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April / May 2020


SA Fruit Journal: April / May 2020


A testimony for drip irrigation in pome fruit

While the perception that drip irrigation is not the best option for pome fruit is a common one, a beautiful orchard of Abate Fetel pears on Weltevrede farm tells a different story. Despite the rocky nature of the site, this piece of land with its consistently high production figures delivered an impressive 80 tons/ha in 2019.

According to Mico Stander, Director at Agrimotion and technical advisor to the farm, drip irrigation was a major contributor to their success this past season.

Keeping a close eye on irrigation

Precise and careful management is crucial for drip irrigation on pome fruit, says Stander, especially on the type of soil found at Weltevrede Farm.
The block with medium suitability soil and 80% rocks, was irrigated with a double line drip from the start. “The team, led by Recardo Vrey, knows exactly how much water is delivered per season, and it is noted weekly. Therefore, they can plan ahead for droughts or to plant more hectares.”
The block’s drip irrigation allows the trees to deliver high yields, while using low volumes of water. In the 2017/8 season, the orchard’s water usage was 5 061 m3/ha, which is far less than the usual 7 000 to 10 000 m3/ha. Lessons from a successful season From here onwards, the team is hoping for continued and sustainable high yields. For things to go as well as in the previous few seasons would be a success in itself.
“We are not taking any chances,” says Stander. “The cultivar is sensitive to fruit size and therefore we don’t want to overplay our hand. Hand thinning is done as early as possible (two large and one medium pear per bunch) and enough water and food are provided on time.” Piet Niewoudt is involved from a horti-cultural perspective.
According to Stander, they learnt two very important lessons in the previous season. Firstly, the benefits of drip irrigation on pome. Secondly, the suitability of BA29 over BP1 rootstocks for Abate Fetel.

“If research and experience show that BA29 is better than BP1 for this cultivar, and that drip is more effective than micro-irrigation (according to their strategy), then you have to make the right decisions. You have to do everything in your power to achieve good results year after year.” ✤



Producer: Arborlane Estates (WP van der Merwe) Farm managers: Recardo Vrey and WP van der Merwe Technical advisors: Mico Stander (Agrimotion), Luan le Roux (Agrimotion) and Piet Nieuwoudt (Fruit Tree Services)

Rootstocks: BA29

Cultivar: Abate Fetel

Plant date: 2009

Plant spacing: 4 x 1.25 m, 2000 trees/ha

Production figures: 1st – 3rd leaf (2009-2011) – 0
4th leaf (2012) – 21 tons/ha
5th leaf (2013) – 23 tons/ha
6th leaf (2014) – 50 tons/ha
7th leaf (2015) – 90 tons/ha
8th leaf (2016) – 70 tons/ha
9th leaf (2017) – 73 tons/ha
10th leaf (2018) – 82 tons/ha (Percentage juice < 10%)
11th leaf (2019) – 80 tons/ha (estimated at 180g per fruit

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