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Winners share their secrets to success

August 2021


Every year Grain SA facilitates the Grow for Gold Competition for maize, soybeans and sunflower in different regions of the country. For the 2020 competition 46 winners were announced as reported in the SA Graan/Grain magazine of December 2020/January 2021.

Of the winners ten have provided more detailed information regarding their crop management. When considering their detailed information, it was very interesting to find that all of them basically apply the same principles. However, in the practical application of the principles there were differences because they farm in different regions – with differences in climate and rainfall, different soils, and personal preferences plays a role.

What stood out is that the ten farmers all had the same objective regarding their crop production: Improve production every year to be able to farm profitably and sustainably.

Secondly, time management was emphasised. Everything was done in time and on time. Implements were serviced and overhauled in time to limit wasting time on repairs during the production season. Inputs were obtained timeously. Seedbed preparation, weed control and pest control were done in/on time.

In terms of production management there is a strong focus on acquiring suitable information. None of the farmers were ashamed to get information off farm from service providers, neighbours, mentors, study groups or other knowledgeable persons. On farm they all do their own research and evaluate cultivars and different production techniques.

Record-keeping is done meticulously, and they all apply the concept: ‘If you do not measure, you cannot manage’. All aspects of production are measured. Information regarding climate as it occurs on their farms is also gathered. Records of temperature, rainfall, average date of first rainfall, average date of first frost, occurrence of hail, and so forth are available. In this regard the high-tech implements used for precision farming plays a major role. All information for each year is available and considered in terms of what can be done better.

As far as financial management is concerned strict management of input costs is applied. Inputs are applied as planned and according to budget and all know what their input costs per hectare are.

Special attention is paid to the soil, specifically soil health – soils are mapped and soil sampling done on a regular basis to guide the use of fertiliser. All farmers apply the principles of minimum soil disturbance and keeping soils covered. Crop residues and/or cover crops are used for this purpose. Thus, regenerative farming is taken seriously.

To apply precision farming advanced high-tech implements are used extensively to plant at the correct depth at the planned plant population, to apply fertiliser according to soil variances and needs, to apply weedicides and pesticides and when harvesting. During the growing season leaf analysis are used to indicate any deficiencies and the possible occurrence of diseases.

All apply crop rotation suited to their environment and soils to reap the benefits there-off. Diversifying in more enterprises plays a major role in the overall success of these winners. 

What can you take from this to apply on your own farm, whether you farm on one hectare or a thousand hectares? Bear in mind that available funds, personal experience and abilities will play a role to the extent you will be able to use the tips.

To be practical:

  1. Set yourself an objective/goal because without an objective/goal you have no direction.
  2. Do everything on time and in time and as correctly as possible.
  3. Obtain as much as possible information of all facets of your production management.
  4. Plan and organise everything to the best of your ability and put your plans on paper. Implement accordingly and apply thorough control throughout the season. Analyse your results to determine what you can do better.
  5. Improve soil health. Apply the principle of minimum soil disturbance by using tine implements. Keep soil covered as much as possible using crop residues and/or cover crops.
  6. Get your soils mapped and take soil samples regularly to be analysed. Fertilise according to the results of the soil sampling.
  7. Apply precision farming which basically means to do everything as precise as possible with the means available. The use of advanced high-tech implements can be incorporated as funds become available.
  8. Keep all records meticulously.
  9. Apply crop rotation and diversify your farming if and as possible.

Remember assistance is available – make use of it. You can also be a winner.

Publication: August 2021

Section: Pula/Imvula