by Staff reporter

Seeds

The leader in the South African seed industry believes in good practice

Agricol is a leader in good practice
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Agricol is both a member of Grain SA and prides itself on having a full product range to cover all the needs of the farmer and and because of its international alliances, Agricol is best placed to give sound advice, while supplying the  farmer with top quality products and services. This includes plant breeding, production, international trade, processing and distribution of seed. Agricol has a number of ways in which to send the farmer its products.

"We make use of our own agronoymous staff and agents to get the products to the farmers. As an added benefit to the farmer, technical support is also provided if need be so as to further ensure client satisfaction which according to Nick Kotze, Managing Director of Agricol, is a very important element of what the company does. 
South Africa the world over is considered to be an arid part of the world. But having said that, Kotze believes that despite our circumstances both external and internal, that South African farmers are a cut above the rest. 
"I think we have some of the best farmers in the world. If you look at the sort of production that we are able to maintain over a certain period of time and the evinronment in which we do it, we do a pretty good job," he said. But he isn't blind to the fact that improvements are always necessary. "We do have a lot of challenges. Improving our practices like minimum tillage which allows the maximum amount of precipitation to be used to create greater crop growth. "The less run off, which means less evaporation means more moisture." 
Challenges
One of the most well documented issues about South African land and issues of food security, is that to the eye of the average citizen, acres of land seem to be standing doing nothing.
Kotze admits that in the past mistakes were made, and land that was ploughed, shouldn't have been, and land had been used for the incorrect farming type, especially in marginal farming areas where for example annual rainfall is minimal. Certain land is useful for certain types of farming, not all land is suitable for crop farming, so as to ensure the best production level is achieved, and that which would be most sustainable for the various type of environments.
Good practice
Kotze believes that rotational crops are what have saved many a farmer who has experienced drought and disease. "An example of crop rotation working to its full benefit, is that in the north, where recent drought devastated a lot of crops, particularly maize crops, there were other crops and other farms that fared well or sufficiently to get by, where others were devastated." 
And according to Kotze, if one is to go and analyse why some farms in areas fared well, and some suffered devastation, one would find that it is the difference between  proper crop rotation and minimum tillage that helped the farmers fare as well as they did in the circumsntaces that they faced.
"Rotational crops are medium to high potential areas where cropping is a definite alternative and where cropping would be the most productive means of using those fields.
And going back to minimum tillage, I firmly believe that it has a huge role in play in those environments. There are a huge amount of benefits using crop rotations. It also helps to reduce diseases and pestilence.
Nitrogen is vital to proper growth and according to Kotze if crop rotation includes alternating with leguminous crops, then there's massive nitrogen benefit, adding to arable soil.
"We don't need to interfer with the commercial farmer but we do need to work closely with aspiring black farmer and there is also a lot more land even on the open market. There is plenty of land tranferring on an annual basis. There is a lot of land in the Eastern Cape that is coming out of the old regime that is now under farming communal conditions. If you look at those levels of production there, production could be doubled if not tripled by assisting the black aspiring farmer to think bigger.
Kotze believes in good practice for all farmers. He believes that if emerging farmers use best practice that the annual crop yields will be significantly bigger. I easily think that yields of five tonnes to eight tonnes can be achieved with best practice but when you talk to the emerging farmers, they often have missed vital steps in the process. These farmers need to have a commercial focus combined with good practice in order for the country to overcome the issues of food insecurity.
There is an urgency, and that it needs to communicate to the government, that letting these farmers down would be a mistake. And while the private sector supports where it can, but the collaboration of both the private and public sector is vital to seeing that South Africa remains food secure. 
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