The Western Cape is experiencing one of the most severe droughts in its history. One of the hardest hit industries in all this is the fruit producing agricultural sector. Fruit produce has dropped significantly, which is affecting both the economy and employment in the region. If the farms are not producing, they cannot continue paying workers, and the economic situation will keep spiralling downward. But there are solutions available to help farming in South Africa.
Increase irrigation efficiency
One of the symptoms of a droughts is a severe drop in naturally available water. The compounding factors of low rainfall and dams drying up means that more and more farmers are turning to irrigation from sources like municipal or underground water. Agriculture in South Africa has thankfully seen many efficient developments by irrigation suppliers thanks to the country’s naturally more arid conditions.
Many fruit farmers in South Africa have established orchards for their crops. The benefit of this for the Western Cape fruit farmers is that orchards are the ideal place to use micro-irrigation systems such as drip irrigation. Briefly put, drip irrigation systems make use of specially placed emitters to drip smaller, more exact amounts of water directly to the roots of the plants.
Micro-irrigation increases efficiency of water usage in two ways. Firstly, by using drip emitters and special control systems farmers are able to provide the exact amount of water necessary at the perfect intervals. For example, farms with soil that doesn’t soak up water quickly would need to water more frequently and in smaller amounts. Secondly, much less water is wasted through evaporation and runoff, as it is applied directly. Together this can account for a massive saving on water usage.
Lower plant transpiration
Transpiration is the process by which water travels through the plant and is released as water vapour from the leaves and stem. This may seem inevitable, but there are methods available to reduce this loss of water for agriculture in South Africa.
Transpiration rates in plants are determined by numerous factors such as humidity, sunlight and the plant’s nutritional status. The nutritional status of a plant is of particular interest here, because when a plant does not have enough of the correct nutrients it is forced to absorb more water. This is because the plant is attempting to draw more nutrients from the soil. However, this extra water cannot be used efficiently and so it expelled as vapour.
By improving the nutritional status of their plants farmers in South Africa will be able to worry less about their plants drawing excess water. There are various fertilisers and chemical compounds available that are perfect for adding the ideal nutrients into the soil, and the difference in both crop quality and water efficiency is evident.
Aside from lower plant transpiration and increasing irrigation efficiency, farming in South Africa will also benefit from an effective source of supplier information. The AgriFoodSA directory is a great source for said information, with contact details for suppliers of nearly any agricultural products you might need. Check it out!