• Mechanical checks to make before cultivating to minimise downtime and delays
The planting season is in full swing. Some farmers have already completed this major task. Others are at work in the fields. There are also those who are waiting to make sure the start of the rains is with us.
If you have not already planted to help achieve the full potential of the planter, make the following mechanical checks before you go into the field to minimise downtime and delays, so full advantage of the critical window for planting is taken.
Clean the planter. Check and lubricate all chains and sprockets, grease all the greasing points then check and grease all the bearings.
Check all the drive wheels and drivelines are working freely and are not rusted or stiff
Clean and lubricate the seed and fertiliser drives and metering units and replace any defective parts.
Check the seed and fertiliser tubes are in good condition and are not blocked and replace as necessary.
Check the disc openers and tynes (if applicable) are all in good condition and replace those that are worn out. This very important as it gives accurate seed placement.
Check the correct alignment of coulters in relation to the planter units and press wheels
Then you must understand the seed companies recommendations off the seed you have purchased, so you know the recommended planting depth and inter-row spacing and then in conjunction with the manufacturer’s manual prepare the calibration of 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. For example if the seed supplier recommends a planting depth of 3cm with inter-row spacing of 23cm between plants, the owner’s manual will provide all the necessary information to calibrate the planter to achieve this, by giving the correct seed plate and appropriate settings of the drive gears of the planter.
The rate of fertiliser plays a key role in achieving a good crop. Accordingly, the granular size of fertiliser plays a role in this and should also be calibrated to meet the desired kilos per acre, or hectare as recommended by an agronomist or your seed and fertiliser supplier. This is achieved by adjusting drive gears as per the owner manual and must be done in conjunction with above ground practical testing to ensure that the planter delivers the required amount.
After calibration of the fertiliser and seed, the placement of fertiliser should be set so it is just below, or to one side of the seed to avoid burning of the seed, through direct contact with the seed as germination and the soil moisture absorbs the essential elements given by the fertiliser. The prevention of burning of the seeds is important as it is a binary action and if burning occurs, the seed will not produce a plant!
The depth of planting will require fine adjustment in the field when you start planting as the soil condition does influence this.
During planting it is important to follow the lubrication instructions as per the owner's handbook and hourly greasing regime and importantly the use of graphite powder in the seed to lubricate the planting metering mechanism.
By going through these steps before planting, the yield-limiting factors will be minimised and the plant will be able to map out a good yield potential in the early growth stages which contributes towards a good potential harvest. Afterwards, through careful crop husbandry combined with sufficient rainfall, the farmer will be rewarded with profitable results.
Fergus Robley is the general manager of FMD East Africa, the Massey Ferguson distributor