Climatic conditions appear to have normalised this year, but PF Theron, who joined his father, Wilhelm, on the family farm at the start of the drought, estimates that it can take up to 10 years for Karoo vegetation to recover its full carrying capacity.
“The problem is that you can’t accelerate veld recovery by sowing seed, because the ecosystem is highly sensitive and the vegetation extremely diverse,” he explains.
With climate change expected to result in more extreme conditions, the chances are high that the region could suffer another drought before the veld has fully recovered.
This would have been financially disastrous had Wilhelm not diversified into vegetable seed production a little more than 10 years ago, a move made possible by the farm’s good-quality borehole water.
The only downside to this is that the sheep must be taken off this grazing at least three weeks before slaughter, as the onions badly affect the smell of the meat.
“Believe me, not doing so is a mistake you’ll only make once!” says Theron.
The sheep are raised under extensive veld conditions and taken to the onion and spring onion lands after the seed has been harvested.
“These lands should supply enough feed for two to three months at a stocking rate of 30 sheep/ha,” says Theron.
“We lose up to 30% of our sheep every year due to predation, with black-backed jackal and caracal being the main problems even though the farm is surrounded by jackal-proof fencing.”
Ewes are scanned 60 to 90 days after being placed with the rams, irrespective of the mating season. Those that failed to conceive are culled.
Lambs born in June are sold in November, and those born around January are sold between May and June under normal conditions. “We’ve been forced to sell lambs earlier during the drought to ensure there’s enough feed for the core flock,” notes Theron.
“You can plant carrots after onions, but onions should only be planted on the same land once every four years,” explains Theron.
Production is extremely labour-intensive, but conveniently spread across the season.
“During the production season, we employ between 30 and 70 seasonal workers, and they need to help with everything from planting to weeding and harvesting of seed,” says Theron.
The lands are under drip irrigation, as this is the most efficient way of delivering water and fertiliser to the plants. Its main drawback is that Theron has to remove the dripper lines each time after use.
基于土壤湿度，气候条件和植物的物理外观，冬季和400 000亩/公顷的水量施加的水量范围为250 000°/公顷。
“In winter we might irrigate a block for four hours once a week, and this could increase to five hours every four days in summer,” says Theron.
农场没有访问Eskom电力,和energy is generated from solar panels, Lister Petter engines and a diesel generator.
“The diesel generator works out more expensive than the solar power, but is required where there isn’t enough sun,” says Theron.
The fertigation recipe has been developed to accommodate the plants’ nutritional demands at various growth stages, and are tweaked when deficiencies are identified.
Theron nonetheless scouts the lands regularly for signs of problems and addresses these timeously. Production depends heavily on cross- pollination, so he plants male and female plants in the correct ratio and relies on bees to do their work.
电子邮件pf theron[email protected]。