onservation, Food and Health Foundation

Long-term conservation trials conducted on rotated grain crops in the Swartland and Southern Cape during the drought have produced promising results.

Dr Johann Strauss, agronomist at the Western Cape Department of Agriculture, spoke to Glenneis Kriel.

Anyone still doubting the feasibility of conservation agriculture would do well to look at a series of trials conducted in the Western Cape over the past production season.

This is according to Dr Johann Strauss, an agronomist at the Western Cape Department of Agriculture.

Strauss explains that applying conservation agriculture practices, such as crop rotation, minimum disturbance of the soil, and stubble retention, helped buffer the impact of the drought, because they improved soil health and structure, and in effect the soil’s water-holding capacity.

It was evident from the trials and from farms in the province that the retention of residue had a visible impact on the yield of several grain crops during last year’s dry season.

“There were cases of farmers in the drier areas of the Swartland who managed to produce up to 400kg/ha more wheat than their neighbours, simply because they had more plant material on the lands,” he says.

“The plant material is important because it keeps the soil cool, reduces evaporation and improves the soil’s water-holding capacity when it is converted to organic material in the soil.”

Plant material

In the trials at Langgewens near Malmesbury in the Swartland, wheat in a rotation where a legume cover-crop mix had been planted the previous year, performed the best of all the crops in that rotation, with an average yield of 3t/ ha.

Average wheat yield in the other rotations was about 2,4t/ha.

“An average wheat yield of 2,4t/ ha might not sound like much in comparison with the farm’s long-term average of 3,4t/ ha, but it’s pretty impressive considering we received less than half our annual rainfall, and yield averaged 2,1t/ ha during the drought of 2015 and only 500kg/ ha during the drought of 2003.

The results show we’re on the right track with conservation agriculture,” says Strauss.

The same pattern was observed at Tygerhoek Research Farm near Riviersonderend and at the trials near Riversdale in the Southern Cape.

According to Strauss, in 2017 Tygerhoek recorded its driest production season of the past 16 years, receiving only 147mm of rain between April and October.

Production, nevertheless, averaged 2,7t/ha for wheat, 3,1t/ha for barley, and 3,3t/ ha for oats, in comparison with the farm’s long-term average of 3,6t/ha for wheat, 3,5t/ha for barley, and 3,4t/ha for oats.

The Riversdale trial on the farm Uitkyk, belonging to Jan-Hendrik and Lindi Joubert, where climatic conditions were drier than at Riviersonderend, received its only significant rainfall (a mere 10mm) a month after the crops were planted.

Production averaged 1,4t/ha for wheat, 1,35t/ha for barley, and 1,1t/ha for canola, in comparison with the long-term average of 3,4t/ha for wheat, 3t/ha for barley, and 1,6 t/ha for canola.

Strauss found that no harm was caused if livestock grazed the stubble, provided the animals were managed carefully to prevent overgrazing.

“We aimed to retain at least 50% of the plant material in the trials where animals grazed the land.

The international consensus is that to be classified as conservation agriculture, at least 30% of the plant material should be retained.”

He emphasises that a farmer should not be a slave to rotation; rather, rotation should work for the farm.

“You should be able to adapt a rotation as needed.

If there are weed problems in a camp where wheat is due to be planted, it might be better to plant oats for making hay to get the weeds under control.

If there are no weed problems, you might plant wheat for two or even three seasons in a row.

Just remember that production will decline each year that you plant the same crop.”

He adds that at least three crops should be included in the rotation, but for the sake of diversity more can be planted.

Fertilisation

Last year’s findings suggest there is room to improve nitrogen fertilisation efficiency on farms.

“We’ve been reducing the volume of nitrogen used in the trials at Langgewens for quite some time now,” he explains.

“For the past two years, we applied only 60kg/ha compared with more than 80kg/ha in the past. Of the 60kg, about 23kg were applied during planting.”

A new trial was started two seasons ago to investigate low-input conservation agriculture, and last season nitrogen was applied at a rate of only 12kg/ ha during wheat planting.

