Soybean Innovation Lab Launches IITA's First Mechanized Planter
The Feed the Future Innovation Lab for Soybean Value Chain Research supported the launch of the first mechanized planting in the history of the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture’s (IITA) breeding program last month in Lusaka, Zambia. Originally stemming from a donation by Monsanto to the University of Illinois, SIL partnered with equipment manufacturer ALMACO to inspect and then crate and ship the planter to Zambia, along with two other 2-row planters that belonged to the University. ALMACO representative Todd Vincent and SIL researcher, Dr. Andrew Scaboo provided in-person training to IITA on how to use the planter in the field and the equally important aspect of maintaining the equipment in Africa.SIL partner and soybean breeder for IITA, Dr. Godfree Chigeza will manage the use and maintenance of the two planters that will remain at IITA in Zambia.
SIL researcher, Dr. Andrew Scaboo and ALMACO representative Todd Vincent presented the re-donated planter to SIL collaborators Godfree Chigeza and Christabell Nachilima of IITA. Scaboo and Vincent led a training on preparing for mechanized planting, maintenance of the planter, and how to use the planter in the field. The team also oversaw the planting of over 1500 research plots in just 2 days.
"We are all excited about the planter. We are the first group in IITA history to implement mechanical planting for breeding trials. Looking forward to some uniform germination," shared Dr. Godfree Chigeza, SIL partner and soybean breeder for IITA Zambia.
How a seed is planted and the conditions in which it is planted affects germination. Mechanized planters can be more precise with planting depth and placement, allowing for uniform germination. This leads to uniform emergence, in turn leading to better experimental data for the IITA breeding program. A common concern among breeding programs like IITA's, is accuracy. When seeds are planted manually by a local labor force, the risk of inconsistent spacing, depth, and even mixing up seeds is much higher.
One of the 2-row planters donated by the University will be hauled to IITA in Malawi by ground transportation and the other will remain in Zambia.