Mechanical planting

Driven by the high cost of labour in some pineapple-growing areas, a variety of planters have been developed to plant pineapples (Fig. 6.14). These machines usually work best in fields that do not require mulch. Such machines usually involve placing the planting material in a holder that will deposit it into a prepared hole or furrow. Planting material may be set by compression wheels that follow immediately behind or by rolling plants after planting (Fig. 6.15). The quality of planting is often not as good as with hand-planting and machines that automate the planting process tend to damage the growing point of the planting material. In addition, machines usually require exceptionally good tilth to meet minimum expectations for planting quality. Under these ideal planting conditions, hand-planting is usually faster and better than machine planting under average conditions of land preparation.

Attempts to plant with mulch, using machines, have been only marginally successful and no such planters are currently known to be in use. Fumigation is usually done at the time the mulch is laid. The use of additional

Fig. 6.14. A relatively simple pineapple planter used on a pineapple farm in South Africa (photo courtesy of Graham Petty).
Fig. 6.15. Setting plants by rolling on a pineapple farm in South Africa and by overhead irrigation in Hawaii (photos courtesy of Graham Petty (left) and K.G. Rohrbach (right)).

workers to manage the fumigation operation and handle planting material increases the risk of worker exposure to the fumigant, even with the required protective clothing. Planting through mulch that is already in place presents another barrier to deal with that is not present in unmulched fields.

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