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How to grow rain-fed crops in Africa

Sunflower, Cotton, Sorghum...

The sunflower plant appreciates warm dry climates, as found in many parts of Africa and the Middle East. It is suitable for cultivation in rainfed areas.

The crop management practices for soil preparation and sowing are also similar of that used for other rainfed crops such as cotton, sorghum, etc ...

The sunflower

From its Latin name Helianthus annuus L, the sunflower is an oleaginous plant belonging to the Asteraceae family. This large annual plant can grow up to 4 meters high. The sunflower's name comes from the fact that its flowers turn toward the sun during the day.

Root system

The sunflower has a very strong root system. A long root pivot allows it to fetch water and nutrients from up to 2 meters deep which is much deeper than other traditional crops.

This feature gives the plant some tolerance to water stress. Sunflowers do well in deep and structured soils, accommodating themselves to lower water and nutrient contents.

Recommended crop management practices

Good tillage along with fast and accurate planting are the secrets to optimizing the development of crops in rainfed agriculture:

Work in dry conditions and use the false seedbed technique

For soil preparation, it is essential to work in dry conditions, before the first rains. Also, encouraging the germination of weeds before planting will help the development of weed free crops.

Optimize the availability of water

Depending on the amount and duration of rainfall during the rainy season, planting should be done in a fairly short window, that is to say, after sufficient rains have fallen and before the ground becomes waterlogged.

In heavy clay soils, it is important to maintain good soil structure with aeration while maintaining the firmness required for root deployement. We encourage the use of robust multifunction machines.

Thus, good tillage and fast seeding allow for optimal root development. This is the key to success and will allow the plant to withstand future droughts.

Precision, speed and multifunctionality

Our many years of field experiments and trials carried out in partnership with local stakeholders (farms, universities) have enabled ICS to determine the most effective approach for planting sunflower crops.

Plowing and planting tools which are both multitasking and fast were favoured to carry out field work. These allow both a minimum amount of labour time and of passages. The results are spectacular!

The machines selected for optimal work: Väderstad Carrier, Caruelle sprayer and precision seed drills

A versatile tool

The Carrier is a versatile tool capable of achieving stubble cultivation, false seeding and tillage.

Speed

The success of the Carrier is due to its high working speed of up to 17 km / h, whereas conventional harrow discs can not do good work over 6 to 7km / h. It is this speed that allows good residue mulching. All discs are independent which reduces machine wear and allows a better follow of the soil curves. Their smallish size (450 mm) increases their speed. The result is a finer and shallower tillage of the soil (maximum 12 cm).

Facilitates weed control

The Carrier also has a heavy tamping roller which ensures good contact of weed seeds with the soil. Thus a little rain allows weeds to germinate. It is therefore an ideal tool for working in dry conditions and to cause germination of weeds before sowing.

Wear resistant

All the discs are independent and mounted on a plastic suspension which distributes impact and greatly reduces wear of the entire machine.

The good terrain profile achieved reduces the runoff water during the rains. Soil structure is preserved (with the presence of lumps rather than a tendency to create a powdery soil) in addition to a good tamping after passage of the machine. This helps germination and root growth in a soil which is both live and firm.

Carrier tool, by Väderstad

Following the work of the Carrier and having achieved a false seedbed, we recommend a passage of the Caruelle sprayer and application of glyphosate to destroy the sprouted weeds.

Easy to operate

It is a simple and easy machine to use with a large spray capacity of up to 6 mm of water applied and up to 36 meters boom length for greater speed of work.

Reliable

The spray bars are extremely strong. Shock absorption systems are arranged on the ramps and the axles to allow it to move faster while avoiding machine wear and breakings.

Accurate

Moreover, with this tool the amount of product applied is proportional to tractor speed. So if the driver changes his speed, the amount of product applied per hectare is the same. The low center of gravity of the machine protects from a rocking phenomena for better stability of the unit.

ICS recommends the use of Caruelle Olympia Sprayer

Sowing: speed and accuracy

Growing sunflowers, as with corn, requires optimum plant density per hectare and as regular distribution as possible in the rows.

We encourage the use of single seed pneumatic drills (air seeders), which unlike mechanical seeders (Brazilian type drills), allow very precise sowing, seed by seed, even if the seeds are not perfectly calibrated. The ability of the seeder to place the seed at the right depth is also an important factor to ensure regular germination (in time and space).

Our choice is oriented towards the Monosem brand, a world leader in this sector, as well as new Vaderstad seed drills.

Depending on the surfaces to be seeded, the time available for seeding, soil type, and availability of staff qualified for using the machines, our ICS team will refer you to the right brand and the most appropriate model.

We recommend the use of the Monosem pneumatic drill

Väderstad Tempo precision seed drill

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