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A Versatile Multi-crop Planter (VMP) was designed and built for seed and fertilizer application in lines when driven by 2-wheel tractors (2WT) for: single-pass shallow-tillage; strip tillage (ST); zero till-age; bed planting, and conventional tillage (CT). Field performance and operational costs were recorded and analysed in Bangladesh. Field capacity of VMP was 0.07 ha/h for ST which was 34% lower than for CT. Land preparation cost by VMP was decreased by up to 75% for single pass compared to CT. VMP was capable of sowing many crops from small jute seed (2 g/1000 seeds) up to maize (160 g/1000 seeds). The VMP weighs 152 kg and ex-factory price is US$ 1,000. Acceptance of this multipurpose planter by smallholder farmers who prefer two wheel tractors is expected to be high.
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An Innovative Versatile Multi-crop Planter for Crop
Establishment Using Two-wheel Tractors
ME Haque
Adjunct Associate Professor, School of Veterinary
and Life Sciences, Murdoch University, Murdoch,
WA 6150
RW Bell
Professor, School of Veterinary and Life Sciences,
Murdoch University, Murdoch, WA 6150
AKMS Islam
Principal Scientic Ofcer
Farm Machinery and Postharvest Technology Divi-
Bangladesh Rice Research Institute, Gazipur-1701
KD Sayre
Principal Agronomist, CIMMYT, Apdo. Postal 6-641,
06600 Mexico, D.F.
A Versatile Multi-crop Planter
(VMP) was designed and built for
seed a nd fer t ili zer application in
lines when driven by 2-wheel trac-
tors (2WT) for: single-pass shallow-
tillage; strip tillage (ST); zero till-
age; bed planting, and conventional
tillage (CT). Field performance and
operational costs were recorded and
analysed in Bangladesh. Field ca-
pacity of VMP was 0.07 ha/h for ST
which was 34% lower than for CT.
Land preparation cost by VMP was
decreased by up to 75% for single
pass compared to CT. VMP was
capable of sowing many crops from
small jute seed (2 g/1000 see ds)
up to ma ize (160 g/10 0 0 se eds).
The VMP weighs 152 kg and ex-
factory price is US$ 1,000. Accep-
tance of this multipurpose planter
by smallholder farmers who prefer
two wheel tractors is expected to be
Small farm sizes restrict the pur-
chase and utility of 4-wheel tractors
in many parts of Asia and Africa.
The wi d e ra nge of option s for
4-wheel tractor in mechanised plant-
ing is not available for 2WT that are
a major form of mechanised tillage
in S. Asia (Baker et al., 2007). In
Bangladesh, the 2WT account ed
for tillage on 75% of elds in 2001
(Meisner 2001). Mostly these have
been used i n f u lly rota r y tilla ge
mode to prepare land or puddle wet
soils for transplanted rice (Oryza
sativa L.). The large numbe rs of
2WT operat ing in Sout h Asia are
evidence of considerable interest
amongst small farmers in mecha-
nised tillage. However, repeated full
rotary tillage of soil, often practiced
more tha n s ix t imes pe r year, is
not favourable to maintena nce of
soil organic matter (SOM) and soil
str ucture. The rapid developments
in minimum tillage planting for CA
using 4-wheel tractors have largely
by-passed the 2WT (Baker et al.,
2007). In principle, the same com-
ponents, tool bars, furrow openers,
seed meters, s eed box, fer t iliser
box, etc. can be used on planters
for 2WT as for 4-wheel tractors but
on a smaller scale with fewer and
smaller tool bars, fewer tines and at-
tention to light weight construction.
However, the challenge remains to
MM Hossain
Professor, Department of Farm Power Machinery,
Bangladesh Agricultural University, Mymensingh
design such planters and demon-
strate their effectiveness, reliability,
and durability at a price that allows
ready adoption in the target market.
