More growers are trying no-till methods, and I have reviewed several no-till books: The Living Soil Handbook by Jesse Frost; The No-Till Organic vegetable Farm by Daniel Mays; The Organic No-Till Farming Revolution by Andrew Mefferd; and No-Till Intensive Vegetable Culture by Bryan O’Hara.
Good tools for small-scale no-till work are hard to find. This Haraka Planter has the possibility of providing a breakthrough, so although I don’t have much experience of it, I’m spreading the information. I hope those who buy one and try it will leave a comment. [I’m not receiving any commission if you do buy one.]
The Haraka planter is a very sturdy South African punch planter made for small-scale farmers. Built in Africa for African farmers, and now also available in the US.
It is made by Eden Equipment, and is used for large seeds such as corn, beans, peas, sorghum, soybeans, sunflower. It has a set of thick plastic plates for various seed sizes. We used the smallest hole size for Kandy Korn sweet corn (a fairly small-seeded variety). That gives you some idea of which seeds it can handle. Okra would work, I feel pretty sure. If sorghum and sunflowers work, how about squash, cucumbers and melons?
It can be used on tilled or no-till plots. It can punch through crop debris and plastic mulch very effectively. [Be careful – I tried loading one into the back of a car with two flattened cardboard boxes protecting the seat. It punched right through the cardboard!] On their website there is a video and a link to a flyer. They claim it is the fastest manual planter available. It certainly makes steady progress, as you’ll see in the video. You can plant 1 hectare in 10 hours.
It does take some serious pushing – we tested it first in tilled soil and that was harder work than the soil which had not been recently tilled. See the video to understand the punching and hole-opening action of the sturdy points on the wheel.
You can add a draft animal or a second person pulling, to share the work, if very tough going. You can make and add concrete weights to improve soil penetration in situations with a lot of straw, or packed soil. You can see those in the photo below
The planter comes with an assembly manual that is fairly straight-forward. It uses black and white photos rather than diagrams, so it is a bit hard at a couple of points to determine what to do. I called in someone who already uses one to show me the two bits I was not understanding.
There is a planting mode and a traveling mode, where you flip the heavy tool over and run it on the packing wheel without engaging the planter moving punches. I was struggling to flip the tool over, but my farming friend showed me a way to flip it over sideways, rather than the end-over method I understood from the manual. Later I saw in this video one of the operators push it with his foot to start the flipping action and that was helpful.
- In-row spacing: 300mm (fixed) (11.8”). You can make two passes, offset by 6” for closer spacing.)
- Planting depth: around 45mm (1.8”)
- Seed plate hole sizes: 5mm, 12mm, 14mm, 16mm (0.2, 0.5, 0.55, 0.6 inches)
- Seed: maize, sunflower, soya, cow peas, sorghum, etc
- Fertilizer: granular only: Place afterwards in a separate run
Eden Equipment also makes a Haraka fine seeder, which I have not seen. It is made for large scale vegetable gardens and small farms, and works in cultivated soil, not for no-till. You can download their flyer from the website. There’s also a video and lots of photos. Like the punch planter, it has a large steel wheel.
- Planting depth: 0-20 mm (0.8”), adjustable
- Calibration method: kg/ha (no seed spacing)
- Seed: grass, small grains, Lucerne (alfalfa), radish, carrot, onion, etc.
For USA sales of both planters, contact Ben Johnston in Montevallo, Birmingham AL