Although the farmers were able to do a lot of planting and in some areas over 80% of the crops were planted by mid-December – there were certainly a few challenges along the way.
Some of Grain SA’s regional offices reported the following:
Louwsburg: Jurie Mentz, regional development manager, reports that December has been even wetter than the previous season. He says the smaller farmers are making plans, as it has been difficult to get tractors and equipment into some fields. There are even farmers who have even resorted to farming the ‘old-fashioned’ way by inspanning their oxen to get into the fields, while other smaller growers have started planting by hand just to get the seeds in the ground at the right time. The more commercial large-scale farmers were forced to wait for drier weather to get into their fields.
Kokstad: Luke Collier, the regional development manager at this office, says farmers in his area measured 126 mm on 9 and 10 December, with more smaller rainstorms following that. The farmers have struggled to cope with the high input costs this season and many were sadly forced to scale down their activities. Hail is a major risk factor in eastern Griqualand, but crop insurance is very expensive for developing farmers.
Free State: Johan Kriel, regional development manager who now oversees the western Free State region, reports that although the season has been very wet, at least 70% of the developing farmers in his region have finished planting their crops. Bloemfontein has not been too wet but to the south, from Winburg to Senekal, Paul Roux and Bethlehem, there is not a stream that is not now a strong flowing river.
At the same time, farms to the north as far as Deneysville are also experiencing many thunderstorms. The biggest risk in the region is hail and there has already been some damage. One farmer had to replant 600 hectares of soybeans. Fortunately, he had crop insurance which has helped him with the replanting costs – although the insurance only paid out for 40% of the damages because the crop was still young.
Ntate Johan says getting all the required spraying done has been a problem and farmers have to continuously scout their fields to monitor for fungus issues, which may develop due to the extreme wet conditions.
Mbombela: Jerry Mthombothi, regional development manager at the Mbombela office, reports a lot of rain too, particularly in the Highveld regions. While at least 80% of his participating farmers have got the biggest part of their planting done, there are those who cannot even reach their arable lands yet.
The farmers that Jerry advises have planted maize, groundnuts, soybean and drybeans. The team there has been very busy with tasks such as offering technical support, helping to calibrate planters and boom sprayers for planting, fertilisation and spraying programmes.
Jerry also spends a lot of time helping farmer groups to source inputs, buying in bulk and negotiating discounts. Input suppliers are often keen to assist farmers who are developing a good track record and who have reliable mentorship and extension service support from the likes of Grain SA.
AT GRASS ROOTS
Face-to-face networking opportunities
Study group meetings are an important face-to-face contact opportunity between the farmers and Grain SA’s mentors. They are not only teaching opportunities but also times to troubleshoot and network with other farmers.
Despite peak summer planting activities, the following meetings still took place during November and December:
Dundee: 37 meetings where the focus was on the delivery of inputs. Teaching included discussions on safe storage of chemicals and correct application thereof. Assistance in the calibration of planters and sprayers was also provided.
Kokstad: 21 meetings where crop development, cultivar selection, row width and plant population in maize production were on the menu. The teams went to the lands to check the soil and crop progress.
Louwsburg: 25 meetings where the delivery of seed, Roundup and chemicals took place. Farmers are eager to start planting. They are thankful for the help with sourcing inputs and for Grain SA’s logistical assistance as transport is difficult for them. • Maclear: 29 meetings where the team delivered chemicals to the Ikamvalethu and Lower Tsitsana Study Groups. Safe storage and chemical use were discussed.
Mthatha: 11 meetings where planting was the main topic of discussion. The Lujecweni farmers had almost finished planting their 70 hectares. The Dalibhunga Study Group had also almost completed their planting.
Mbombela: 36 meetings where farmers were advised to plant the correct plant population and apply the correct amounts of fertilisers. The team also helped with the calibrating of planters and sprayers.
Farm visits are a priority
Grain SA is partnering with several stakeholders this season and is involved in rolling out projects with AB InBev, Department of Rural Development and Land Reform (DRDLR) recapitalisation, the Maize Trust, the South African Cultivar and Technology Agency (SACTA) and Standard Bank. To this end several farm visits were made to advanced farmers who are part of Grain SA’s Farmer Development Programme:
90 visits to 15 farmers in the Dundee area.
36 visits to 11 farmers in the Kokstad region.
81 visits to 24 farmers in the Ladybrand/Bloemfontein district.
14 visits to 7 farmers in the Lichtenburg vicinity.