The developments in 2WT-oper-
ated minimum tillage planters are
reported in Haque et al. (2013). De-
spite these promising developments,
none of the pres ent pla nters for
2WT are capable of planting in all
modes of tillage. In diverse, inten-
sive cropping systems such as in the
Eastern Gangetic Plain, two or more
planters are prese ntly need ed to
carry out the range of minimum till-
age and conventional tillage opera-
tions. Hence service providers are
reluctant to purchase a planter that
can only be used for a narrow selec-
tion of crops at a particular time of
the year. The challenge is to design
a multi-function planter capable of
handling many crops and planting
methods etc. In t he present paper
we describe the design, construc-
tion and operation of such a planter,
cal led the V MP. The VMP meets
the above criteria and has success-
fully established a diverse range of
crops in Bangladesh (Haque et al.,
Materials and Methods
The VM P wa s po w e r e d by a
Dongfeng or Saifeng 12 - 16 horse-
power 2WT but could be used with
any 2WT with similar power rating.
The Dongfeng or Saifeng 2WT have
different but suitable hitching points
to attach with the VMP. The ap-
propr iate planter hitching needs to
be used with the particular type of
2WT. The VMP was designed with
capability for seeding and fertilizing
with f luted roller or vertical plate
meters in lines for: 1) Single-pass
shallow-tillage (SPST); 2) strip till-
age (ST); 3) zero tillage (ZT); 4) bed
planting (BP) (for single-pass new
bed-making or re-shaping of perma-
nent beds and simultaneous planting
and fer tilizer application); and 5)
conventional tillage (CT) using full
rotary tillage following broadcast
seeding and fertiliser spreading.
The rotary shaft is operated by
the 2WT at 250 or 375 rpm through
a chain and gear mechanism. The
power transmission chain box is lo-
cated on the right side of the planter
with 14 teeth on the upper sprocket
attached to the drive shaft and 13
teeth on the lower sprocket attached
to the rotary shaft. Rotary shaft and
blades are covered by a metal sheet
fit ted with a clearance of 240 mm
from the shaft. The net weight of
VMP is 152 kg and its overall di-
mensions are length 990 mm, width
1220 mm, and height 840 mm (Fig.
1). The V MP is mounted on a 700
mm toolba r attached throug h side
arms and connecting rods to the
main handle of the 2WT. Seed and
fertiliser boxes are mounted on the
toolbar, as the cover of the rotary
shaf t. This allows for seeding and
fertilizing in four adjustable lines if
row spacing is 200 mm, down to a
single row in case of maize sown in
600-700 mm rows. The seed box is
fitted with four seed meters. Either
fluted roller or ver tical plate seed
meters can be f itted depending on
the level of precision in seed place-
ment required. Seed rate can be ad-
justed by sprocket size in the case of
vertical plate meters. Sprocket sizes
range from 10-40 teeth giving 5 set-
tings for seed rate and seed size. For
the f luted seed meter, seed rate is
varied by adjusting the length of the
flutes by a handle. By f itting seed
meters with 4, 8, or 16 utes, deliv-
ery of different-sized seed can be
regulated. The fertiliser box is made
from the same iron sheet and has
the same external dimensions as the
seed box. The fertiliser box is tted
with four uted meters with eight or
four utes.
Se e d meters are a t t a che d to a
shaft and fertiliser meters to a sepa-
rate shaft. The power for the ferti-
liser meters comes from the 2WT
differential shaf t, through a chain
driven by a 19-teeth sprocket and
is relayed to the seed meter shaf t
through a chain and sprocket. The
fu rrow openers are each attached
on the t oolbar by two U-cl amps
along with bolts and plate. Seed and
fertiliser delivery tubes made of 27
mm diameter clear polypropylene
pipe join behind the furrow opener.
A pressing roller 670 mm long with
127 mm diameter (Fig. 1) is at-
tached behind the f urrow openers
by a pair of arms 560 mm long. The
photographs illustrati ng the VMP
(Fig. 1) are for the 4th version. Sub-
1: Seed box, 2: Fertilizer box, 3: Seed delivery tube, 4: Toolbar frame
5: Fertilizer delivery tube, 6: Depth contoroller, 7: Press roller, 8: Furrow opener
Fig. 1 Versatile Multi-crop Planter attached (marked in dash line) to 2WT in strip
tillage mode
sequent versions involved changes
to seed metering so externally the
later generations have the same ap-
pearance as shown. The reasons for
changes made to earlier generations
are outlined below in results.
Data Collection
Seed calibration
Seed rate was calibrated over a
20 m travel distance with an 800
mm sowing width. This procedure
was used to calibrate the VMP for
a range of species (Ta ble 1) before
planting in the elds. Data on labour
requirement, operational time, time
loss, and eld capacity were record-
ed dur ing the field operation. The
time losses due to turning, clogging
and operators' personal needs were
also recorded. Field capacity was
deter mined using t he formulae of
Hunt (1973).
