A WORD FROM… Jane McPherson
We should never forget that farming is business and if a business is to survive then it has to make profits. As farmers, we use land to produce plants and livestock.
This past summer crop season has again been a very challenging one. Rains came late, and in some areas the rain was so late that no crops could be planted. In other areas, there was rain, but the rain was accompanied by hail and winds which destroyed the crops. Insurance can help you if you are able to plant a crop, but if it is too dry to plant at all, no insurance will help you.
Sometimes Mother Nature sends messages and we need to try to understand the message. Often, we don’t want to understand the message because it is not what we want to hear. We don’t really know if the recent heat and drought are as a result of the global warming that everyone has been speaking about, or if it is just a dry spell and we have been having these for hundreds of years. Either way, we have to survive economically while we watch to see if the hotter/drier weather is here to stay or just paying us a short visit.
I am concerned about the farmers in the drier western parts of the country. For several years, they have not achieved good crops, and this is not because they are poor farmers; it is because it has been too hot and too dry to plant crops. Maybe it’s time to make some other plans.
Good farmers also plant crops in rotation. The farmers in the winter rainfall areas of the Western Cape are very good at planning their crop rotations so as to make the very best use of their soils. Somehow in the summer rainfall areas, we seem to do a little less planning and we only change from maize if the season does not allow us to plant maize. Maybe this should change?
There are a number of different cash crops and pasture crops that can cope with drought better than maize, soybeans and sunflowers. Dry beans are a good crop, and cow peas. Most farmers have livestock, cattle, sheep and goats, and they can also be farmed profitably. By growing perennial pasture crops, we reduce our annual costs, and the crop is always ready to receive whatever rain falls. By increasing and improving our pastures (grasses and legumes), we are able to increase the production of the livestock and make more money. Not only will we make more money, but we will also be preserving our land more effectively.
Let us take some time in this year to learn about other crops and think creatively about how best we could use the land that we have available. Enjoy the excitement of the new possibilities.
Publication: April 2019