Last season’s drought taught South Africans more than the importance of good water management, irrigation, mulching and other water-efficient techniques. It demonstrated the resilience of the deciduous fruit industry.
Lessons of the 2017-18 drought
Dutoit Agri’s Research and Development Manager, Willie Kotze: “The drought forced us to sharpen our knowledge. We learnt to get along with less water and waste less.”
According to Wiehann Steyn, Assistant General Manager at Hortgro Science, the most important lessons learnt were in the area of irrigation. “There were many ways that producers stretched irrigation during the drought. Some growers simply allowed longer intervals between irrigations or used less water during each irrigation. Many already used mulch to reduce surface evaporation, while some relied on drip irrigation.”
Kromco’s Technical Manager, Anton Müller, says it was crucial to increasingly shift the focus to drip irrigation during the dry season. “No one will ever think about water in the same way again. In the past, there were certain speculations that people now know to be the truth. For years there was this perception that you can’t really use drip irrigation to produce apples and pears, and I think this idea has been broken now.”
The general feeling, says Steyn, is that given the challenging circumstances, the industry did not do too poorly, and this is largely thanks to good management, thorough planning, and various interventions.