Field trials with lentil, chickpea,
mung bean, black gram, maize,
and direct seeded rice
The eld trials with lentil, chick-
pea, mung bean, and black gram
were established at the High Barind
Tract, Rajshahi; and the maize and
di rect-seeded mon soon rice we re
established at the Bangladesh Sug-
arcane Research Institute, Gazipur,
Bangladesh. The treat ments were
arranged in a randomized complete
block (RCB) design with three rep-
lications. Treatments for the trials
of lentil, chickpea, mung bean, and
black g ram were i) CT, ii) SPST,
iii) ZT, iv) ST, and v) BP. In the
case of maize trial, the treatments
were i) VMP with vertical disk seed
meter i n SPST planting mode, ii)
Ear thway planter in soils that had
been tilled four times, and iii) hand
planted in soils that had been tilled
four times. Two tillage treatments
i) SPST and ii) ZT were used in the
case of the direct-seeded rice trial.
Data on operational capacity of the
seed box and coverage per full seed
box of different species; plant popu-
lation/m2; fuel consumption, field
capacity, labour requirement, cost
of land preparation and seeding, etc.
were collected from trials of lentil,
chic kpea , m ung bean, and bla ck
gram; and spacing between adjacent
maize plants and rice hills, etc. was
determined. Data were analysed sta-
tistically using one-way analysis of
variance (ANOVA) with MSTAT-C.
Means were compared with least
significant difference (LSD) test at
P < 0.05.
The following results are based on
4th and 6th versions of VMP. After
version 4, changes focussed on seed
metering improvements. Version 6
replaced uted rollers with vertical
plate seed meters.
Blade Arrangement for Different
Tillage Operations
By co ntrast wit h the stand a rd
rotary tiller that has blades bolted
at f ixed posit ions; th e V M P has
exible blade positioning. This was
achieved by repla cing the rou nd
shaf t with a square shaft and then
designing brackets that can be ex-
ibly re-positioned across the shaft
while holding two or four blades
ea ch. The slid i ng of the bracket
side ways w ithout blade rem oval
enables row spacing to be adjusted
quickly in the f ield accord ing the
crop requ ire ments. T he prev ious
rotar y shaft had to be dissembled
in a workshop if the row spac-
ing was to be changed. Hence the
square shaft and brackets designed
fo r the V MP ac h i eve im p r ove d
flexibility for multi-crop planting
and capacity for rapid adjust ment
of row spacing on a field-by-field
basis. For SPST planting, 32 blades
are attached on eight brackets (Fig.
1), evenly spread across the shaf t.
Blades alternate between left and
rig ht t w i st. For ST, o ne b racket
containing 2-4 blades is retained
for each furrow opener. Blade size
with either straight or twisted shape
provided strip t illage to 140 mm
depth and 100 mm width. Settings
for bed shaping involve a decrease
in the wheel-base from 740 to 600
mm (centre-to-cent re) by flipping
each wheel around and re-bolting
to the axle. The centre line of the
wheel is then aligned with both the
outer blade and the outer edge of
the cones used to shape beds. For
newly-formed beds, blades are ar-
ranged with longer blades (230 mm)
on the outer six brackets (holding 24
blades altogether) and with a twist
that throws soil towards the centre
of the bed. Shorter blades (155 mm)
with alter nate left a nd right twist
are fitted to the two central brack-
ets. For re-shaping of old beds, only
Species Seed size
(g/1000 seed)
Seed rates
(kg/h a)
Carr ying
capacity of full
seed box (kg)
Planted area per
full seed box
(h a)
Maize 160 18 21 1.17
Chickpea 138 34 20 0.67
Wheat 52 120 18 0.15
Mung bean 45 40 20 0.59
Lentil 20 34 22 0.65
Rice 18 30 15 0.67
(Brassica spp.)3.7 817 2.13
(Sesamum indicum.)2.7 614 2.27
(Corchorus capsularis)25.5 17 3.05
a Rice husk at a 1:1 ratio was added with small seed to increase the volume
for sowing using the uted meter.
