Machinery and farm implements for maize and sorghum production

Vol.4, Issue 8

It’s a common in Lesotho farmers that the thought about agricultural machinery and implement last only up to soil preparation machinery and implements.  However the agricultural implements and machinery includes the implements used for soil preparation, weed, disease and pests control and also harvesting and threshing equipment.  The type of implements used shall depend entirely on the type and the scale of farming system the farmer is operating under.  In addition to this, the soil type is also important when selecting machinery for use in the production of these cereal grains.  This article serves to highlight the prospective farmers under Maluti Mountain Brewery (MMB) under Go-farming project in the type of equipment they should outsource for field operations.

Southern Lowlands of Lesotho

These areas are characterized by drier climatic conditions with erratic rainfall.  The soils are poorly structured due to amongst many, low soil fertility and low organic matter content.  Some places are characterized the duplex soils with underlying clay pan, that also promotes channeling and reduces rain water infiltration into the soil, thus increasing runoff water from the falling rain.  It is well noted that these areas are characterized by low vegetative cover hence are prone to soil erosion.

For primary soil preparation in these areas, farmers should consider using the implements like RIPPERS (figure 1) to cut through the soil pan so as to increase water infiltration.  This practice could be followed by the use of the disc plough (figure 2) prior to planting.  Too much disturbance of the soil in this part of Lesotho could further destroy the soil structure and hence result in low water retention and infiltration.

Figure 1.a) Ripper for deep cultivation and breaking of the clay-pan

Figure 1.a) Ripper for deep cultivation and breaking of the clay-pan

Fig. 2: Disc Plough for breaking the soil lumps and cutting through the soil

Fig. 2: Disc Plough for breaking the soil lumps and cutting through the soil

 

For planting of the seed, it is always recommended that farmers use the drilling method as in is easier to calibrate the seed for optimal plant density required for optimum profits the warrants economic returns.  Also the tractor drawn planter (figure 3) or draft-power drawn planter must be used to accomplish this exercise.

Fig. 3: Tractor drawn planter with seed hoppers and ferterlized hoppers

Fig. 3: Tractor drawn planter with seed hoppers and ferterlized hoppers

 

Planter comes in different sizes and efficiencies.  They can be accessed from any local retailers.  The information regarding the suitable planter to use can be accessed from the retail store.  The size of the land to be cultivated also determines the planter type needed for purchase.

Chemical sprays are always required during the period of crop growth and development, as more often than not, the crops are always infested with pest or diseases.  Depending on the stage of crop growth certain equipment is required in order to apply chemicals for pests and disease control.  For weed control, both pre-emergence and post emergence activity, since the crop shall still be short or hasn’t emerged, the boom sprayer is required (figure 4)

Fig. 4: a boom sprayer drawn by tractor power

Fig. 4: a boom sprayer drawn by tractor power

The size of the sprayer also depends on the acreage it shall be used on.  This equipment is very uncommon among our Basotho farmers; however it is gaining importance with the scarcity of labor required for field operations that is caused by industrialization and HIV pandemic.  It is now close to impossible to adequately apply chemicals for disease and pest control in the field with the limited labor available. So it is the same case with hand hoeing for efficient weed control in the fields.

Mechanical harvesting is also gaining importance due to scarcity of labor as well.  The crops like sorghum and maize requires machinery to harvest, thresh and winnow as this could very laborious.  Hence the prospective farmers are encouraged to have an access to the combine harvesters as well (figure 5&6).  These harvesters do not only accomplish the job efficiently and effectively, but also ensures that harvesting is done on time to avoid losses that may be cause by unfavorable climatic conditions like moist conditions.

Fig. 5: Maize harvester

Fig. 5: Maize harvester

 

Fig. 6: combine harvester suitable for sorghum crop

Fig. 6: combine harvester suitable for sorghum crop


The northern lowlands of Lesotho

For the farmers in the northern lowlands of Lesotho the common implements like mould board plough can be used flowed by disking prior to planting.  However for the sustainable use of the soil as a medium for plant growth, it is recommended the farmers avoid intensive cultivation and follow the southern lowlands recommendations.  Furthermore for all other field operations, the implements whether tractor drawn or draft power drawn can be used as in the Southern lowlands.

 

Accessibility of the farm implements: recommendation.

It is very important for farmer to realize that it is their responsibility to out-source the implement and not expect the government to provide these for them just like with any other tools they use in their fields.  Yes it worth noting that these above mentioned tools a very expensive for individual farmer to own, and most of the time not economical for the acreage of land owned by our farmers here as influenced by our land tenure system.  The number of recommendations is therefore made to the farmers regarding this issue and they are hoped at reliving the farmers from ownership stresses;

  • Farmers from the same community may opt to individually own different farm implements and have an agreement of some sort to use the implements collectively amongst themselves.  This implies that there is no need for one farmer to own three tractors, a combine harvester a big planter etc with only 10 hectors of land to work on.
  • Have a service provider company in an area that has purchased these implements for rental.  Here farmers can get a consultancy services for their field operations.  This simply implies an establishment of a locally owned company that is owned by people who specialize in farm machinery.

Take home massage:

THE FARMING SYSTEM IS MAINLY INFLUENCED BY THE FARMILY SYSTEM.  IN AN EXTENDED FARMILY SYSTEM, ASSETS ARE COMUNUALLY OWNED IN THE SOCIETY AND THERE IS ALWAYS A SHARING ATTITUDE AMONGST THE SOCIETAL MEMEBERS.  WHEREAS IN A NUCLEAR KIND OF A FARMILY SYSTEM, THERE IS INDIVIDUALISTIC OWNERSHIP OF ASSETS AND RESPOSIBILITIES ARE NOT SHARED.  THERE ARE WELL DEFINED BOUNDRIES BETWEEN THE FARMILIES.

Our society system and family system has changed due to modernization and as a result there is no enough labor available to work in the fields.  The idea of MATSEMA seems to be an old story now hence our attitudes towards farming have to change as well.  Mechanized agriculture could intervene in this case.

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