Nitrogen Use Efficiency, Nitrogen Fertilizers, NUE, Nitrogen and the Environment
 OSU Hand Planter for the Developing World
Last update: April 10, 2014
Announcement on manufacturing
200 'GreenSeeder' units coming soon
OSU Hand PlanterThis hand planter has the potential to increase maize grain yields using improved plant spacing and singulation

OSU Pocket Sensor
"You cannot build a peaceful world on empty stomachs and human misery"
Norman Borlaug Nobel Peace Prize Laureate, 1970


PDF HPThird World Hand Planter Brochure:  On this web site, we have included some basic information on maize area in the world and estimates of the total amount planted by hand.  The problem with maize planted in the third world (Sub Saharan Africa, Asia, Central and South America) is that they essentially use heavy sticks whereby 2-4 seeds are planted per hill (first picture below, and left), roughly 35 cm apart.  While incredibly inefficient, this method of planting is commonplace for third world maize farmers, largely dictated by terrain, circumstance, and resources.  If single seeds could be planted 14-17 cm apart, much like conventional planters accomplish in the developed world, production levels could easily increase 25%.  Despite the fact that third world maize yields are generally less than 2.0 Mg/ha (Dowswell et al., 1996), this 25% yield increase on 60% of the hand planted maize area in the third world would be worth more than 2.4 billion dollars/year (see calculations below).  OSU Hand Planter

We have developed a hand planter very similar in shape, size, and weight to the one seen in the first photograph on our web site, but that can reliably plant 1 seed, in various soil textures, moisture, and tillage systems.  Initially, development, production, and delivery would need to be subsidized, thus the need for grant funds.  But with time, local manufacture/industry creation of our new hand planter would also lead to more jobs.  Added benefits of the new hand planter would be to remove chemically treated seeds (organophosphates, carbamates, chlordanes, +others) from the hands of small farmers.  Decreased soil erosion from improved contour planting, and plant proximity will also be achieved. With time, we hope to modify the final prototype so as to accommodate mid season applications of urea fertilizer.  Placing urea fertilizer below the surface, really via any mechanism is critical for improved nitrogen use efficiency.

This tool by itself would offer an affordable, easily adoptable technology for virtually all third world maize farmers.  With modest funding for development and initial subsidized hand planters, this could provide widespread increases in third-world maize production that would rival most advances made in the last 50 years.

CIMMYT mega-environment database; C.R. Dowswell, R.L. Paliwal and R.P. Cantrell, Maize in the Third World, Boulder, Colorado, Westview Press, 1996.

OSU HandPlanter Workshop
Hand Planter Cooperation
Assoumane Maiga, Mali Representative
Argemiro Moreno, Colombia Representative
CIMMYT - Africa
CENTA, CARE, El Salvador
Sierra Leone

Central America (all NARS)
IPNI, Togo project, Steve Phillips
IPNI, Armando Tasistro
Sierra Leone (Pat Bell)
NGO's (several)
Kristin Lacy
Regional Trials (proposal)
Lecture, Dr. Barbara Stoecker (April 9, 2014)

April 1, 2014 Results


Seed Size

Singles (%)

Multiples (%)

Misses (%)





















  OSU Hand Planter October 2013
 Hand Planter Trial Planted September 27, emergence on October 3, 2013.
  New Tip design, Thailand New tip designs from Thailand, Joshua Ringer
 Thailand Hand Planter Hand Planter Update, Thailand, Joshua Ringer
 Randy Taylor, Nyle Wollenhaupt Randy Taylor, Nyle Wollenhaupt inspect new design
Hand Planter Trial (September 16, 2013)

 HP Trial September HP results, September 18, 2013
Hand Planter Trial (August 15, 2013)
 OSU Hand Planter Trial, Efaw OSU Hand Planter Trial OSU Hand Planter
0.80" of precipitation, evening after planting (pictures from August 16, below)
OSU Hand Planter Trial OSU Hand Planter
One seed size (3263 seeds/ kg)
Drum 260-20
Drum 450Internal drum examples OSU hand planter

Progress, Hand Planter

Internal drum examples OSU hand planter

Internal Drums Developed by OSU for the reciprocating hand planter

New Hand Planter Testing (July 31, 2013)
Hand Planter Data
Hand Planter Trial (July 26, 2013)
hand planter trial, July 25, 2013 Hand Planter Trial Hand Planter Trial results  HP trial  Hand Planter in muddy soil wet soil conditions
Hand Planter Trial (July 19, 2013)
Efaw Hand PlanterTrial hand planter trial Hand Planter Trial 2013 Hand Planter 2013 Hand Planter 

