Across China: Drones heading to Xinjiang's cotton field

Source: Xinhua| 2019-11-04 10:36:17|Editor: Wang Yamei
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URUMQI, Nov. 4 (Xinhua) -- With the emergence of new technologies in China's agriculture, an increasing number of young people are participating in the field.

Ma Yangyang has brought more than 30 drones from eastern China's Anhui Province to spray defoliant on cotton farms in northwest China's Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region this autumn.

Ma bought an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) for agricultural plant protection and joined a "UAV squad" in 2018. The 25-year-old young man learned to operate the drone skillfully, and soon became a leader in the team.

Over the past year, he had travelled to the eastern province of Jiangsu, the northeastern province of Heilongjiang and the Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region in north China, using the drones to spray agrochemicals for different crops, including wheat, corn, soybeans, sorghum, sesame, cotton and even forests.

"Everywhere the team arrived, we were warmly welcomed," Ma said.

Ma and his team spent more than a month in Xinjiang, the most important cotton-producing region in China with over 2.5 million hectares of cotton fields.

October is when the cotton is harvested. Ma's team must use defoliant in advance to remove the leaves before cotton picking.

Zhang Lin, a major cotton farmer in Xinjiang's Yuli County, was skeptical about the small flying machine at first, when several young men from XAG Co., Ltd, a leading agricultural high tech company, came to introduce the drones to him in 2016.

"They said the drones can spray defoliant, consuming much less water as tractors do. They also promised that there would be no fees if I was not satisfied with the results, and no damages would be made. So I decided to have a go," Zhang said.

An operator in his early 20s went to a positioning terminal and walked along the edge of the farm. At his fingertips, the drones took off, sprayed chemicals along the route and returned automatically.

"It's amazing. It costs less than renting tractors. Drones use less water and chemicals. Tractors used to damage around eight percent of cotton and also harmed the soil. Now, drones can solve all the problems," Zhang said.

Since new technologies have won the recognition of cotton farmers in Xinjiang over the past few years, more technical personnel came to the region to engage in farmland management or plantation.

Statistics of XAG alone showed that more than 4,500 drones of the company have helped local farmers defoliate 866,666 hectares of cotton this year.

The regional agriculture and husbandry machinery administration said that by the end of this year, the number of farm-oriented UAVs in Xinjiang is expected to exceed 5,000.