How to use a planter to boost crop yields
While some farmers have already planted seeds for this year, a significant number are still waiting to see whether the rains will be consistent.
This gives an opportunity to make a final check of characteristics of the seed which they have purchased, the recommended planting depth and inter-row spacing and to prepare the calibration of their planters for seed and fertiliser placement.
The right plant population per acre, or hectare ensures that while competing for nutrients and sunlight, the plants offer each other healthy support for maximum yields. A full understanding of the characteristics of the chosen seed can be gained from the information provided by a seed supplier.
For example, if the notes on the seeds recommend a planting depth of three centimetres with inter-row spacing of 23 centimetres between plants, the calibration of the planter should be within a plus or minus variation of two centimetres.
When planting maize seeds, the inter-row spacing is achieved by using the correct seed plate and appropriate settings of the drive gears of the planter. A manufacturer of quality equipment will give this information to guide the farmer.
As varying soil conditions will need different settings to plant at a depth of three centimetres, it is important to carry out practical trials to achieve the correct settings. The time control should also be set so that planting is within seeds specifications.
The placement of fertiliser plays a key role in achieving a good crop. Accordingly, the quantity of fertiliser should also be calibrated to meet the required kilos per acre, or hectare as recommended by the supplier. This is achieved by adjusting drive gears and practical testing to ensure the planter delivers the required ration of fertiliser and the seeds.
After calibration, the placement of fertiliser should be below, or to one side of the seed to avoid direct contact with the seed to allow essential elements to be absorbed in the soil by moisture prior to the germination of the seeds. This prevents burning of the seeds at this early and important stage.
By going through these steps before planting, the seedlings will be able to map out their roots in the early growth stages which will contribute to a high potential yield. Afterwards careful crop husbandry combined with sufficient rainfall will reward the farmer with profitable results.
The wait for rain also gives time to make a final mechanical check of the planter to minimise delays and interruptions when the machine is in use at a crucial time for achieving profitable farming.
-Written by Fergus Robley, the General Manager, FMD East Africa.