Plot Plan
IMG_0901.MOV IMG_0903.MOV
Hand Planter Assembly, May 21, 2013 (Sulochana Dhital and Rajen Bajgain)
 (See it on YouTube)
New Hand Planter Trial, Efaw, June 28, 2013
New Omega Design Undergoes Testing, June 28, 2013
Omega HP Design
Hand Planter Release in Cali, Colombia, February 5, 2013 
Hand Planters Shipped to El Salvador, Guatemala, and Thailand, April 29, 2013
OSU Hand Planter shipped to El Salvador OSU Hand Planter shipped to El Salvador FIRST Hand Planters Shipped to El Salvador
OSU Hand Planter OSU Hand Planter OSU Hand Planter OSU Hand Planter
Current Hand Planter Manufacturing  Current Manufacturing OSU Hand Planter  OSU Hand Planter  OSU Hand Planter 2
Support from,
    Mosaic Mosaic, and
 Potash Corp PotashCorp

Background On Farm Data

Data from Dr. Edgar Ascencio, CARE, El Salvador

6 Hand Planters, El Salvador
Hand Planter Iron tip, lbs Wood stick, lbs Total, lbs
1 0.75 1.5 2.25
2 0.35 2.5 2.85
3 1 2 3
4 0.9 2.25 3.15
5 0.5 1.5 2
6 1.2 2 3.2
Average 0.78 1.96 2.74
Std Dev 0.32 0.40 0.50

El Salvador survey, average weight (wood shaft, + tip) of 2.74 pounds. 

Current design (January 1, 2013) weighs 1.94 kg or 4.27 pounds.  The seed weight (depending on the shaft volume) is 1 kg or 2.2 pounds.  This puts us over 6.4 pounds.

Jan 1, 2013 design
Knife (tip) 544
Shaft 571
Mechanical, 750
Spring, 79

Total = 1944 g + 1000g seed = 2.944 kg = 6.48 lbs

Seed weights: El Salvador, Dr. Edgar Ascencio
PIONEER 3,345 Seeds/kg
HE 5 G 3,275 Seeds/Kg

Seed weights:  Guatemala, Kristen Lacy, Curt Bowen
Hybrid seed weights:
Pioneer: 60,000 seeds /20kg = 0.33g/seed  (2827 seeds/kg)
Dekalb: 60,000 seeds /19.2kg = 0.32g/seed (3125 seeds/kg)

72000 seeds = 56 lbs
1285 seeds = 1 lb
2833 seeds = 1 kg

Maize Seed Weights (# per kg) evaluated with the Round Planter (April 5, 2013)
3017 (large round)   best drum and best brush =
3490 (medium round)
3846 (medium flat)
5012 (small round)

Seed Pictures and Weights coming from Dr. Edgar Ascencio, El Salvador

Volume (below)

  Lectura 1 Lectura 2 Lectura 3 Promedio
HS-5G 120 122 120 120.666667
PIONEER 125 129 127 127
DEKALB 129 128 128 128.333333
H-15 130 130 130 130

 La medición se hizo poniendo en cada caso 100 ml de agua e incorporando 100 semillas, se descartaba todo y se iniciaba un nuevo Reading

#1 Platino (3475 seeds/kg ) El Salvador, supplied by Dr. Edgar Ascencio
#2 H-59 (2905 seeds/kg) El Salvador, supplied by Dr. Edgar Ascencio
#3 DK-357 (3595 seeds/kg) El Salvador, supplied by Dr. Edgar Ascencio
Pioneer: 60,000 seeds /20kg = 0.33g/seed  (2827 seeds/kg), supplied by Kristin Lacy, Guatemala
Dekalb: 60,000 seeds /19.2kg = 0.32g/seed (3125 seeds/kg), supplied by Kristin Lacy, Guatemala

Hand Planter Data and Analysis

Combined Field Trials (Tables, 2011-2012, 5 locations)

Round Spring Hand Planter, January 29, 2013, light spring (pink), version going to Colombia

Round Spring Hand Planter, January 7, 2013 (difference was ....

Round Spring Hand Planter, January 3, 2013 (new Round planter...

Hand Planter Data (December 20, 2012)

Hand Planter Data (December 5, 2012) NEW RT design

Hand Planter Data (November 1, 2012)

Hand Planter Data (up to September 23) Sulu

Hand Planter Data 2012, (September 21, 2012)

Presentation made to BAE students

Data and AOV, Aug 1, 2012

Design and Development of a Stick Planter for the Developing World, Koller et al. (2012)
OSU Planter Progress, Iterations

OSU Hand Planter December 4, 2012, Candibyani (Indonesia), Peter Omara (Uganda), Mariana (Brazil)

Weight of empty planter

1.79kg (3.9 lb)

Weight of planter full with seeds

medium flat (P0876HR)


Medium round (P0231HR)


Number of seeds/shaft volume

5650 seeds

3rd Iteration, Randy Taylor, January 1, 2013
 Hand Planters Developed at OSU OSU Hand Planter   OSU Hand Planter OSU Hand Planter, Natasha Macnack

