small fields.

 

Q: What is the type of soil?

A: There are two types of soil here. Black soil and semi black (‘gurado’). Black soil requires less water as compared to semi black. So black soil is good during when the rainfall is less but not good during heavy rains.

 

Q: How long have you been farming on this land?

A: It has been 15 years.

 

Q: What changes have you observed during this time?

A: The yield has gone down drastically.

 

Q: What are the reasons that the yield is poorer now?

A: Erratic and less rainfall, pollution in the environment, diesel prices have gown up, pests that affect the crops have increased and now using insecticides and pesticides cost us higher.

 

Q: You said that diesel prices have gown up. Since when have you been using tractors?

A: We are using tractors from day 1. Earlier bullocks were used more frequently but now it is only used only for ‘gudai’ after the first shoot appears.

 

Q: For what purposes do you use the tractor?

A: First we implant the cultivator and run it on the field. After that Ploughing is done. After ploughing levelling is done. The we make furrows using ‘chariya’.

 

Q: How do you sow seeds?

A: Sowing is done by hand. We measure the depth to be sown by fingers and thenmake a hole by finger and put the seed in that hole. For some seeds holes are not required and we just throw the seeds on the field randomly.

 

Q: Does everyone in this village do it in the same way?

A: Yes. Not in this village only. In many villages around the same practices are followed. They sow seeds by hand. No one uses the seed drill.

 

Q: How much does the labour cost you since you are planting the seeds by hand?

A: Today no labour is ready to come. We don’t get labour very easily therefore we have to pay them higher on daily wage basis. We give them Rs170 per day which is higher as compared to other farms.

 

Q: Why don’t you use the tractor with a seed drill for sowing seeds instead of doing it manually?

A: Tractor cannot be used for cotton seeds but it can be used for Bajra and Jwar which we do sometimes by bullock. We don’t use tractor because we do not know if the seed has fallen or not. Sometimes many seeds fall in a single place. Also the level at which the seed is sown is not perfect.

 

Q: Why is the level of seed not perfect?

A: The entire field is not flat. There are variations in the terrain.

 

Q: What is the depth of sowing different seeds?

A: Cotton: 0.5-1 inch, Lady finger: 0.5-1 inch, Bitter Gourd (‘karela’): 3 inch, Castor: 3 inch

 

Q: What do you think, how can we solve the problem of sowing with tractor?

A: “Uska meter honachahiyekibeejgayakinhigaya. Agar gayatohkitnagehragaya.” There should be a meter to monitor whether the seed was sown or not. If yes, at what depth it was sown.

 

Q: We are working on the same problem. We are building a sensor that will tell you how deep is the seed sown and how many seeds were sown. Can we have a look at the field where cotton is sown?

 

Then the team had a look at the field whqere cotton was sown just a day before. It was planted on the sides of the canal. The team also saw the cultivator, plough, leveller, rotavator and manual plough used with bullocks.

 

Q: What crops give you the maximum profits?

A: There is no such crop. We have to grow all the seasonal crops because we don’t have greenhouse shelter. Otherwise castor gives maximum profits.

 

Q: What are other problems that you face?

A: Can you do something for the thresher? There is a lot of waste collected along with the useful grains. Saw dust and pebbles of the size of grain are not properly removed.  Also during winnowing the saw dust is blown away by the thresher. This gets collected on the farm then labour has to be called to collect it from ground.

 

Q: Can’t you just block its opening by some sort of sack?

A: We tried doing it but then most saw dust waste came along with the grain. So blocking the opening is not an option.

 

The team then saw the working of the thresher.

 

Q: Is there any machine available in the market that does this?

A: Harvester has less waste. But is cannot be used on small distributed farms like ours. It is also expensive. When we take the grains to the market to get is separated from pebbles and saw dust it costs us 70Rs for 100Kg.

 

Q: How much does the thresher cost you?

A: 2.5 Lakhs

 

Photos from Field Visit 1

 

 

 

Field Visit 2: Mubarakpur

 

Person met: Hasmuk Prajapati (9723535527)

 

Q: How much is the area that you farm on?

A: We have 10 acres of area out of which we farm on 4 acres and the rest is given on rent.

 

Q: What crops do you grow?

A: Jwar, Bajra and wheat

 

Q: Do you grow any vegetable?

A: Yes, but not in this season.

 

Q: What is the type of soil here?

A: Red soil

 

Q: Which soil is good for Bajra & Jwar, red soil or black?

A: Red soil has higher yield and the crops grow much bigger and faster in this soil.

 

Q: Since how many years are you into farming?

A: Our family has been into farming since generations. I was doing a job earlier so quit it and now doing farming.

 

Q: What changes have you observed since these years?

A: New machines have come. Pest infestation has increased.

 

Q: Since when are you using tractors?

A: It has been 10 years.

 

Q: What all tools do you use?

A: We have a cultivator, Plough, ‘chariyuka’ (for making furrows) and a seed drill.

 

Q: For what seeds do you use seed drill?

A: Cotton is done by hand. For Jwar and Bajra seed drill is used. But this seed drill is not the automatic one. It has to be operated by a person.

 

Q: How many seed drills are there is this village?

A: 3-4

 

Q: How do the others sow these seeds if not by a seed drill?

A: They borrow the seed drill from us.

 

Q: Can the seed drill be operatedby anybody?

A: No. An experienced farmer can only use it as he knows how much seed to put in the opening on top otherwise sowing may not be proper. Also the land has to be made flat before the seed can be sown using the machine.

 

Q: Why is the sowing not proper?

A: If there is a lot of grass on the farm, it gets stuck and seeds are not implanted on the right place. Also if there are lumps of soil at one place and hollow at some other place then the seed may remain on top and eaten by birds.

 

Q: Can you show us the working?

A: On the tractor seed drill is connected behind the cultivator at about 1 feet distance. Then seeds are put manually by a person on the top opening. Then the seeds are distributed in all the 7 pipes uniformly. The seeds come out of the bottom opening. There is also a provision to sow different types of seeds on the same land.

 

Q: Are the seed drill and cultivator at the same level?

A: Seed drill is 3 inch above the cultivator.

 

Q: At how much depth do you sow Bajra?

A: 3 inch

 

Q: what if it is deeper than 3 inch?

A: It does not yield good. The first shoot takes a longer time to appear. Tillering takes time.

 

Q: How much does the manual drill and the automatic drill cost?

A: Manual drill cost about Rs 10000 and Automatic is Rs 90000. No one in this or nearby village uses the automatic drill.

 

Q: If there exists a meter that tells how many seeds were sown and where they were sown would it help?

A: Yes that would be good.