Table 1 The operating capacity of the seed box and coverage per full seed box of the
VMP when used to sow a range of species with different seed sizes and seed rates
the two or three outer brackets on
each side of the rotary shaft retain
the long blades, while all blades on
the three or four inner brackets may
be retained. If there is little residue
or weeds on the beds, only the lon-
ger outer blades need to be tted to
throw soil from the furrow on to the
bed to re-shape it. The VMP can be
operated in ZT mode with blades re-
tained to clear some residue, but the
furrow openers need to be set deep
enough to ensure sufficient clear-
ance of the blades above the soil and
Seed Metering
Sever al ty pes of seed meter ing
device have been tested leading to
the vertical plate device in the 6th
version VMP. The vertical plate is
modelled on the Earthway Garden
Planter (from USA). It is made from
moulded plastic in 5 different aper-
ture sizes to accommodate seed siz-
es from 2 to 160 g seeds/1000 (Ta -
ble 1). However, if continuous seed
dr opping is preferred, the f lut ed
rollers are satisfactory and cheaper.
Among tillage treatments, no sig-
nicant difference was observed in
the case of lentil and chickpea emer-
gence after seed metering using the
fluted roller; however, signif icant
improvements were obs erved for
emergence of mung bean and black
gram compared to CT (Table 2).
Field Operation and Costs
Field capacities of CT, SPST, ST,
ZT and BP were 0.11, 0.07, 0.07,
0.0 6 a nd 0.05 ha/h, re spectively
(Table 3). Field capacity of CT was
higher (0.11 ha/h) since broadcast
seeding did not require precision
seed align ment li ke row planting.
Fuel consumption was higher with
CT (33.1 l/ha) and lowest in ST (5.83
l/ha) by VMP (Table 3). The SPST,
ST, ZT and BP by VMP saved 38,
82, 50 and 13% diesel fuel over CT.
The maximum cost (US$ 41.47/ha)
of land preparation and seeding was
incurred in case of CT system and
the lowest (US$ 10.27/ha) for ST
systems (Table 3). Compared to CT,
planting by SPST, ST, ZT, and BP
systems lowered costs by 52, 75, 23,
and 13%, respectively (Table 3).
Planting Options, Methods, Spe-
cies, and Seed Rate
Seeding has been tested for the
different crops, in order of increas-
ing seed size: jute, sesame, mustard,
lentil, mung bean, rice, wheat, black
gram, chic k pea a n d ma i z e. The
vertical plate seed meter with VMP
was evaluated when planting by ZT
and SPST systems to sow direct-
seeded monsoon rice. In the case of
SPST by V MP about 78% of rice
plants were spaced between 160 and
250 mm apart (mean 187; SE ± 7.6
mm) in a single-pass operation. The
establishment of plants by ZT plant-
ing with the VM P ach ieved 70%
at 160-250 mm apar t (mean 170;
SE ± 8.7 mm). With ver tical plate
seed meter in VMP, about 96% of
maize plants were placed 180 to 260
mm apart (mean 205 mm; SE ± 3.9
mm) with a single-pass operation.
Th e spacing b etween plants was
less even (mean 231 mm; SE ± 6.7
mm) in the case of maize pla nted
by hand in well-prepared land after
four tillage operations. However, the
maize planted by Earthway planter
performed slightly better (mean 215
mm; SE ± 2.3 mm) compared to the
vertical plate seed meter of V MP.
The vertical plate seed meter has a
tendency to drop more seed at <170
mm s p a c i n g than th e Eart hway
The 6th version of VMP ex-
fa ctor y pri ce is ~US$ 1,000 per
unit. Further reductions in cost are
Crop CT SPST ZT ST BP CV, % Signi cance
Lentil 25 10 0 178 171 -59.9 NS
Chickpea 56 55 47 57 31 24.7 NS
Mung bean 27c 145ab 121b 209a 101b 20.5 **
Black gram 22b -99a 93a 52ab 29.6 **
Values in a row, followed by a common letter are not signicantly different at P <
0.01 by Duncan's Multiple Range Test.
Table 2 Plant populations (plants/m2) established using the uted type seed meter on
the VMP for lentil, chickpea, mung bean and black gram sowing in CT, SPST, ZT,
ST, and BP at the High Barind Tract, Rajshahi, Bangladesh.