2nd Iteration, Randy Taylor, November 1, 2012 
2nd iteration hand planter OSU Hand Planter 2nd Hand Planter, OSU 2nd iteration hand planter 2nd iteration OSU hand planter Eric, Jeremiah
1s Iteration, summer 2012
osu hand planter OSU Hand Planter, Zambia

osu hand planter osu hand planter OSU Hand Planter 2 OSU Hand Planter 1 Hand Planter Movie
OSU Hand Planter 2012 (Adrian Koller)

Stick Planter Oklahoma State University OSU Hand Planter Stick Planter Oklahoma State University Stick Planter Oklahoma State University
hand planter, fertilizationOSU Hand Planter OSU Hand Planter OSU hand planter Peter Omara OSU Hand Planter
osu hand planter OSU Hand Planter OSU hand Planter
Concerns:  June 27, 2012
1. Triples/doubles increased when the planter was compressed "more gently"
2. Shovel needs to open up a larger hole/gap
3. Need to test larger/smaller sizes/flats
4. Empty weight, 1476 g, full 2402 g (seed weight, 926g = approximately 3560 seeds, enough for 1/20 ha).
5. Cap/screw on
6. Ergonomics of push-hold-release
7. Total weight was good
8. 100 seeds, round =26.1g  100 seeds flat =30.3g

February 7, 2014, Fertilizer Drum Evaluation:
Urea, 10 strikes:  Average = 1.91 g  (+/- 0.03)
DUAL purpose N Fertilizer Applicator
Topdress N rate 50 kg N/ha
Urea 108 kg product/ha
Plant Population 70000 seeds/ha
amount/plant 1.55 g
Maize Seed Data
Average Corn Seed Weights, g
pioneer dekalb dekalb dekalb dekalb dekalb dekalb dekalb pioneer
sample P1173HR DKC 63-46 DKC 52-59 DKC 62-34 DKC 61-22 DKC 61-35 DKC 63-42 DKC 61-69 P0902HR
1 0.245 0.277 0.301 0.240 0.333 0.264 0.291 0.257 0.310
2 0.209 0.310 0.362 0.250 0.323 0.300 0.261 0.288 0.344
3 0.263 0.290 0.298 0.236 0.268 0.253 0.271 0.215 0.364
4 0.192 0.276 0.256 0.262 0.283 0.305 0.284 0.260 0.341
5 0.275 0.274 0.275 0.248 0.377 0.259 0.220 0.293 0.263
6 0.338 0.271 0.255 0.273 0.287 0.239 0.289 0.305 0.286
7 0.291 0.294 0.279 0.252 0.274 0.322 0.308 0.227 0.328
8 0.298 0.308 0.288 0.220 0.281 0.300 0.253 0.276 0.353
9 0.222 0.260 0.295 0.237 0.258 0.248 0.289 0.212 0.316
10 0.240 0.274 0.294 0.259 0.301 0.291 0.298 0.245 0.343
11 0.246 0.256 0.211 0.284 0.265 0.248 0.237 0.259 0.271
12 0.268 0.269 0.234 0.255 0.273 0.323 0.219 0.276 0.287
13 0.250 0.348 0.305 0.307 0.272 0.345 0.280 0.313 0.309
14 0.305 0.254 0.296 0.254 0.258 0.332 0.253 0.265 0.274
15 0.253 0.206 0.274 0.233 0.341 0.362 0.269 0.241 0.307
Avg. 0.260 0.278 0.282 0.254 0.293 0.293 0.268 0.262 0.313
Std. Dev. 0.038 0.032 0.035 0.022 0.035 0.039 0.027 0.031 0.032
Total Avg. 0.278
Total Std. Dev. 0.037
Min 0.192
Max 0.377
Range 0.186
Maize Planting, Central America
Map of Central America
Hand planting, Opico Quezaltepeque, El Salvador El Salvador Hand Planter Hand Planter, El Salvador Opico Quezaltepeque, El Salvador 9 row planter, El Salvador     
Legume interseeding, corn, Guatemala coffee nursery Honduras hand planted corn, subsitence agriculture, El Salvador  residue, soil conservation, Honduras Low lands, sugar cane, hillsides, maize
  Tlaltizapan, CIMMYT  peppers, vegetables, Honduras soil erosion, corn, Panama subsistance living, Honduras
volcanoes Nicaragua lowlands, Guatemala, volcanoes
cowpeas interseeded in corn, Guatemala corn residue burning, El Salvador residue burning, hillsides, El Salvador  OPV maize, Costa Rica El Salvador El Salvador
 zero tillage maize, El Salvador zero tillage maize, El Salvador maize planting, Dominican Republic burning maize residue, El Salvador Guatemala

