New technology will help achieve more regular cropping

Greater harvests. Increased yields. A more constant supply of produce to the market. Sounds too good to be true? Nope, actually this brand-new technology tool has already proven very successful among citrus and nut growers

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There is a new technology causing a stir among international fruit growers. This ground-breaking innovation monitors a fruit tree’s carbohydrate status, allowing for timely corrective action, if needed, to ensure an optimal harvest.

The technology – developed by frontier global agricultural company Agri Technovation and branded as ITEST CARBOHYDRATES – is especially effective in addressing alternate bearing by helping to establish a greater equilibrium between crops. This, in turn, leads to increased yields over time.

Alternate bearing – the tendency of trees to produce a heavy crop (“on-crop”) one year, and a light crop or no crop (“off-crop”) the following year – is a common problem in the growing of many types of fruit and nuts, and some, like avocados, which are heavy consumers of carbohydrates, are more impacted by it.

20 different crops may be utilised

According to Erik de Vries, Agri Technovation’s joint chief executive, the new tool has already proven very successful among citrus growers. It was recently extended to the avocado industry and will soon be launched for apples as well as macadamias, almonds, pecan nuts, vineyards and mangoes.

Erik de Vries, Agri Technovation’s joint chief executive. Photo: Supplied/Food For Mzansi
Erik de Vries, Agri Technovation’s joint chief executive. Photo: Supplied/Food For Mzansi

“We are looking at almost 20 different crops and have made good progress on about 14 of them. Over the last two years, the technology has been successfully implemented in the South African citrus industry and the analysis programme has already been developed up to cultivar level. The citrus programme is also being refined to become area-specific, which takes into consideration different climates.”

Countries that have already come on board by sending citrus and avocado samples to Agri Technovation’s analytical facility in Wellington, include the Unites States, Australia, New Zealand, Argentina, Peru, Morocco, Zambia and Zimbabwe. Mexico, Chile and Spain have also shown interest and planning for the receipt of their samples has started.

For the development of new crops, after analysing multiple samples for each growing area, norms are developed and vigorously tested before being rolled out commercially, first on a crop level and eventually on a cultivar level.

Timely application of management practices

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Effectively, the ITEST CARBOHYDRATES analysis programme monitors sugars and starch concentrations in leaves and roots at critical phenological stages throughout the season. This involves the routine analysis of tree roots and leaves, which is compared to a norm for sugar, starch and the total carbohydrate levels for the different phenological stages of the plant.

Any variance from the norm allows for the timely development of management practices, such as pruning, orchard manipulation and nutrition programmes, which will eventually help producers to ensure optimal plant growth and annual produce.

Carbohydrates play an important role in the development of flowers, the growth of tree organs (such as roots and vegetative shoots), the completion of fruit set and increased fruit growth. This is important for annuals and perennials like citrus, avocados, nuts and deciduous fruit, including apples, pears, grapes, cherries, nectarines, apricots, peaches and plums.

Constant supply of produce to consumer market

“I am convinced that this is a revolutionary breakthrough for agriculture,” says De Vries.

He says in essence, the energy status information gained from the analysis programme allows us to get a picture of what will happen in the plant over the next month or two, which in turn enables the company to be proactive in applying corrective management practices if need be.

“Over time, it will ensure a more constant supply of produce to the market, which is not only good for the consumer but has massive risk-mitigating advantages, especially for producers. This includes better income streams and stronger balance sheets for farmers.”

According to Corné Liebenberg, marketing director at partner firm Laeveld Agrochem, the introduction of the analysis programme to South Africa’s citrus industry – the world’s second largest exporter – has been hugely successful and has surpassed all expectations.

Game-changer for agriculture

“Almost all citrus farmers want to get on board as it is one of the few, if not the only, methods whereby one can make timely adjustments that can have a significant impact on returns. The proprietary methodology used by ITEST CARBOHYDRATES is a first in the world and is now sought after by countries like the United States, Spain and Australia,” says Liebenberg.

This is a game-changer for the agricultural industry, he adds.

“Up to now, there was no way of really addressing on-and-off seasons. Instead of responding reactively to what has happened in the past, Agri Technovation’s IP [intellectual property] allows fruit producers to look into the future to how their fruit and nut trees will produce and then respond proactively to ensure a productive harvest in the next season.

“The end results are greater harvests, better and more profitable farmers and increased foreign income from exports, which should ensure greater employment for the country.”

ALSO READ: How farmer Mregi uses technology and data to improve

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