Are you one of those farmers who are always on the look for the latest opportunities in agriculture? Well, look no further because Mzansi’s asparagus industry is where you need to be.
According to Grahame Osler, the national sales and marketing director at Denmar Estates, the South African asparagus industry needs new entrants.
“Unless there are new farmers that are going to come in, my worry is that a lot of the information and knowledge that we do have of the South African growing climate might actually fall away,” he says on this week’s Gather To Grow interactive discussion on Twitter.
Giving an overview of the industry in the country, Osler explains that it was first brought into South Africa by the Dutch settlers in the 1920’s. The first asparagus seedlings were planted in the eastern Free State.
What farmers should understand is that this crop is a desert plant that prefers well-drained soil, he explains.
“To grow asparagus successfully in South Africa, you must have access to water and irrigation. You can’t rely on dry land, sort of cropping and be at the mercy of the rain.
“Because if you do go through a drought season, it can cause severe damage to your production in the long term,” Osler states.
When it comes to growing preparations, the important thing to remember is that once you’ve planted asparagus, you can’t plant new crowns in that old lands.
“The asparagus leaves an enzyme in the ground … you need to then look for what we call virgin asparagus soil,” he advises.
Osler explains that the traditional asparagus season is quite short. The average natural season for green asparagus would be roughly 10 weeks. However, farmers often manipulate the plant to try and extend the season.
For new farmers, Osler says it is important to keep in mind input costs. He adds that asparagus seeds are very expensive.
In the session, Osler also unpacks the following:
- Export market opportunities;
- Optimal soil types for asparagus cultivation; and
- Different growing methods.
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