The activity where Natuurboerdery® philosophy is most visibly applied is in farming operations themselves. Here the aim is to construct an artificial healthy ecosystem in analogy to sustainable natural ones.
While ZZ2 had always had a strict regime of rotation and rest periods for tomato fields, experience showed that in the 1990’s even fallow periods of more than 6 years were not enough to recuperate the soil. Several new cultivation practices were experimented with. In 1984 tomatoes were for the first time planted on ridges to improve aeration of soil against fungal root diseases. In 1998 Ozone was added to irrigate water for the same purpose, but later abandoned in favour of compost, NemaLan and EM – soil conditioners which were developed in the early 2000s.
In cultivation the greatest improvement came through the adoption of the new LSL and long growing cultivars such as Nemonetta and Graziella in 2003. This introduced several new protocols: e.g. planting double rows; terminating and sanitising old stands; and the art of controlling fruit development by judicious pruning. Selecting for varieties with long shelf life became a priority, and led to an ongoing collaboration with seed developers. ZZ2 is still field-testing dozens of cultivars in extensive field tests every year in search of healthier, sturdier and tastier cultivars.
Cultivation practices were constantly improved.
Single row cultivation with different lane width was bought back in 2013; a sensible protocol of always working against the wind when planting, pruning and harvesting was introduced; tomato refuse from terminated lands and packhouses which used to be dumped was found to be safe after composting, and a valuable source of organic K.
The avocado orchards, which were exponentially enlarged from about 180 hectares in 2005 to nearly 1000 hectares in 2017, are established with the best Natuurboerdery® approach from the beginning.
Against local conventions trees were planted on massive ridges to prevent root diseases, and polliniser trees were included in all new plantings. A nursery, working with both seed grown and cloned trees, is now the leading producer of avocado trees in SA and through intensive interaction with growers in Mexico, Israel, USA and South America, possesses possibly the greatest variety of genetic material worldwide.
All avocados are grown with drip irrigation, with compost and mulch added to the soil.
Judicious pruning and control of vegetative growth, matching genetics to soil, altitude and water quality, and many sophisticated cultivation practices enable us to harvest eleven months of the year at yields of up to 55 tonnes/ha.
Other tree crops derive similar benefits from our Natuurboerdery® principles. Our Cape apple and pear orchards are setting the standard for fruit quality and yields, mainly due to quality compost and precision irrigation.
Cherry and almond orchards are in development, and will be cultivated along Natuurboerdery® guidelines from the start. Cultivation of tomatoes in greenhouses and nethouses was started in 2008, and has now grown to 140 hectares.
The savings in natural costs are dramatic.
Every hectare nethouse offsets and frees about 5 hectare open cultivation. Per tonne tomatoes, insecticides, diesel-consumption and machinery cost drop to a fraction, and water consumption is cut by 60%.
The cradle to grave carbon cost of the structure are many times offset against these carbon-costs saved. Our many consultants, both local and international, continuously helped us improve our cultivation practices.