The AGM and annual conference of the No-Till Club of KZN drew farmers and extension officers from across the country. The club encourages conservation agriculture by advising farmers and supporting research. Peter Hittersay reports.
The No-Till Club of KZN was formed in 1997 by a group of Winterton farmers – who had adopted no-till techniques some years previously – local research workers and private company personnel. Its aim was to encourage the adoption of no-till practices by providing a forum to exchange information. The club’s annual conference and AGM was held at the Drakensville Berg Resort, Jagersrust, on 5 September. Chairperson Egon Zunckel said in his report there was an increasing interest in no-till which could be seen in the growing number of farmers adopting no-till practices. The 55 club members and 94 non-members who attended the conference were a prime example of this growing interest, as is the considerable number of enquiries the club receives. Local and international interest “During the past year we held five meetings, from Mooi River to Dundee,” said Zunckel. “We also hosted many groups of farmers and extension officer groups from countries like France and Lesotho, the Eastern Cape and Mpumalanga provinces and the Hopetown and Bethlehem areas.
I also addressed a group of about 50 farmers in Standerton who are in the process of adopting comprehensive no-till practices. Club members were also active: Rudi Orban was involved in a government dry bean project in Nongoma, and Anthony Muirhead provided advice in Piet Retief and offered his land, machinery and management to facilitate research trials on the role and importance of soil-borne diseases in yield depression in maize.” n January this year Zunckel attended a national no-till conference in the US attended by approximately 800 delegates. “One of my objectives was to get our club members registered for carbon credits, but found this was a pilot project applicable to mid-western corn belt farmers only. However, as these credits could amount to about R260/ha, we are pursuing the matter with Richard Fowler of the ARC, and exploring the possibility of working with the sugar and forestry industries,” Zunckel reported. The club intends to publish a newspaper to cater for the growing demand for information about no-till, and members have been invited to submit articles. Conference proceedings A dam Mostert, manager of biodiesel at Sasol Nitro, spoke about the impact of biodiesel production on agriculture. This was followed by the announcement of the winners of the Super Soya Competition in southern KZN by Graeme Oates, competition coordinator and extension officer of the KZN Department of Agriculture and Environmental Affairs.
All the winners and runners-up are practising no-till farmers. Johan du Plessis of the Protein Research Foundation introduced the panel of 12, consisting of experts in the disciplines of soil fertility, weed and insect control and no-till farm machinery as well as practising no-till farmers, with whom delegates debated. fter lunch delegates visited the attractive indoor displays by agricultural input suppliers and the large outdoor exhibition of no-till and other equipment displayed by farm machinery suppliers – 17 exhibitors in all. O n 6 September delegates visited Zunckel’s farm, Rustenburg, not far from the Drakensville Berg Resort. Zunckel shared his 13 years of no-till experience and answered questions about the holistic conservation agriculture (CA) principles he follows: minimal soil disturbance (no-till), crop rotation and permanent soil cover. Delegates then moved to John Jackson’s farm Shamrock, just outside Bergville, where Jackson gave them the benefit of his 23 years of practising CA and answered questions. – Peter Hittersay Contact Sandra Findlay of the No-Till Club of KZN on 082 472 5987 or Richard Findlay on 072 147 9703, (033) 344 3535 or e-mail [email protected].