Table 3 Effect of tillage mode by the Versatile Multi-crop Planter on fuel
consumption, eld capacity, labour requirement and cost of land preparation and
seeding of lentil, chickpea, mung bean and black gram in clay soil at High Barind
Tract, Rajshahi, Bangladesh, 2010-11.
Tillage type Field capacity
(l /ha)
(p ers on -h / ha)
Cost of land
preparation and
seedinga, (US$/ha)
tillage 0 .11a 33.1a 48.1a 41.5 a
Single pass
shallow tillage 0.07b 20.6c (38) 15.4c (68) 19.8d (52)
Strip tillage 0.07b 5.83e (82) 15.3c (68) 10.3d (75)
Zero tillage 0.06b 16.6d (50) 17.3c (64) 18.1c (23)
Bed planting 0.05b 28.9b (13) 23.9b (51) 28.8b (13)
CV, % 31.9 30.8 45.4 26
Signicance ** ** ** **
Values in the parenthesis indicate the percent saving over CT.
Values in a column, followed by a common letter are not signicantly different at P
< 0.01 by Duncan's Multiple Range Test.
aConsidering variable costs for labour (land preparation @Taka 30 and seeding @
Taka 20/ha); diesel fuel (@Taka 45/l). 1 US$ = 68 Taka
po ssi ble w ith incr eased scale of
production. Moreover, if continuous
seeding rather than spaced planting
is acceptable, a further reduction in
price to US$ 600 could be achieved
by fitting only f luted rollers rather
than the vertical plate seed meter.
The VMP is fully fabricated in Ban-
gladesh. Three manufacturers have
begun production, commercialisa-
tion and scale-up. To date a total of
more than 120 units have been sold
including 40 to international buyers
in India, Mexico, Uganda, Ethiopia,
Tanzania, Zimbabwe and Vietnam.
With t h e VMP, an operat or c a n
adjust row spacing using a span-
ner in the field. In two seasons of
planting, contractors have sown 132
ha comprising nine crop species.
No serious concer ns about planter
performance, operation or reliabil-
ity have been identied. The multi-
functional, multi-crop capabilities
of VMP allow it to be used all year
round in intensive crop rotations. In
the dry season, planting of rainfed
and irrigated crops has been accom-
plished on alluvial soil as well as
the hard-setting High Barind Tract
soil (Haque et al., 2010). In the early
wet season, mung bean, black gram
and di rect seeded r ice have bee n
pl a nted successf u l l y. The VM P
shaped permanent beds and is able
to re-shape beds for each crop in a
rotation. The exibility of VMP and
adaptability for a range of crops and
planting methods means that service
providers can feasibly make a year-
round business from hiring a VMP
for planting far mers’ crops. Miah
et al. (2010) reported that using of
the 2WT-mounted Chinese planter
in SPST mode was highly protable
as a business for service providers
with the capacity of year-round op-
eration. A similar business model
should be applicable to the VMP.
Clear gains in fuel efciency were
obtained with the VMP, but essen-
tially all the single-pass modes of
planting were fuel-saving compared
to CT. The eld capacity of 0.07 ha/
h for ST was comparable to rates
with the SPST planter (Hossain et
al., 2005). Hence in a single day’s
operation about 1 ha can be planted
by the VMP in ST and SPST modes.
Erenstein & Laxmi, (2008) reported
the net benet of ZT over CT aver-
ages US$ 97/ha across the Indo-
Gangetic Plains with the contribu-
tion from the cos t s aving ef fec t
(53%) bei ng slig htly higher t han
the yield improvement (47%). The
present study with 2WT and VMP
reported that the ZT cost saving ef-
fect averages US$ 52/ha across the
experiments and crops. Brief results
in the present paper show similar or
greater plant populations of chick-
pe a and m u n g be a n establ i shed
using VMP in single pass planting
(ST, ZT, and BP) using a uted roll-
er seed metering compared to CT.
China (10 million), Thailand (3
million), Bangladesh (0.45 million)
and Sri Lan ka (0.12 million) have
the highest usage of 2WT (Anony-
mous, 2011). Par ts of Africa have
begun importing Chinese tractors
and Nigeria may have close to 1,000.
