The prospect of the 2012 crop here seems good. 2011 was a drought because there was no precipitation from April 2010 until late December 2010. Some snow came in January in February, but too little and too late for rainfed fields. This year, however, will be good because rains and heavy snows started in November, and although there was a break in December, we are getting more precipitation in January. Farmers here wait to see if there will be enough moisture, before they plant winter wheat. In December much of the hillside winter wheat was planted by hand. This tractor field day took place on January 2, on a 5 acre field. The field was nice and flat, and was described to me as something between irrigated and rainfed, meaning that it was not flood irrigated, but they would try to direct irrigation water to it at 1 or 2 strategic times in the growing season.
The first demo was a relatively new 2-wheel tractor (2WT). These have come in through China in the last couple years, and are slowly but surely grabbing interest. The benefits for small farmers include: cheaper to operate and maintain than a team of cows (they run on 1 liter of diesel/hour and hay is expensive here), very versatile, can get into small fields, and a growing number of people in the country are learning how to tinker with them, so servicing them will only get easier. On the downside, with a belt drive and power-take-off, they're quite dangerous for a farmer that has never had anything mechanized. Above is a picture of the 2WT being used with a cultivator (read garden tiller). The tractor clipped along at a good pace, the only criticism from the farmers was that it did not cultivate deeply enough for melons. It is deep enough for wheat, but a lot of farmers like to plant a crop of melons after the winter wheat is harvested.
I have mixed feelings about bringing mechanization to farms here. Right now the unemployment rate is miserable, and I do not see how mechanization can improve that, because manual field labor is one of the few things that men can do seasonally. However, there have been and probably will continue to be some surprises. For example, the 2WT turned out to be cheaper than keeping a family cow. Also if the mining industry takes off here like so many hope, it may be profitable for women to manage the ag while men work the mines. In this case I could see women getting smart, pooling some money, and getting a big tractor to share.
I guess the bottom line is that it is interesting to see farmers gather to consider new ideas, and though I don't know how the future will go here, it is fun to spend time in the fields!