Farmers will have to change their practices in the future, as the diesel price passes R10/â„“. N either government nor people in general tend to be proactive, and only make changes when forced to. I’ve mentioned to vegetable farmers that if they had to go back to the practices of 10 years ago, they wouldn’t be competitive.
By the same token, if they could have changed to today’s practices then, they would have been more competitive. If we could anticipate trends and improvements beforehand, we’d be one step ahead of the competition. As vegetable farmers are fully in the free market system and face an unfriendly government, it’s a struggle for survival. Prices are governed by the free market system so improvements have to come from yield and quality and reducing input costs.
As a huge input cost on vegetable farms is diesel, this is where we can make big reductions. I’ve noted that nearly every vegetable farmer tills excessively. Many passes on the land are outright unnecessary. S oil tillage is a filthy habit which we have inherited by tradition. There’s a perception that cultivating the soil improves aeration and growing conditions, but it aerates to the point of excess. W e all know that in order to increase decomposition in a compost pile, we need to turn it.
The increased aeration stimulates the organisms into a feeding frenzy and increases decomposition substantially. It becomes so hot that we can’t even place our hand in the pile without scorching it. This, despite no added nutrients or materials. T he same process happens in the soil, albeit at a slower rate. The same organisms which occur in the compost pile break down the soil and tackle any incorporated raw material. the organisms multiply, they also use up available soil nutrients.
This causes deficiency symptoms in plants until the process has been completed and the organisms begin to die off and release the nutrients back into the soil. increase in soil organisms also reduces built-up humus, causing the soil quality and properties to deteriorate. Because of economics, dryland field crop producers have led the way in no-till. They save hugely on diesel, tractors and tillage equipment, and the benefits of the soil’s productivity even exceed input cost savings. We can learn a lot from their practices. – Bill Kerr ((016) 366 0616 or e-mail [email protected]). |fw