Mornings are cooler, most air chills the face, mist and thick clouds loom on the horizon. The days are becoming shorter and pleasurably cooler, although still warm on sunny afternoons. Occasional storms, rain, and thick mist have returned. Autumn, the season of new growth and new beginnings in the Bokkeveld has arrived.
The excitement can hardly be contained as we implement our organic farming production at Avontuur Sustainable Agriculture. At Avontuur we treasure soil, we value organic material and we soil microbial organisms. We believe that healthy, well-nurtured soils ensure sustainable production. This year we are very excited to expand our practises.
Our practise is focused on a transdisciplinary approach, ensuring conservation of the natural environment and embracing sustainable agricultural production practises that are underpinned by sound research and collaboration with colleagues from different disciplines. Our agricultural practices are focused on maximising soil health and producing sustainably in the face of the changing climate. Siyabonga Myeza’s enthusiasm, experience and understanding of conservation and ecosystem functioning combined with Noel Oettle’s knowledge and experience of Sustainable Land Management and Dryland conservation give heart, soul and feet to the project.
In our experience good soil preparation is crucial in achieving soil health and enhanced production. Understanding that soil is a living thing and is home to communities of micro- and macro-organisms living in it is important. Knowledge of how these organisms benefit soil and plant health affords any farmer priceless advantage in his or her practice. We have learned that working with forces of nature yields sustainable outcomes. In drylands, nourishing the soil with organic material such as compost and covering the soil with mulch or cover crops will protect it from harsh heat of the sun, dehydrating winds and compaction of the soil surface from intense raindrops. This contributes to the health of mycorrhizal fungi in the soil, which are critical for plant nutrition and health.
In the demonstration market garden on Avontuur we are currently growing broad beans to improve and enrich the soil, and garlic for the market. The soil has been enriched with compost made on the premises and sheep manure from the Oorlogskloof farm kindly provided by Rickus Louw. A layer of mulch of old chaff provides food for the microbes and earthworms that use it to enrich the soil, whilst also supressing weeds and conserving water in the soil. The beans are up and thriving and the garlic is pushing its spears up through the mulch. We are very optimistic about what the future holds for Avontuur.