Adequate fertilizer application techniques and utilization are regarded as key factors in ensuring better yields in the face of degrading soil nutrients.
Fertilizers are applied to the soil to supply plant nutrients especially when the native soil nutrients are inadequate to meet plant nutrient required.
According to the United Nations, smallholder farmers supply a large percentage of Africa’s total food needs.They provide around 80%of the food consumed in both Asia and sub-saharan Africa.
Consequently, application of fertilizers to augment the soil nutrients is an essential activity in ensuring a profitable smallholder crop production.
For smallholder or small size farms, fertilizer is applied on the surface level by methods such as top and side dressing (placement), broadcasting, foliar, feeding, etc.either by hand or by using crude tools and implements.
To develop, fabricate test a hand held, low cost and polyvinyl chloride(PVC) based manual fertilizer applicator. To perform various applications with the help of manually operated fertilizer applicators.
The main objective of this operator is to fulfill the needs of farmers suffering from the problems of increasing cost of fertilization, labor cost and availability as it is operated by a single person.
Need of MFA: Materials And Methods:
Over-fertilization is associated with high levels of residual nutrient elements in the soil,especially nitrates which potentially contribute to groundwater and atmospheric pollution as result of leaching and volatilisation
Excessive fertilizer application have also been noted to cause physical, chemical, and biological damage to the soil and decrease the soil fertility.
As a present, most application methods of organic fertilizer into the soil in smallholder operations are still applied as surface applications as mechanized fertilizer applicators are unaffordable for smallholders, which increases the constraints faced in smallholder farming production systems.
To give granular and powdery fertilizers (Organic fertilizer and inorganic) at a required soil as per crop requirement at depth and distance to the plants without exposure to the environment at each application.
The MFA was come up with in the search for a technically simple and easy to operate device capable of the efficient application of a fertilizer at apre-defined depth and quantity using locally available materials.
It also takes into account comfort in terms of ergonomics especially for the youth, women and adult smallholder farmers who would be the potential end users.
The MFA basically consists of a spring loaded trigger mechanism on a handle connected to the outer member. A plastic serrated connecting tube is connected to the base of a plastic cylindrical knapsack storage tank of an 8.0-12.0 kg capacity for the fertilizer storing or capability. Fertilizer is gravity fed from the storage tank into the connecting tube where it is fed into the applicator’s inner pipe where the trigger mechanism connected to the shutter helps to control the fertilizer discharge.
The tip of the fertilizer applicator is attached to a furrow opening device which opens the ground to the required depth before the applying or supplying fertilizer to the crop is sent out and then effects a soil cover-up after the operation.
Choice of material and fabrication of MFA parts:
The materials used for the fabrication of MFA were locally sourced to ensure affordability. The preference or selection of materials was determine or selected by taking the corrosive nature of the fertilizers to be handled by the applicator into consideration, the materials selected were mostly PVC, rubber, aluminum and plastic materials with the specifications are given below
Major Components And Specifications Of The Manual Fertilizer Applicator:
- Fertilizer storage tank
- Furrow opening device
- Loading spring
- Flexible tube
- Fertilizer control tube
- Handle Bar
- Discharge chute
- Weight of applicator assembly
The tank was cylindrical in shape of a knapsack sprayer tank, where a hole was drilled at the bottom for the discharge of its contents or for the outlet of the tank.
The selection or choice of the cylindrical materials was to ensure that the material (fertilizer) flows without formation of pockets at the edges of the tank.. The tank was then connected to the applicator assembly with the aid of a flexible plastic pipe.
The fertilizer tube consisted of a 75 cm long PVC pipe, 20 mm in diameter, fitted with a 15 mm reducing socket at one end. The other end was appropriately threaded and connected to the fertilizer release aperture.
The fertilizer from the storage tank discharges into the fertilizer tube by gravity to the discharge chute with an aperture size of 6.154 sq.cm when opened.
This consisted of a metal spring with a constant value of 0.97, the spring was placed between the shutter cylinder of an inner diameter of 27.3 mm, which enabled it to close fit with the fertilizer tube’s outer diameter.
The trigger handle was then attached to the shutter cylinder with the aid of a connection made from ¾ PVC elbows, a pipe and end cap. The end point of the trigger mechanism aligned and parallel to the handle bar of the applicator at a distance of 70 mm, this was to ensure the ease of operation and good ergonomics.
The handle bar was fabricated from an aluminum pipe; this reduced the weight considerably when compared with an iron pipe; this reduced the weight considerably when compared with an iron pipe, and also offered a better corrosion resistance level.
The handlebar was attached or joined to the applicator assembly with the aid of the chromium plated and steel clips.
Furrow Opening Device:
The furrow opening device was fabricated from steel due to the nature of the task it needed to perform. The device was attached directly in front of the fertilizer release aperture in order to guide the placement of the fertilizer during application.
Performance Evaluation Procedure:
The performance of MFA was evaluated on the basis of fertilizer delivery dosage at various moisture contents as well as the estimation of land coverage per volume of the loaded fertilizer.
The delivery of dosage was assessed by weighing the quantity of fertilizer transfer at various moisture contents for the different fertilizer types like liquid, powder or dust form.
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