Tackling Disruption

Smart solutions to agricultural challenges


Smart solutions to agricultural challenges.For most of South Africa’s growers these are desperate times as harvests written off give them a taste of what a future impacted by climate change may be like.

Unpredictable commodity prices and an ever-changing economy further add to the challenges they face.

Considering what they currently face, it appears that for our farming community there are no quick answers or easy fixes. Their most critical challenge is a dilemma intertwined with ours—the nation needs to put food on the table. But, as a well-known agricultural economist (Wandile Sihlobo) recently said, "All is not lost. There still is hope, and that can be found in contemporary best farming practices.”

Syngenta, a world leader in agri-business, recently held its Smart Farm Proven Technology Summit for growers, with an emphasis on technology and innovation for smarter farming – a solution for the challenges our growers face and an opportunity for growers to reap a greater yield in a time that may seem bleak.

“The task of farmers is becoming more and more difficult. They know it’s time to step up their game—both for their own survival and the survival of the nation. Fortunately, South African growers know exactly where they stand; they also know exactly what is available to them and what can be done with it. This continuous strive toward forward thinking and the willingness to take risks is the power and future of the South African farmer,” says Antonie Delport, Managing Director, Syngenta South Africa.

Every day, our planet wakes up with an extra 200 000 people to feed. To meet this challenge and that of climate change, growers need to make wise decisions and smart choices. Improving crop protection and maximising soil productivity, effectiveness and sustainability,today is a science where SmartFarming is the main buzzword.

According to Delport, advances in technology represent one of the most powerful resources for increasing yields and mitigating the impact of water scarcity and climate change. The reality however, is that no single agricultural technology or farming practice will provide sufficient food for the future. Instead, we must advocate for and utilise a range of these technologies in order to maximise yields.

Syngenta’s application technology and formulation technology

As much as a third of a product can go to waste due to poor application practices. Fortunately, there is a lot growers can do to prevent their profits from shrinking. According to Ron Wohlhauser, Syngenta’s Application Technology Head in Switzerland, application greatly influences the biological effectiveness of a product.

He also states that efficacy is not only determined by the intrinsic activity of the product. How the product is applied, the equipment setup and calibration, and the type of sprayer that is used all play a role. Effective crop protection is only possible when the best product is applied in the best way.

But the product alone cannot do all the work.

Growers are able to control pests, weeds, insects and pathogens using crop protection products—if managed correctly, you have the ability to increase your yield. Formulation Technology is the science in which an active ingredient is formulated in a manner that increases pesticide effectiveness in the field, improves safety features, and enhances handling qualities. Without this technology, successful farming would be almost impossible.

Syngenta’s PotatoPack

Potatoes are an important crop in South Africa and account for approximately 45% of the total vegetable crop and 3% of the total agriculture production. With the global increase in consumption of potatoes, against the off-set of diminishing natural resources, the importance of producing more from less is high on the agenda. With PotatoPack, Syngenta offers a sensible, holistic approach towards increased crop production. Its numerous case studies of growers using PotatoPack have yielded encouraging results that outweigh alternate popular solutions.

When looking at the future of farming in South Africa there are also other innovations that counter the challenges faced by growers. Some of these include drones which to date, identifying bad crop patches has been a laborious task. The introduction of drones to agriculture changes that task completely giving growers new ways to increase yields and reduce crop damage.

Crop sensors also play a vital role to control irrigation, temperature and relative humidity which can help to optimise plant growth, reduce labour requirements and decrease insect and disease problems.

Automated tractor technologies can also be beneficial especially for growers with large commercial land. Imagine a 20-ton tractor using GPS satellite technology that can steer itself—the multi-tasking growers can focus their attention on other aspects of the farming business.

“The thought of owning or running a Smart Farm is very compelling. It suggests that you will always expect and produce things like a bigger yield because you are the Smart Farmer. Technology and Innovation which is driven by world-class science makes Smart Farming so much more achievable,” adds Delport.

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Issue 46


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