Another 20kg/ha were then applied as a top dressing if a legume (a plant type that fixes atmospheric nitrogen) or legume cover crop had been planted the season before the wheat.

So in this rotation, wheat received 32kg/ ha of nitrogen in total during the production cycle.

In rotations where any crop except legumes had been planted the previous season, the wheat received a nitrogen top dressing at a rate of 40kg/ ha.

Wheat in these rotations therefore ended up receiving nitrogen at 52kg/ha.

The results were promising, according to Strauss.

Wheat planted after faba beans and vetch performed the best, while wheat following linseed performed the best in the sequences where wheat followed a non-legume crop.

Wheat yield in both these sequences averaged 2,6t/ ha, which was 200kg/ha more than the seasonal average for this crop.

Low level of nitrogen

In a separate trial, nitrogen was applied to wheat in a medic-wheat rotation at a rate of only 12kg/ha; this was to test the effect of low nitrogen input on systems that had been in place for 22 years.

Half of the camp received a top dressing of 20kg a month after planting, while the rest received no additional nitrogen.

The trial was carried out on both good and marginal soil.

Wheat planted in the good soil that received no nitrogen produced 40kg/ha more than wheat given no nitrogen top-ups.

The same was seen on the marginal soils, where wheat that did not receive additional nitrogen after planting yielded 150kg/ha more than wheat that received no nitrogen top-ups.

Farmers should not make any hasty decisions based on these results, Strauss cautions.

“I think we can get away with using less nitrogen over time in conservation agriculture systems,” he says.

Strauss is hesitant to give production advice for the coming season, as it is difficult to know what the weather will do.

“The best advice I have for farmers is to keep track of weather patterns and base their decisions on that.

Choose cultivars carefully if there’s uncertainty or any indications that we might be heading for another dry year.

“Look for two cultivars of each crop that can take some heat and water stress, and which performed well in trials in your production region.”

The main aim during the coming season will be to get plant material back on the land.

“Restoring soil health and structure with the help of conservation farming can’t be achieved overnight.

We’ve been doing conservation farming at Tygerhoek for the past 17 years and at Langgewens for 23 years.”

Email Dr Johann Strauss at [email protected], or phone him on 021 808 5479.

Agribusiness Information

308 COMMENTS

  1. Greetings, I do think your site could possibly be having
    browser compatibility issues. When I take a
    look at your web site in Safari, it looks fine however,
    if opening in IE, it has some overlapping issues.

    I just wanted to provide you with a quick heads up!
    Aside from that, wonderful site!

  2. Thanks for some other informative site. The place else could
    I am getting that kind of information written in such an ideal approach?
    I have a venture that I am simply now working on, and I’ve been on the look out for such
    information.

  3. I just like the valuable info you supply for your articles.
    I will bookmark your weblog and test again right here regularly.
    I am quite certain I’ll be told many new stuff right
    here! Good luck for the next!

  4. When I initially commented I clicked the “Notify me when new comments are added” checkbox and now each time
    a comment is added I get three e-mails with the same comment.
    Is there any way you can remove me from that service? Many thanks!

  5. Thanks for your personal marvelous posting! I seriously enjoyed reading it,
    you will be a great author. I will ensure that I bookmark your blog and will often come back very soon. I want to encourage you to continue your great writing,
    have a nice afternoon!

  6. I think everything said made a great deal of sense. But,
    what about this? suppose you were to write
    a killer headline? I ain’t suggesting your content isn’t solid., but what if you added a post title to possibly grab a person’s attention? I mean Conservation Agriculture
    Pays Off In Drought – Agricultural Business Information is a little vanilla.
    You might look at Yahoo’s home page and see how they create news headlines to get viewers to
    click. You might add a video or a related picture or
    two to grab readers interested about everything’ve written. Just my opinion, it might make your posts a little bit more
    interesting.

  7. I was pretty pleased to discover this web site. I need to
    to thank you for ones time just for this wonderful read!!
    I definitely liked every little bit of it
    and I have you book-marked to see new stuff in your blog.

