Farmers in the region are gradually being habituated to cost-effective and mechanized potato harvesting.
According to the scientists and farmers, large-scale promotion of mechanization could be the effective means of mitigating the problems of labour shortage, slow pace and high expensive potato harvesting.
Mijanur Rahman, a farmer of Kachua village under Tanore Upazila, said there is a huge labour shortage in the potato growing areas during peak harvesting period. Manual potato harvesting is a slow, time consuming and costly operation.
In conventional system, potato beds need to open first by an indigenous plough which cover average daily two-three bigha only, then pick up the exposed potatoes by hands.
"Mechanized potato harvester saves cost and time besides mitigating labour shortage," said Golam Rasul, a pioneer potato grower in the region, sharing his field level experience on the issue.
He told BSS that Farm Machinery and Postharvest Process Engineering (FMPE) Division of Bangladesh Agriculture Research Institute (BARI) has developed the power tiller driven potato harvester.
Dr Israil Hossain, Chief Scientific Officer and Head of FMPE Division, said more area coverage within short period of time, reduce labour dependency, escape bad weather and quick potato harvesting, cost reduction by 60 percent and profitable potato production are the major salient features of the harvester.
He said potato harvester meets up the labour shortage through speeding up the harvesting process. It can harvest potato from around 10-12 bighas of land in average a day depending upon the operator's skill.
Potato growers always face risk of bad weather especially during harvesting time. Sometime unpredictable rain causes huge damage. So, potato harvester can cover many areas within limited time and escape bad weather, uncertainty and labour dependency.
The machine requires labour of three persons instead of the conventional eight persons per bigha of land and the harvesting cost is saved by at least 60 percent.
Agriculture Engineer Dr Hossain said the harvester is a lighter weight machine and easily enters into the small farmers' fields and a single person can drive the machine.
He said the fabricating cost is around Taka 35,000 and there is no need of specialized training for driving the machine.
Dr Hossain said the farmers have started using this harvester in their own field during the current harvesting season and the farmers are being benefited in curtailing their production cost as well as labour requirement.
Meanwhile, most of the growers' harvested better yields of potato in last three to four years and they also obtained expected sale proceeds in the harvesting stage.
"I had sold out an 85-kg potato bag at Taka 800 to 850 in this season, said Ziarul Haque, a farmer of Baya village.
The farmers said potato farming could become more profitable if adequate preservation facilities were ensured and potato-based agro-industries are set up alongside enhancing exports.