Mick Marffy

T-L Super Pivots
The T-L’s one big motor at the pivot point seems to handle the power a lot better than if it had one of those little motors on each tower as electric pivots do.

In 2003, Mick Marffy left his farm in Zimbabwe and started anew. He set up a new farm “from scratch” in an equatorial Zambian forest.

His description of the land is; “It looked like something out of Disney’s ‘The Jungle Book’.” He was, in essence, pioneering. He had to clear land, put up buildings, and, at first, work without any electricity.

Tobacco, a summer crop, was being grown in the area, which was planted in late November or early December.

Crop quality was excellent, but yields were poor because the tobacco didn’t develop a large enough root system before the annual summer rains began. Local rainfall can total up to three feet at times!

What he needed, Marffy believed, was preliminary irrigation to get the tobacco established with a good root system well before the rains began to fall.

Great logic, yet Marffy had a skeptical bank manager ask, “Well, why do you need a center-pivot since it rains so much every summer?” His response was, “It’s for that very reason! We have to beat the season otherwise the rain is a hazard to root development and my crop!”

The upshot is that Marffy was convinced. Step 1: He installed a T-L pivot system that could cover 45 hectares (111 acres). Step 2: Since he’d made sure his T-L center-pivot was a towable pivot system, he planned to cover three circles of tobacco for a total of 135 hectares (334 acres).

His complete towing process with the hydrostatic T-L requires only 1.5 to 2.5 hours, depending on the distance to cover between fields, compared to significantly more time and work with an electrically powered towable pivot he owned.

He explains that the most difficult aspect of growing tobacco in the area is the availability of curing facilities, which are located in expensive-to-build tunnels. To avoid this problem, he tries to extend his crop’s growing season as long as possible.

Here’s where being able to shift his T-L to different fields definitely adds to his profit potential. For example, he plants his first circle the first of September and waters it until the crop is well estab- lished. The second circle operates in mid-October and also waters until the roots are developed properly. The third circle’s crop is planted in mid-November, and is irrigated in like fashion.

Thus, all three circles have root sys- tems able to handle the rains when they arrive and since the curing season is greatly extended, there’s adequate stor- age capacity available at any time.

That’s not all his T-L has allowed Marffy to do; during their dry winters he seeds 45 hectares of winter wheat that now receives irrigation throughout its growing season.

“Yes,” he points out, “I am getting full mileage from my T-L center-pivot—and double the income!”

Although quick and easy irrigation sys- tem relocation was important to Marffy, he says he was first attracted to the T-L system due to its hydraulically powered design.

“Another reason was that, in this neck of the woods, we have an erratic power supply. The voltage sometimes isn’t quite what you’d want,” he explains.

“The T-L’s one big motor at the pivot point seems to handle the power a lot better than if it had one of those little motors on each tower as electric pivots do. The possibility of something going wrong due to so many contacts is just too great.”

“Also, I must say that although I didn’t think about it at the time, the 480 volts carried in an electrical system is worrisome. I like the idea of having much fewer ways of getting electrocuted.”

Marffy comments that his T-L’s con- tinuously moving operation, “Just makes a whole heap of sense to me. When I’m putting on chemicals or fertilizers through the pivot I’m getting a much more even spread. With a high value, sensitive crop like tobacco, there’s a delicate balance between too much or too little nitrogen.”

His T-L pays off for him in even more ways, he emphasizes. Land preparation now doesn’t require larger tractors or equipment since he can achieve proper moisture content in the soil that allows eas- ier working. This, of course, has reduced his investment costs and fuel usage.

Area tradition is being broken both by Marffy and his brother, who also runs a T-L on his farm adjacent to Mick’s. The management of tobacco had typically been limited to a maximum of 50 hectares (124 acres) per man. But, thanks to his T-Ls and how he utilizes them, Marffy is handling almost 2.5 times as much tobacco with the help of one assistant. Plus, he has the income from the 45 hectares of wheat grown during the dry season, as mentioned previously.

“The reason I can do all this is my T-L pivot. It allows me to get my fields into good shape and the tobacco develops big root systems,” he observes. “T-Ls are super pivots.”