Water-stressed Gamtoos Valley citrus & veg farmers hope for Langkloof rain

Topfruit farmers in the Langkloof optimistic

Topfruit orchards in the Langkloof, a valley straddling the Western and the Eastern Cape, are entering the blossoming period after a winter with good cold units.

"Generally farmers in the Langkloof are feeling pretty optimistic about the season ahead," notes a marketer. 

Rain is predicted for later this week, which would be welcome - it's been a dry winter, despite good snowfall on high-lying areas, growers say. 

Mid-September Nova Donna peach blooms in the Langkloof (photo by Gawie le Roux)

The earliest pears - early Bon Chretiens (Bartlett/Williams) and Forelle are past flowering. Packham orchards are now in flower.

The early Panorama Goldens and the local Granny Smith mutation, the Louterwater Granny Smith, have finished flowering but the majority of apple varieties are not yet in full bloom.

Growers have started putting bees in their Kanzi orchards.

Many farm dams are close to full but it's variable throughout the valley: some farm dams around Misgund and Louterwater are not far from empty, and a technical advisor warns that some areas have 35% to 40% of the water they're going to need for the rest of the season.

Fortunately, the possibility of an average to above-average rainfall season has been raised.

Peach orchards near Louterwater, Langkloof (photo by Gawie le Roux)

Langkloof rain for Gamtoos citrus orchards
The Langkloof, apart from apple, pear and peach production, has another important function: it is the water catchment area for the Kouga Dam in the nearby Gamtoos Valley, known for the citrus and vegetable production of Hankey and Patensie.

For years now the Kouga Dam has been drying up. It is back at 8% of capacity, the dismal level from which it turned around two years ago, and citrus and vegetable growers have to function with only 20% of their water allocation, and summer is just starting.

Farmers in the Gamtoos Valley are anxiously looking at the Langkloof's weather.


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