Ratoon cane fertilisation has always proved a difficult task. Fertiliser applied to the bare soil surface is not available to the plants when the surface dries out.
At the same time, urea lying on the surface may lose a significant amount of nitrogen through volatilisation.
The MultiTasker, developed by Pietermaritzburg company KZN Agriserve, has been designed to solve these problems by burying the fertiliser and thus making more efficient use of it. The implement works through residue on the soil surface, and uses inter-row ripping to improve water infiltration.
The MultiTasker is close- coupled to the tractor, allowing for a full load of 300kg in each of the three stainless steel bins.
No PTO or hydraulic connections are required as the unit is land-wheel-driven. Working depth, controlled by the unique Crumblebuster rollers, can be adjusted from 100mm to a maximum of 350mm.
The fertiliser tubes are located at the rear of the tines, placing the fertiliser about 25mm above the base of the tine point. The Crumblebusters break up clods and manage the residue, enabling the tines to flow freely through fairly heavy material.
Fertilising & top-dressing
The MultiTasker is supplied with ridger bodies that fit on each tine, enabling the implement to build the ridges and place fertiliser at the bottom of the furrows when planting. With the tines and ridgers removed, the implement can be used to top-dress the growing crop – hence the name ‘MultiTasker’.
The ‘paddle’ wheel controls the application rate through the gear sets, irrespective of the forward speed. Changes
can be made without the need for any tools, and application rates can be set from 50kg up to 1 400kg/ha.
Sugar cane growers who attended the demo agreed that this approach to cane fertilisation showed great promise.
An additional advantage of the MultiTasker’s ripping action is that it helps to alleviate the compaction caused by harvesting and the lack of soil disturbance for many years between replantings.
The right tractor
At the demo, the MultiTasker was hitched to an 88kW Landini Landforce 125 with a wet clutch and power shift and 36 forward and 12 reverse gears. The three-point linkage can lift 4 500kg. All these features made the Landforce 125 the ideal tractor for this type of operation. The MultiTasker requires at least a 68kW tractor with the requisite lifting capacity.
Joe Spencer is the mechanisation editor of Farmer’s Weekly.