Southern Germany, northern and
southern Italy, and many countries
of central Europe also have signi-
cant numbers of 2WT (Anonymous,
2011). Hence the potential for appli-
cation of minimum tillage planters
with these 2WTs is extensive. Plant-
ers such as VMP could be used to
develop CA practices across a wide
range of cropping systems used by
smallholder farmers in Asia and Af-
rica (Johansen et al., 2012).
The VMP is a unique multi-
fu nctional and multi-crop planter
powe r ed b y 12-16 hp 2WT wit h
capability for seed and fertilizer ap-
plication in variable row spacing us-
ing SPST, ST, ZT, BP, and CT. The
square shaft and brackets designed
for the VMP achieve improved ex-
ibility for multi-crop planting and
capacity for rapid adjustment of row
spacing on a eld-by-eld basis. By
using the VMP, the establishment
costs for various crops in different
tillage systems were sign ificantly
reduced compared to CT. Plant-
ers such as VMP could be used to
develop CA practices across a wide
range of cropping systems used by
smallholder farmers in Asia, Africa
and other regions.
The authors gratefully acknowl-
edg e d the fu nd i n g co n t r i b ution
of ACI A R (LWR 200 5/001) a n d
CIMMYT for research and develop-
ment of the VMP. The authors also
acknowledge the following persons
who continuously supported through
technical advice and constructive
cr it icis m of th e de velopme nt of
VMP: RJ Esdaile, C Johansen, MA
Musa, M Nur Nobi, Alam Engineer-
ing Wor kshop, ser v ice p roviders
and VMP users.
Anonymous. 2011. http://
Ba k e r, C. J., and K. E. Sa x t on.
(Eds.) 2007. No-tillage Seeding
in Conservation Agriculture. (2nd
ed.) CAB International and Food
and Agriculture Organization of
the United Nations, Italy. 326 pp.
Erenstein O, and V. Laxmi. 2008.
Ze ro til lage imp act s i n India’s
rice-wheat systems: a review. Soil
Till. Res. 100, 1-14.
(Continued on page 44)
Sustaining productivity of the rice-based cropping systems in the Eastern Indo-Gangetic Plain (EIGP) requires practices to reverse declining soil fertility resulting from excessive tillage and crop residue removal, while decreasing production costs and increasing farm profits. We hypothesize that the adoption of conservation agriculture (CA), involving minimum tillage, crop residue retention and crop rotation, can address most of these challenges. Therefore, the effects of crop establishment methods – strip planting (SP), bed planting (BP) and conventional tillage (CT); and levels of crop residue retention – high residue (HR) and low residue (LR) on individual crop yield, system yield and profitability were evaluated in a split-plot design over three cropping seasons in two field experiments (Alipur and Digram sites) with contrasting crops and soil types in the EIGP. The SP and BP of non-rice crops were rotated with non-puddled rice establishment; CT of non-rice crops was rotated with puddled transplanted rice. In the legume-dominated system (rice-lentil-mung bean), lentil yields were similar in SP and CT, while lower in BP in crop season 1. A positive effect of high residue over low residue was apparent by crop season 2 and persisted in crop season 3. In crop season 3, the lentil yield increased by 18–23% in SP and BP compared to CT. In the cereal-dominated system (rice-wheat-mung bean), significant yield increases of wheat in SP and BP (7–10%) over CT, and of HR (1–3%) over LR, were detected by crop season 3 but not before. Rice yields under CA practices (non-puddled and HR) were comparable with CT (puddled and LR) in both systems. Improved yield of lentil and wheat with CA was correlated with higher soil water content. The net income of SP increased by 25–28% for dry season crops as compared to CT and was equal with CT for rice cropping systems. Conservation agriculture practices provide opportunities for enhancing crop yield and profitability in intensive rice-based systems of the EIGP of Bangladesh.