  8. I must thank you for the efforts you’ve put in penning this site. I really hope to see the same high-grade blog posts by you in the future as well. In truth, your creative writing abilities has inspired me to get my own, personal website now 😉

  9. I’m impressed, I have to admit. Rarely do I come across a blog that’s both educative and interesting, and without a doubt, you’ve hit the nail on the head. The problem is an issue that not enough men and women are speaking intelligently about. Now i’m very happy I found this in my search for something relating to this.

  10. Nice post. I learn something totally new and challenging on blogs I stumbleupon every day. It’s always useful to read through content from other writers and practice a little something from their web sites.

  11. An interesting discussion is worth comment. I do think that you need to write more about this subject, it might not be a taboo subject but typically people don’t discuss these topics. To the next! All the best!

  12. Fantastic beat ! I would like to apprentice at the same time as you amend your web site,
    how can i subscribe for a blog web site? The account aided me a appropriate deal.
    I had been tiny bit familiar of this your broadcast offered shiny clear idea

  13. An impressive share! I’ve just forwarded this onto a colleague who was doing a little homework on this. And he actually bought me dinner simply because I stumbled upon it for him… lol. So let me reword this…. Thank YOU for the meal!! But yeah, thanks for spending the time to discuss this subject here on your blog.

  14. I’m amazed, I must say. Rarely do I encounter a blog that’s equally educative and amusing, and let me tell you, you have hit the nail on the head. The issue is an issue that too few men and women are speaking intelligently about. I’m very happy I came across this during my search for something relating to this.

  15. Hi, I do think this is an excellent website. I stumbledupon it 😉 I am going to come back yet again since I bookmarked it. Money and freedom is the best way to change, may you be rich and continue to help other people.

  16. An outstanding share! I have just forwarded this onto a colleague who was conducting a little research on this. And he in fact bought me lunch due to the fact that I found it for him… lol. So allow me to reword this…. Thank YOU for the meal!! But yeah, thanks for spending the time to discuss this issue here on your internet site.

  17. After I originally left a comment I seem to have clicked on the -Notify me when new comments are added- checkbox and now every time a comment is added I recieve four emails with the same comment. Perhaps there is a means you are able to remove me from that service? Thank you.

  18. This is a very good tip particularly to those fresh to the blogosphere. Simple but very accurate information… Many thanks for sharing this one. A must read post!

  19. Hello there! This blog post could not be written much better! Looking at this article reminds me of my previous roommate! He continually kept talking about this. I most certainly will forward this post to him. Fairly certain he’ll have a great read. Thank you for sharing!

  20. Hi, I do think this is a great website. I stumbledupon it 😉 I may come back yet again since I bookmarked it. Money and freedom is the greatest way to change, may you be rich and continue to help others.

  21. Oh my goodness! Impressive article dude! Many thanks, However I am experiencing troubles with your RSS. I don’t know why I am unable to subscribe to it. Is there anybody having identical RSS problems? Anyone who knows the answer can you kindly respond? Thanks.

  22. I believe what you wrote made a lot of sense. But, what about this?
    what if you were to create a killer title? I ain’t saying your
    information isn’t solid., but suppose you added a title that grabbed
    folk’s attention? I mean Conservation Agriculture Pays Off In Drought – Agricultural Business Information is a little vanilla.
    You might peek at Yahoo’s front page and watch how they write article headlines to get people interested.

    You might add a video or a picture or two to grab people interested about
    what you’ve got to say. In my opinion, it might bring your
    posts a little livelier.

  23. An impressive share! I’ve just forwarded this onto a co-worker who has been doing a little research on this. And he actually ordered me dinner simply because I stumbled upon it for him… lol. So let me reword this…. Thanks for the meal!! But yeah, thanks for spending time to discuss this issue here on your blog.

  24. We are a group of volunteers and starting a new scheme in our community.
    Your website offered us with valuable information to work on. You’ve done a formidable job and
    our entire community will be grateful to you.

