Benefits of fabricated farm equipment on orange-fleshed sweet potato production


This presentation titled "Benefits of fabricated farm equipment. Greater production of orange-fleshed sweet potatoes in Akatsi" was delivered by Sena Ahiabor on October 27, 2010, as part of the project "Increasing nutrients in traditional diets with orange-fleshed sweet potatoes" in Ghana. The principal investigator on this project is Eunice Bonsi, Tuskegee University.

The presentation includes the current status of potato farming in Akatsi district, Ghana, the environmental constraints, and the role of improved, mechanized farming. The Akatsi district, in the Volta Region of Ghana, was chosen for the project because of the widespread potato cultivation and potential to replace wheat flour with orange-fleshed sweet potato flour in baking. The objective of the project was to increase orange-fleshed sweet potato output and quality at reduced production cost, using improved mechanized portable agriculture equipment to meet the bread industry demands.

The presentation includes an overview of current potato cultivation and harvesting techniques (i.e. traditional manual hoeing). It then presents an example from a mechanized, smallholder farm in Berne, Switzerland that uses a tractor to harvest Irish potatoes. The presentation also includes diagrams to compare the hoe mound to the mechanical ridges.

The presentation explains the potential for mechanized weeding using a mower, and highlights other potential equipment that can be used for bed preparation, weeding, ridging and harvesting (e.g.  long handled hoes, gas fire nozzle weeders, crates for improved postharvest storage and transportation, power tillers, and walk along tractors).

Abstract: Sweet potato in southern Ghana is planted mainly on manually constructed mounds. A land preparation study was initiated on 16 farmer’s fields in 2001, and advanced to a total of 19 demonstration plots in 2002 and 2003. The objectives were to compare the agronomic feasibility and farmers’ perception of manual and mechanized construction of, and management of sweet potato on ridges with farmers’ practices. Planting on ridges resulted in a significant (P=0.05) increase (38%) in sweet potato tuber yield over farmers’ practice of planting on mounds under favorable rainfall, as a result of increased number of tubers and crop growth per unit area. Planting on flat land resulted in drastic yield reductions of 28% and 59% from ridges in the major and minor seasons respectively. Farmers’ perception of overall ease of manual management was similar for ridges and mounds. However, differences were reported in various aspects of management, with construction being easier on mounds (score=2.6) than on ridges (score=3.3), weeding easier on ridges (score=2.0) than on mounds (score=2.6), and harvesting easier on mounds (score=1.3) than on ridges (score=1.7).

Conclusion: Mechanized ridging, using tractor mounted ridgers was demonstrated on farmers’ fields in 2003, and was shown to be much easier and in some areas less expensive to construct than mounding and manual ridging. Ridging has the potential to increase national sweet potato production through increased yield per unit area, removal of drudgery associated with land preparation, and increase in the acreage under sweet potato production in Ghana.