With agricultural profit margins decreasing continuously, it is crucial that every effort is made to use farm machinery as efficiently as possible. Mechanisation accounts for about 50% of the total cost of sugarcane production, even when cane is cut manually. Small savings In production costs can translate into large increases in net profit. SASRI conducts research into mechanisation efficiencies and sustainability.

Dr Peter Tweddle

Agricultural Engineer


Agricultural Engineer

Tel: 031 508 7400 (Switchboard)
Tel: 031 508 7434 (Direct)

Role & Overall Purpose

Agricultural mechanisation research:

  • Farm machinery and road transport systems,
  • Analysis and costing of systems.

Farm infrastructure, irrigation and mechanisation systems engineering.

Research Interests

Mechanisation and transport initiatives:

  • System analyses, costings and optimisation.
  • Equipment performance and efficiencies.
  • Sugarcane logistics and vehicle optimisation.
  • RTMS and PBS vehicles.
  • Soil compaction and stool damage.
  • Farming systems.
  • New technology.

BSc Eng (University of Natal), PhD (UKZN)




Controlled Traffic in the South African sugar industry. While it is true that soil compaction will cause some reduction in yield, stool damage by infield vehicles is by far the bigger culprit. A controlled traffic system keeps wheels away from the sugarcane stools and restricts them to the traffic zones where compaction is less harmful to the ratooning crop. This booklet provides a set of guidelines for sugarcane farmers wishing to implement a controlled infield traffic system.

View booklet


SASRI Mechanisation Reports

2024 Mech Report No 1: Costing machinery Systems
View Report

2024 Mech Report No 2: Systems and Costs of Land Preparation, Planting and Ratoon Management
View Report

Agricultural Machinery and Equipment: Products and Suppliers

Local Supplier List
View Report

International Supplier List
View Report


Sugarcane Loading Guidelines


Mechanisation Costs DSS

An Excel tool to determine the costs of owning vehicles and equipment. DSP has been developed for use in conjunction with researchers and extension specialists.

Lodging revenue-loss calculator

A spreadsheet-based model has been developed to enable growers and their advisors to examine the effects of several factors following a cane lodging event that may contribute to revenue loss or direct costs increase. The model does not account for potential mill-related effects such as choking, slower milling performance and sugar colour issues resulting from the processing of lodged cane. The spreadsheet is capable of recalculating the losses for different harvest schedules with a view to minimising the impact of the lodging.

Zone placement

An Excel tool that indicates the best position for placement of zones from a list of possible sites pre-assessed as possible sites by the grower or extension specialist. The tool requires one to define all the cane that would route through each zone node and the costs for making the zones. The tool optimises the cost of expensive short haulage operations and takes the area and construction costs and loss of cane area of each zone into account.


Private Road Placement

A GIS tool that optimizes route access and compares the costs of route construction against the benefits of a shorter route (based on the costs of cane haulage that could benefit from the shorter haulage route).

Replant DSP

An Excel tool used to determine the optimal ratoon cycle lengths based on user defined costs and schedule of operations from the previous crop, fallow period operations, planting and ratoon cycle operations and crop age scenarios.


An Excel based tool that is used to compare scientific trials using pivot tables and charts. The users need to define the costs where treatments differ between practices. The income and expenses between trial treatments help to compare the profitability between trial treatments by providing a gross margin (above allocated costs) into account.



SASRI Mechanisation Reports

Each year, SASRI updates its Mechanisation Reports which are designed to assist farmers establish the total cost of operating individual machines or complete machinery systems.

Extension and Biosecurity Service

SASRI Extension Specialists located throughout the South African sugar industry are available to offer advice and support on crop nutrition and all other aspects of sugarcane farming.

Special Advisory Requests

Service to investigate new products on behalf of commercial companies to facilitate registration. Investigations can include testing of herbicides, fungicides, ripeners, fertilisers and pesticides.


SASRI conducts research into mechanisation efficiencies and sustainability. Visit SYSTEMS DESIGN & OPTIMISATION for more information.

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