Richard L. Parish | 2/24/2005 7:29:26 PM
Most commercial vegetable growers apply granular fertilizer in a preplant operation, and many also make sidedress applications of granular fertilizer. An excellent way to apply granular materials in either a broadcast or banding mode is to use a pendulum-action spreader.
What Is a Pendulum-action Spreader?
A pendulum-action spreader (Figure 1) uses a horizontal spout that oscillates from side to side to sling out fertilizer. Fertilizer is metered into the spout though an adjustable metering orifice. The deflector at the outer end of the spout scatters the granules as they leave the spout. The resulting broadcast pattern is symmetrical, unlike rotary spreader patterns that are nearly always skewed and/or asymmetrical. Although preplant fertilizer can be knifed into individual beds, research by the LSU AgCenter has shown that broadcasting before bedding achieves results that are at least equivalent since the bedding operation moves the fertilizer into the bed and leaves it more evenly distributed in the bed than with preplant banding.
What Else Can It Do?
If a pendulum-action spreader were capable only of broadcast applications, it would be useful to a vegetable grower only for preplant applications, but it is capable of several other functions. If the spout is removed and a splitter box added, the spreader can be used to drop fertilizer in bands for sidedressing – either on the surface or knifed into the beds (Figure 2). Without knives, the fertilizer can be dropped on the beds beside the crop rows and cultivated into the soil. If a spout without a deflector is used, the pattern is changed completely. Instead of a broadcast pattern, a spout without a deflector will throw fertilizer in two bands on either side of the tractor with essentially no material directly behind the tractor (Figure 3). The spacing between the bands can be adjusted by changing spout length, PTO speed and/or spout height.
In summary, a pendulum-action spreader not only delivers an excellent broadcast pattern, but is very versatile. It has many uses around a vegetable or fruit farm, as well as many other farm and landscape uses. One caveat in selecting a pendulum-action spreader is to buy one that has a turnbuckle type of screw adjustment for rate; that type allows much finer and more precise rate setting increments than the type that has a series of holes and a pin for rate adjustment.Pendulum-action Spreaders for Commercial Vegetables