Background Data
Maize area, ha (FAOSTAT)
TOTAL 160,968,730 ha
Developing 34,409,010 ha
% Planted by hand (60%) 20,645,406 ha
Yield increase, (25%), Mg corn 10,322,703 Mg
      Avg yield of 2 Mg/ha
1 bu = $6.00
2204 lb/ton
56 lb/bu, 39.2 bu/ton
 = 10322703*39 bu/ton*6.00/bu 2,400,000,000 $
Average yield, 3rd world maize
 = 2 Mg/ha  



(1000 ha's)





North Africa



Western Africa



Central Africa

1 900


Eastern Africa



Southern Africa



Central America



South America










Source: CIMMYT mega-environment database; C.R. Dowswell, R.L. Paliwal and R.P. Cantrell, Maize in the Third World, Boulder, Colorado, Westview Press, 1996.


Adrian Koller
Eric Lam
Joshua Ringer

Peter Omara
Sulochana Dhital
Rajen Bajgain
Ethan Wyatt
Natasha Macnack
Jeremiah Mullock
Jacob Bushong
Bee Chim
Eric Miller
Candi Byani

Colton Sullivan
Jorge Rascon
Max Metcalf
Austin Childers
Wayne Kiner
Kyle Hiner
Jonathan Kelly
Kevin Waldschmidt

Ideas proposed in May, 2007.
Meetings:  Wednesday, 4:00 pm, Ag Engineering Shop

Energy Harvesting for Singulation (A. Koller and J. Rascon)
OSU Hand Planters/ Design, 2007 - present
  stick planter, power source
Hand planter prototype tip hand planter, tip
Third world planter Hand Planter, OSU

Weight information for internal spring planter.

 Tube: 571.71 g
 Middle part: 742.99 g
 Tip : 542.97 g
 Spring : 101.65 g

Total weight: 1959.32 g or 4.31 lbs.

Hand Planter 1 Hand Planter 2 Hand Planter 3

Thrid World Planters (various)
Drexel rice planter
Chinese Planter (Liseeder) Chinese Hand Planter
Hand Planter, El Salvador Hand Planter, maize corn planter, Zimbabwe, Africa corn, Zimbabwe Africa
hand planter, corn hand planter corn hand planter, corn small planter, corn small planter, corn
Bed Planter 2 wheel tractor
Hand Planters used in Uganda
uganda, hand planter uganda hand planter Uganda hand planter Uganda hand planter
Grownet Brochure


Hillside Planting (Honduras)

Brazilian Hand Planter (article on hand planter)
GreenPeace (burning of GM maize)

Small Scale equipment for slopes (Switzerland)

Hand Planter Evaluations, Forestry, 2010
Dibble Sticks Donkeys, and Diesels
OSU Hand Planter Plan 2009

AGCO Hand Planter Demo Report
Added Materials

Back Pack Sprayers

IDEAS:  (wobble slot)


Chinese farmers currently feed 20% of the global population using only 9% of the world’s arable land. Their traditional corn farming technique — involving planting two to three kernels of corn per mound of soil just to get one plant to grow — highlighted a need for a more efficient planting technology. While this technique may have improved the odds, it had a habit of creating high seed and labor costs. Which is why in 2002, DuPont Pioneer entered the China seed market with the goal of increasing yield by creating a high-quality seed that did not need to be planted at high rates. It wasn’t long, however, before Pioneer realized seed quality was only part of the equation. Farmers there needed to address overall planting and growing concerns to be truly successful.

33% of wasted corn plants could be saved with vacuum planting.

Quick Facts

33% of wasted corn plants could be saved with vacuum planting.

Planting better seeds, in a smarter way.

Pioneer partnered with Hebei Nonghaha Agricultural Machinery Group, a local equipment manufacturer, to jointly develop a vacuum planter — the first of its kind in the country — that would allow Chinese farmers to plant corn using only one seed per mound. Improved single kernel planting technology raises the productivity and efficiency of Pioneer’s corn, lowers the seed volume farmers need to purchase, reduces manual labor, and ensures more land can be used for other products, like grain, diversifying and increasing the area’s food production output.

So far, it’s working — single kernel planting is becoming a trend in China, and if the vacuum planter continues to be widely adopted, it’s estimated that 1/3 of corn plants wasted by the manual thinning process could be saved. Additionally, China could decrease its amount of seed production land, essentially growing more grain on less land, thanks to better seeding and farming. Farmer feedback is positive, as the program benefits farmers with lower costs, less labor, increased yields, and additional revenue. This collaborative project between Pioneer, Nonghaha, and the farmers of China won the 2008 DuPont Sustainable Growth Award, in recognition of their work revolutionizing the industry and allowing more of the country to be fed in a sustainable way.

Last update: April 10, 2014    

Comprehensive information on Nitrogen Use Efficiency for cereal crop production