News and knowhow for farmers

Small scale farmers utilise spear planters for more efficient sowing

Barney Spear Planter

Small scale farmers in Kenya and other parts of Africa who relied on traditional jembe (hoe) to till and sow seeds are now able to use Spear Planter, a more efficient farm tool which enables the farmers to minimize soil disturbance making the medium maintain its fertility for bumper yields.

The tool also known as Barney Spear Planter was designed and developed by Mr. Barney Muckle, an Agricultural Engineer who studied at Kings College, Durham University, in the 1950s and has spent the majority of his adult life in Kenya and other parts of Africa.

During the time, Barney has been working with organisations and communities on agricultural techniques and technologies for improving agricultural production.

Spear Planter is one of his work which has made life easy for smallholders. The tool can be made by informal sector artisans using locally available raw materials such as car springs and steel pipes.

Initial trials has shown that using the tool increases soil health, reduces the need for fertiliser, provides a targeted delivery of fertiliser to seed and leads to an overall improved yield quality compared to alternative approaches.

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How it works

The planter is pushed into the uncultivated soil at a 45 degree angle up to the top of the spear section. Then the tool is pushed forward and back incrementally until the soil forms a small hole and the planter is now upright in the soil. Then fertiliser is dropped down the longer funnel and the seed down the shorter one. The distance between seed and fertiliser is sufficient to prevent seed burn and bolting of the crop.

The planter is not used like a spade and it does not lever the soil upward. The shallow entry angle is key. Soil should be unploughed and ground cover maintained, though weeds can be pulled up. Any stones should be removed. If stones are found as the spear planter is pushed into the soil then it is advised to just move the planter a few centimeters away to avoid the stones, as these bend the spears. In our training session we found a tendency to try to slam the planter down into the ground like a spade, which again bends the spears.

Once the seed is dropped then the planter is lifted up and the hole is easily smoothed over with a foot. When the soil is wet care needs to be taken to make sure that the tubes attached to the funnel do not get blocked.

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