Published online by Cambridge University Press: 31 July 2017
Shortages of hired labour are leading to greater interest in mechanisation for crop establishment in smallholder agriculture. Due to small field sizes, mechanised planters mounted on four-wheel tractors are not a suitable technology. The Versatile Multi-crop Planter (VMP) was developed for zero tillage (ZT), strip planting (SP) or single pass shallow tillage (SPST) on flat land and for forming and planting on tops of beds, each in a single pass operation, when mounted on a two-wheel tractor (2WT). The aim of the present study was to evaluate the field performance of the VMP in comparison to conventional broadcast seeding and full rotary tillage (2 to 4 passes; called CT) for establishing chickpea (Cicer arietinum L.), jute (Corchorus olitorius L.), lentil (Lens culinaris Medikus), maize (Zea mays L.), mung bean (Vigna radiata L. R. Wilczek), rice (Oryza sativa L.) and wheat (Triticum aestivum L.) in 15 locations of Bangladesh. Plant populations emerging from all single pass operations viz. SP, ZT, and bed planting (BP) were generally satisfactory and in 12 out of 15 experiments plant populations after SP were similar to or greater than after CT. In addition, SP gave comparable or greater plant populations than SPST and BP planting methods. Overall, the SP planting achieved comparable yields and lower costs of establishment than CT. We conclude that effective and reliable planters are now available for sowing a range of crop species on small fields with minimum soil disturbance. This opens up realistic options for the development of mechanised conservation agriculture suited to small field sizes.
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