Three Year Small
Holder Mechanization
Study in Maize


Benard Ngwene, AGCO Agronomist, Africa.;

Sheila Zulu, Agronomist and Trainer, AGCO Future Farm, Zambia.


The objective of this study was to highlight the advantage of mechanized planting and fertilization in maize production for small holder farming in sub Saharan Africa.


Maize yield was compared in a plot that was planted and fertilized manually to a similar plot planted and fertilized using the AGCO mechanization solution. Each treatment was allocated on one plot measuring 0.5 to 1 hectare. The treatments tested were either mechanized operations by using tractor MF4708 (82hp), 2 tine ripper, 2 row planter with fertilizer hopper, or manual operations with hand held equipment and manual fertilizer application.


Overall grain yield was lower than average due to very low precipitation in this region during the three cropping seasons (2016 – 2018). Overall, there was a 60% increase in yield in the mechanized field (2.7 t/ha) over the manually planted and fertilized field (1.7 t/ ha). Consistency in planting depth, accurate spacing and fertilizer application translated in achieving desired plant population of 45,000 plants per hectare, out of 50,000 seeds planted thereby resulting in higher yield.


Figure 1: Average yields obtained for 2016, 2017 and 2018 farming season

Figure 2: Plant stand in the mechanised plot showing better emergence and consistence growth.

Figure 3: Plant stand in the manual plot showing low plant population resulting from inconsistency in spacing, planting depth and variation in germination.

Figure 4: Maize planted and fertilized manually. Plants are poorly distributed within row.

Figure 5: Maize planted and fertilized using the MF 2 row planter. Plants are more evenly distributed within row.


Manual planting resulted in poor plant distribution and less effective use of soil resources and light, as compared to mechanized planting where plants where more evenly distributed in the field and consequently better use of resources. 

Moisture conservation was enhanced in the ripped ridges where planting was done

Figure 6: Smallholder mechanized planting and fertilizer application


AGCO mechanisation service solution comprising of a Massey Ferguson tractor 82HP, 2-tine ripper and 2-row planter with a fertilizer hopper offers a practical solution to increase maize yields and cultivation area for Small and Emerging farmers. Ripping ensures adequate moisture collection which is conserved for plant growth, and a deeper rooting zone for the crop. The planter assures the correct planting depth, accurate seed rate and correct fertilizer placement. The service brings affordable mechanization to the service of even the very small scale farmers farming on just 1 Ha. The project was partly jointly conducted with industry partners namely; Syngenta – Promoting chemical weed control, SeedCo – Promoting correct plant population for optimal yields, Yara Fertilizers – Demonstrating the benefits of timely application of fertilizers, BayWa – Demonstrating soil improvement by intercropping maize with legumes


The smallholder mechanization study showed that an average yield increase of 1t/ha can be achieved by implementing mechanization. This equates to a total increased revenue of $40/ha. Additionally, farmers can prepare and plant more hectares of land within the planting window which is getting narrower every year.

 Assumptions: Cost of mechanization service (ripping + planting) – $100 ($50 + $50). Average price of maize – $140/t


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