  25. Hi, There’s no doubt that your web site might be having web browser compatibility problems. Whenever I look at your website in Safari, it looks fine but when opening in IE, it’s got some overlapping issues. I merely wanted to provide you with a quick heads up! Apart from that, fantastic blog!

  26. This is the right website for anyone who would like to find out about this topic. You know a whole lot its almost hard to argue with you (not that I actually would want to…HaHa). You certainly put a fresh spin on a subject that has been written about for years. Wonderful stuff, just wonderful.

  27. Hi! I could have sworn I’ve visited this website before but after browsing through some of the posts I realized it’s new to me. Anyways, I’m definitely pleased I discovered it and I’ll be bookmarking it and checking back regularly.

  28. Greetings, I think your blog might be having web browser compatibility issues. When I take a look at your website in Safari, it looks fine however, when opening in Internet Explorer, it’s got some overlapping issues. I simply wanted to provide you with a quick heads up! Aside from that, great blog.

  29. I blog often and I really thank you for your information. The article has truly peaked my interest. I am going to book mark your site and keep checking for new details about once per week. I subscribed to your Feed too.

  30. A motivating discussion is definitely worth comment. There’s no doubt that that you should publish more on this topic, it may not be a taboo subject but generally folks don’t discuss these issues. To the next! Many thanks.

  31. Hi! I could have sworn I’ve been to this blog before but after browsing through some of the posts I realized it’s new to me. Anyhow, I’m certainly delighted I stumbled upon it and I’ll be bookmarking it and checking back often.

  32. I seriously love your website.. Excellent colors & theme. Did you make this amazing site yourself? Please reply back as I’m hoping to create my very own site and want to find out where you got this from or what the theme is named. Thank you.

  33. Hey! I understand this is somewhat off-topic however I had to ask.
    Does managing a well-established blog such as yours require a
    massive amount work? I’m brand new to operating a blog but I
    do write in my diary on a daily basis. I’d like to start a blog so I
    will be able to share my own experience and thoughts online.
    Please let me know if you have any recommendations or tips for brand
    new aspiring blog owners. Thankyou!

  34. Hi there! This article could not be written much better! Going through this article reminds me of my previous roommate! He constantly kept talking about this. I’ll forward this post to him. Pretty sure he’ll have a great read. Thanks for sharing!

  35. May I just say what a comfort to uncover somebody who actually understands what they are discussing on the net. You actually realize how to bring a problem to light and make it important. More and more people ought to look at this and understand this side of the story. I can’t believe you aren’t more popular since you surely possess the gift.

  36. A fascinating discussion is worth comment. I believe that you need to write more about this subject, it might not be a taboo matter but typically folks don’t talk about these topics. To the next! Many thanks!

  37. This is the perfect website for everyone who wishes to find out about this topic. You know so much its almost hard to argue with you (not that I actually would want to…HaHa). You certainly put a brand new spin on a subject that has been written about for a long time. Wonderful stuff, just excellent.

  38. Your style is unique in comparison to other people I have read stuff from. Thank you for posting when you have the opportunity, Guess I will just book mark this site.

  39. I would like to thank you for the efforts you’ve put in writing this site. I am hoping to view the same high-grade blog posts by you in the future as well. In truth, your creative writing abilities has inspired me to get my own website now 😉

  40. An interesting discussion is definitely worth comment. There’s no doubt that that you should write more on this topic, it might not be a taboo matter but typically people don’t talk about these topics. To the next! Cheers.

  41. Hi there! This blog post could not be written much better! Going through this post reminds me of my previous roommate! He constantly kept preaching about this. I am going to forward this post to him. Fairly certain he’s going to have a very good read. Thank you for sharing!

  42. This is a really good tip particularly to those fresh to the blogosphere. Short but very precise information… Thanks for sharing this one. A must read article.

  43. May I simply just say what a comfort to uncover somebody that actually understands what they are talking about online. You actually understand how to bring a problem to light and make it important. A lot more people need to look at this and understand this side of your story. I can’t believe you are not more popular since you surely have the gift.

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here