Testing mechanised seed planting and fertiliser micro-dosing in Sudan

Through an exchange organised by the DCG, the technology of time-saving seed planting and micro-dose fertilising animal-drawn machines from Mali was introduced to Sudanese partners. Subsequently, two trials were conducted in Sudan, which showed similar reductions in labour and time.

The DCG’s Ecofarm project, which was conducted at project sites in Ethiopia, Sudan and Mali, showed that the combination of seed-priming and micro-dosing of mineral fertiliser can lead to improved yields of millet, sorghum and groundnut. In Mali, the combination of the two technologies has in addition been mechanised: The usual animal-driven sowing machine has been modified so that seed sowing and micro-fertilisation of the seeds can happen at the same time. Thus, the amount of labour could be reduced as another benefit in addition to the higher yields and profitability of these technologies.

After the 2012 visit of Dr. E.A. Abdalla to Mali to learn about this technology, two trials were conducted by the Agricultural Research Corporation (ARC) in Sudan. At the El-Obeid Research station and at a farm in the village of Faris the machine was tested for sorghum, millet and groundnut sowing. The ratios for fertiliser doses and seeds were adjusted and the treatment carried out by two workers and one donkey, respectively.

Both the on-station and the on-farm trials showed positive results: The amount of working days per person and ha was reduced by around half a day for all crops on the research station and around one day on the farm, groundnut being the most labour-intense crop and millet the least labour-intense in both trials. When the sowing was conducted manually, three work steps were required to prepare the ground, place the grains and cover the holes. The mechanical planting only required two people, one to control the machine and one to guide the animal (donkey).

The productivity increase through the use of the animal-drawn machines varied among the crops, being 8% for groundnut, 27% for sorghum and 51% for millet. These values were comparable to the results from the Ecofarm project in Mali. Although reductions in labour time and increased productivity through the use of the planting machine could already be shown through those two trials, the Sudanese experts agree that more on-farm testing and training of farmers (and animals) is necessary.