A pneumatic dibbling machine for plastic mulch

Matthew J. Lawrence, Dennis R. Buckmaster, William J. Lamont

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

19 Scopus citations


A machine capable of placing planting holes for a wide variety of spacings in plastic mulch beds with very little physical reconfiguration was designed and tested. The three-point hitch mounted machine was demonstrated with two horticultural crops which have widely varying within-row and between-row spacing requirements: onions and potatoes. The piercing mechanisms were powered by pneumatic cylinders, and the on-board controls allowed users to adjust the number and spacing of holes. Switches enabled between-row spacing to vary by placing from one to four planting holes across a standard 76-cm (30-in.) bed. For the algorithm used, a dial was set to create the within-row spacing between 15 and 61 cm (6 and 24 in.). These control settings and a fixed tractor speed acted as inputs to a microprocessor which calculated hole placement frequency and initiated cylinder activation. The machine has been in use for two planting seasons with promising results. Hole placement accuracy data were collected for both onions and potatoes. The potato tests were performed for a within-row spacing of 30 cm (12 in.) and produced 96% of the planting holes within ±10% of the target spacing distance. The onion tests were performed for a within-row plant spacing of 15 cm (6 in.) and produced 98% of the planting holes within ±10% of the target spacing distance. The technology used for this research is readily available and is a viable option to accomplish numerous planting configurations with very little reconfiguration of machine components.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)419-424
Number of pages6
JournalApplied Engineering in Agriculture
Issue number4
StatePublished - Jul 2007

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Engineering(all)


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