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When farmers first shift from conventional tillage (CT) to conservation agriculture (CA) practices, the control of weeds may be more difficult, due to the absence of tillage. However, continuous CA, over several years, may alter the weed seedbank. The nature of the weed seedbank changes over time, in intensively cropped rice-based rotations that are typical of the Eastern Gan-getic Plain, are not well understood. Two on-farm CA experiments were sampled (in Beluapara after 3 years and Digram after 5 years) in Bangladesh for the effects of strip planting (SP) and bed planting (BP) at both the sites, plus no-tillage (NT) in Beluapara, and increased retention of the residue of previous crops (20% vs. 50%). The conventional tillage (CT) and 20% residue was the control treatment. The weed seedbank in 0-15 cm soil was quantified by assessing the emergence of weeds from soils collected from the field after irrigation, (Boro) rice in Digram and wheat in Be-luapara, and they were allowed to emerge in trays in a shade-house experiment. The year-round count of emerged weeds at both the locations revealed the fewest number of weed species (espe-cially broadleaf weeds), and the lowest weed density and biomass in SP, followed by CT, BP, and NT, with 50% crop residue mulch. Relative to CT, the SP, BP, and NT produced relatively more perennials weeds, as follows: Alternanthera denticulata ((R.) Brown.), Cyperus rotundus (L.), Dentella repens (L.), Jussia deccurence (Walt.), Leersia hexandra (L.), and Solanum torvum (Sw.), which was the opposite of CT that was enriched with the following annual weeds: Cyperus iria (L.), Digitaria san-guinalis (L.), Euphorbia parviflora (L.), Fimbristylis miliacea (L.), Lindernia antipoda (L.), L. hyssopifolia (L.), and Monochoria hastata (L.). The soil weed seed bank reduced by 13% in SP, while it increased by 19% and 76% in BP and NT, respectively, compared with CT. The species diversity reduced in SP and NT, by 24% and 11%, respectively, but increased by 2% in BP. In 50% residue, the soil weed seed bank and species diversity reduced by 16% and 14%, respectively, relative to that of 20% residue. The continuous practice of CA, for 3 or more years, in two rice-based crop rotations, decreased the size of the weed seedbank, but increased the relative proliferation of specific perennial weeds.
Optimum soil physical conditions for crop establishment are more likely to occur with mechanised row‐sowing using metered seeding and controlled depth placement of seeds than with broadcast sowing, that is common in many traditional South Asian cropping practices. Establishment success is a limitation for post‐rice crops in medium to heavy textured soils in the Eastern Gangetic Plain because sowing coincides with rapid topsoil drying and increases in soil strength. In addition, due to lack of rainfall in the post‐rice season the crop relies on access to stored soil water during vegetative and reproductive growth to achieve adequate yields. Our aim was to determine whether decreased soil disturbance (from full tillage to zero tillage (ZT) to undisturbed soil (Fallow)) and direct seeding (using small‐scale seeders) could 1) enhance chickpea crop establishment by conserving seedbed soil water and 2) alter crop water use of the water stored in the soil profile. The silt loam soil has an estimated volumetric soil water content (θv) of 34% at field capacity. At sowing, θv in the seedbed was between 25% to 29%. This was adequate for successful chickpea crop establishment, but slightly wetter than optimum for tillage. In the wet soil at sowing, there was evidence of smeared furrow walls and poor soil covering of the seed in the seedbed in strip planting (SP; rotating blades in front of tine) and ZT. Uncovered furrows (in ZT; using a tine opener) and the fallow soil lost more surface soil water (9%, 23 days after sowing) than the seedbeds created with greater levels of soil disturbance. In 2008, grain yield of single‐pass shallow tillage (SPST) was greater than SP but in 2009, grain yields of all one‐pass tillage techniques (ZT, SP, SPST) were greater than in the broadcast seeding in fully tilled soils. The improvement in chickpea yields was attributed to greater plant numbers, early plant vigour and root growth. Chickpea roots were found to 60 cm depth in the soil profile, and soil water content was less than the θv of wilting point to this depth at podding. There is evidence that root growth and plant water uptake occur deeper in these soil profiles to achieve the grain yields > 1,000 kg/ha recorded in this study. Mechanised sowing in rows with small‐scale seeders has the capability to overcome establishment and yield limitations for chickpea on medium to heavy soils in the post‐rice season.
