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By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail

September 2021


New mechanisation comes at a huge price, so it is important to take good care of what one already owns. Remember too, that being ready to perform critical farming operations timeously can mean the difference to the tonnes yielded on your eventual crop – and even the difference between a profit and a loss in a dry season.

In this month’s activity report, you can read about the discussions Grain SA’s farmer development mentors have been having with farmers on issues such as crop planning, budgeting and financial planning and insurances – and of course all mechanisation and implement needs are analysed. A fortunate few farmers are even in the position to buy new tractors and implements which make it easier to do an even better job on the farm.

Whilst still harvesting, most farmers find they already have to focus on the new season ahead to ensure success.

A good example of important timing is the winter preparation of soils for your summer crops. If this is not done as soon as possible post harvest, much more pressure is added to your planting season in terms of time and tractor power required, to complete primary preparation and planting processes. 

A winter burn-down of weeds that have continued to grow through the winter like thistle/‘blou dissel’ using chemicals like Roundup, is already the first step towards conserving moisture for the next crop. Ideally one should also do primary soil preparation like ripping or deep cultivation with for example a vibroflex. If you elect to go no-till then your spray programme is even more important at this stage.

The soil preparation is primarily intended to help with good moisture penetration when the first rains fall and to prepare a good seed bed for the seed. If you have not been able to get this done yet due to waiting for finances, then you have to focus on your soil preparations as soon as possible.

When one is busy with planting one cannot afford to stand because of breakages. So now is also the ideal time to service all your tractors and implements.

Neatly stored implements that are in good working conditions will help farmers perform the necessary farming operations timeously.


SOIL PREPARATION: Make sure all tillage equipment such as rippers and vibroflex – and if you are using plough and disc – are serviced and ready. 

  • New tines must be fitted.
  • Check the tyres and wheel bearings on trail models.
  • Grease all necessary parts for example on your disc harrow. 

PLANTERS: If you start out with a poor stand due to malfunctioning planter bins, you are already losing on your potential yield. Ideally you should:

  • Strip down each unit completely, replacing coater bearings, press wheel bearings and depth control wheel bearings.
  • Check all chains and look for cogs with worn or bent teeth as these cause chains to slip and affect the accuracy of seed placement.
  • If you have a pneumatic/air planter make sure there are no leaks or cracks in any of the pipes which will affect the suction on the bins. 
  • Check the augers and auger bearings of the fertiliser bins as these are an important part of the planter. Check the bins themselves which are prone to rust and leaks and patch or weld these weak spots.

If markers are used, remember these take a lot of strain and sometimes crack or bend. Make sure these are adjusted accurately and are strong enough to hold position which is critical to attaining even row widths across your fields. A badly placed ‘joining’ row is very frustrating when cultivating and may even mean that some rows will be cultivated out – another potential loss which can be avoided with correct preparation. 

SPRAY: Effective weed control and timely spraying that immediately follows on planting is a huge step in the right direction of getting top potential yields, since achieving a weed free seed bed means your seedlings will have the best advantage in not having to compete for soil moisture, nutrients and light. Do the following:

  • Check that the spray tanks have been properly washed, flushed and cleaned to ensure no residue from previous chemicals remain.
  • Remove all nozzles and clean these separately while the pipes are being flushed as residues tend to block these. Use a strong soapy water to get them completely residue free and unblocked.
  • Make sure all the filters have been thoroughly cleaned.
  • Check your spray’s frame for cracks or breaks. Remember the booms often bounce along the fields and develop weaknesses. Repair these immediately. 

Also make sure that your spray width is matched to your planter so there is not too much (or too little) of an overlap when working. This wastes chemicals and may leave some zones in the field unsprayed. In order to match the spray width to the planter width you may need to block off some nozzles.

The most critical piece of equipment on the farm is your planter. It is the one implement that most impacts your potential yield.

Start with an initial general service including oil change, oil filters, diesel filters, air filters, and even hydraulic and gear oil change if required. Check the following:

  • All wearing parts such as fan belts, general greasing of steering systems and wheel bearings.
  • Water pumps and water pump bearings.
  • The cooling systems for leaks on radiator and pipes.
  • Check that your tyres are not worn. Replace or repair as a flat tyre can be most inconvenient and cost you in time and yield when you are busy trying to get your crop timing perfectly right.

Larger repairs may be needed on tractors. If a tractor is using too much oil or there is excessive smoking it may indicate that a complete engine overhaul is needed. This may be more costly than a normal service, but you will likely still recover that cost by not having any downtime in the middle of the busy season. 

Publication: September 2021

Section: Pula/Imvula