Intensification of crop production in the coastal zones of the mega-deltas of Asia by dry season cropping requires timely crop establishment to mitigate the adverse effects of waterlogging, drought, salinity and poor soil structure. In the salt-affected coastal zone of the Ganges Delta, the best method of mechanized cultivation for the timely establishment of non-rice dry season crops on poorly structured, wet clay soils is unknown. Two field experiments were conducted to evaluate the effects of tillage systems with different levels of soil disturbance on the establishment, growth and yield of sunflower, and on soil physical and chemical properties. In 2016-17, five tillage treatments were tested: zero tillage (ZT), narrow strip tillage (NST), bed planting (BP), single pass shallow tillage (SPST) and double pass shallow tillage (DP); in 2017-18, four tillage types were tested: NST, wide strip tillage (WST), BP and SPST. Intensive soil disturbance (BP, DP and SPST) maintained higher soil water content in the surface soil (0-15 cm depth) than less disturbance (ZT, NST and WST) in both years. Tillage treatments had no effect on soil salinity (EC 1:5) in 2016-17, but in 2017-18 BP significantly reduced the soil salinity relative to NST throughout the season. Highest yields (19 % and 10 % improvements in 2016-17 and 2017-18 respectively) were associated with tillage treatments with greatest soil disturbance, the BP and DP treatments in 2016-17, and the SPST treatment in 2017-18. These effects were mostly due to increases in soil water content and solute potential in surface soil layers. We conclude that for a wet-clay soil, heavy soil disturbance, such as with BP has the potential to increase the yield of sunflower by increasing soil water supply, decreasing soil salinity and maintaining a higher solute potential in the upper soil layers.
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We review the recent development of Conservation Agriculture (CA) for rice-based smallholder farms in the Eastern Gangetic Plain (EGP) and the underpinning research on agronomy, weed control, soil properties and greenhouse gas emissions being tested to accelerate its adoption in Bangladesh. The studies are based mostly on minimum soil disturbance planting in strip planting (SP) mode, using the Versatile Multi-crop Planter (VMP), powered by a two-wheel tractor (2WT). One-pass SP with the VMP decreased fuel costs for crop establishment by up to 85% and labour requirements by up to 50%. We developed strip-based non-puddled rice (Oryza sativa) transplanting (NPT) in minimally-disturbed soil and found that rice grain yield increased (by up to 12%) in longer-term practice of CA. On farms, 75% of NPT crops increased gross margin. For non-rice crops, relative yield increases ranged from 28% for lentil (Lens culinaris) to 6% for wheat (Triticum aestivum) on farms that adopted CA planting. Equivalent profit increases were from 47% for lentil to 560% for mustard (Brassica juncea). Moreover, VMP and CA adopting farms saved 34% of labour costs and lowered total cost by up to 10% for production of lentil, mustard, maize (Zea mays) and wheat. Effective weed control was obtained from the use of a range of pre-emergent and post-emergence herbicides and retention of increased crop residue. In summary, a substantial body of research has demonstrated the benefits of CA and mechanized planting for cost savings, yield increases in many cases, increased profit in most cases and substantial labour saving. Improvement in soil quality has been demonstrated in long-term experiments together with reduced greenhouse gas emissions.
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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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This book is a much-expanded and updated edition of a previous volume, published in 1996 as "No-tillage Seeding: Science and Practice". The base objective remains to describe, in lay terms, a range of international experiments designed to examine the causes of successes and failures in no-tillage. The book summarizes the advantages and disadvantages of no tillage. It highlights the pros and cons of a range of features and options, without promoting any particular product.Topics added or covered in more detail in the second edition include: • soil carbon and how its retention or sequestration interacts with tillage and no-tillage • controlled traffic farming as an adjunct to no-tillage • comparison of the performance of generic no-tillage opener designs • the role of banding fertilizer in no-tillage • the economics of no-tillage • small-scale equipment used by poorer farmers • forage cropping by no-tillage • a method for risk assessment of different levels of machine sophistication.
To date, the most widely adopted resource conserving technology in the Indo-Gangetic Plains (IGP) of South Asia has been zero-tillage (ZT) wheat after rice, particularly in India. The paper reviews and synthesizes the experience with ZT in the Indian IGP. ZT wheat is particularly appropriate for rice–wheat systems in the IGP by alleviating system constraints by allowing earlier wheat planting, helping control the weed Phalaris minor, reducing production costs and saving water. ZT wheat after rice generates substantial benefits at the farm level (US$97 ha−1) through the combination of a ‘yield effect’ (a 5–7% yield increase, particularly due to more timely planting of wheat) and a ‘cost savings effect’ (US$52 ha−1, particularly tillage savings). These benefits explain the widespread interest of farmers and the rapidity of the diffusion across the Indian IGP, further aided by the wide applicability of this mechanical innovation.