El Nino, La Nina, and The Southern Oscillation Index (SOI) form part of a climatic cycle called the El Nino Southern Oscillation (ENSO). ENSO describes the fluctuations in temperature between the ocean and the atmosphere in the east and central Pacific Ocean... Read more
SEl Nino, La Nina, and The Southern Oscillation Index (SOI) form part of a climatic cycle called the El Nino Southern Oscillation (ENSO). ENSO describes the fluctuations in temperature between the ocean and the atmosphere in the east and central Pacific Ocean.
El Nino and La Nina are opposites of one another. We refer to El Nino as the "warm phase", and to La Nina as the "cold phase" of the Pacific Ocean. During El Nino years, warmer waters shift eastwards towards the central Pacific. During La Nina years warmer water shift westwards towards the Australian coast causing the central Pacific Ocean to be much cooler. The shifting of cold and warmer water is an example of how the Pacific Ocean not only influences our local climate but also how it influences the global climate. The change in the ocean temperature causes disruptions in the normal wind circulation patterns causing changes in rainfall patterns globally.
SOI is the atmospheric element of El Nino. The Walker Circulation (Figure 1) describes the way tropical air moves between low and high-pressure regions in the tropical Pacific Ocean. During El Nino periods, the low pressure moves eastward towards the central Pacific together with the warming ocean while during La Nina periods it moves more westwards towards Australia resulting in changes in the global circulation patterns.
Figure 1 Visual representation of the air flow in the Pacific Ocean during neutral conditions, courtesy of NOAA (NOAA Climate.gov drawing by Fiona Martin)
SOI is calculated by comparing the air pressure differences between Tahiti and Darwin. Negative values below -7 usually indicate El Nino conditions, when the air pressure is below normal over Tahiti and above-normal over Darwin. Positive values above 7 usually indicate La Nina conditions with above-normal air pressure over Tahiti and below normal air pressure over Darwin.
Between 1950 and 2003, about 14 El Nino events affected the world's climate with the 1997/98 El Nino event being the most brutal although South Africa escaped the worst of it.
The current ENSO situation
The current (27 September 2015) SOI value of -18,1 indicated the presence of a strong El Nino event. Current climate predictions (Figure 2) by the Australian Bureau of Meteorology indicate the strengthening of El Nino conditions until the end of the year. Predictions further indicate that El Nino conditions should start to weaken from next year with the possibility of reaching neutral conditions by June 2016.
Figure 2 Current El Nino/La Nina predictions provided by the Australian Bureau of Meteorology.
ENSO and South Africa
Periods of below normal rainfall in South Africa are usually linked with the El Nino event while above normal rainfall is usually linked to La Nina. Only 30% of South Africa's rainfall variability can be attributed to ENSO events. South Africa has various climatic regions, and each region has its unique correlation with ENSO.
Recent El Nino events with relatively little impact on South Africa's rainfall occurred in 94/95, 97/98, 04/05 and 09/10 while severe impacts occurred in 82/83, 86/87, 91/92, 02/03, and 06/07. During the 87/88 El Nino South Africa received above normal rainfall.
Rainfall statistics for the last 10 El Nino events for December to March released by the USGS indicate that the Limpopo Province is the most vulnerable to El Nino, receiving below normal rainfall 5 times during the period. During the same time, the eastern region of Limpopo received below normal rainfall, between 6 to 8 times. The Northern Cape Province is another province that is affected, with the majority of the region receiving below normal rainfall at least 5 times, with small areas receiving below normal rainfall between 6 to 8 times. The remainder of South Africa was influenced by El Nino between 1 to 3 times the last 10 El Nino Events.
ENSO events have influenced South Africa's climate in the past. Its impact, however, is mainly limited to specific regions although all of South Africa has experienced below normal rainfall during El Nino at some point in the past. Areas most vulnerable to the effects of El Nino are Limpopo and the Northern Cape Provinces.
Over the last several decades the inability of current cropping systems to sustain production has led to the development of conservation agriculture concepts and practices. For example, the breakdown of soil structure (through excessive tillage), poor mineralisation, the build-up of pests and diseases ... Read more
Over the last several decades the inability of current cropping systems to sustain production has led to the development of conservation agriculture concepts and practices. For example, the breakdown of soil structure (through excessive tillage), poor mineralisation, the build-up of pests and diseases (from poor crop rotation), are causing this decline. Other factors include excessive water run-off and decline of soil fauna and flora, to name a few.
Conservation agriculture is a combination of practices aimed at halting this decline. It strives to achieve acceptable profits together with high and sustained production levels while conserving the environment and ensuring sustainability. CA encompasses organic production systems but retains the obligation of ensuring financial viability for the farmer.
CA is characterized by minimal mechanical soil disturbance (that is, reduced tillage or zero tillage); permanent organic soil cover (mulch); and diversified crop rotations or companion crops in plantations. All these practices improve the soil structure, increase soil fauna and flora, improve nitrogen mineralisation, reduce water run-off and pressure from crop pests.
However, there is one activity that requires deeper analysis in the context of current cropping practices namely mulching. Mulching the soil with residue from the previous crop not only conserves moisture but also inhibits weed growth by shading the soil. But this is not completely effective, and some weeds always grow through the mulch. Small-scale farmers control these weeds manually with minimal disturbance to the soil, maintaining minimum-tillage principles. However, in large-scale crops hand-weeding is not always a viable option. The recommended practice is to apply a post-emergent spray using the herbicide glyphosate (Roundup). Glyphosate is an extremely effective option especially in crops that have been genetically modified to be resistant to the chemical. That is, "Roundup-Ready" crops, such as varieties of soya, maize, canola, cotton and sorghum.
However, attention must be paid to some current contentious issues, surrounding the use of glyphosate. Glyphosate was first registered as a non-selective systemic herbicide by the agrochemical company Monsanto in 1974; it was used for industrial purposes but never sold in great volumes for a number of years. In the 90's, with the advent of genetic engineering techniques, breeding of herbicide-resistant crops became a priority. Glyphosate was selected as the herbicide of choice because it had low mammalian toxicity and no persistence in the soil (it has to be applied to actively growing weeds).
Monsanto itself bred glyphosate-resistant ("Roundup-Ready") strains of maize, soya, cotton and sorghum. From there, their use expanded rapidly and today these GM crops are grown across the world both in reduced tillage and conventional tillage systems. However, of most significance is the fact that during the last 20 years glyphosate use has increased 30-fold, and it is now the most-used herbicide globally. Because of this, glyphosate residues are now found in the soil, in drinking water, food products and ground water. Consequently the effects of the chemical on human health enjoys intensely investigation, and the International Agency for Research on Cancer, IARC (WHO), issued a statement in March 2015 stating glyphosate was "probably carcinogenic in humans".
The issue has become emotive. On the one hand, there are groups calling for the withdrawal of glyphosate and GMO crops in general, and, on the other hand, the validity of this research is being questioned. The Environmental Protection Agency, EPA, traditionally an objective custodian of the environment and health, has spent years reviewing evidence on glyphosate and will re-assess their position on its use later this year.
From these claims, counter claims and discussions, what can the average farmer learn or do about this?
Firstly, amongst the confusion and emotive statements, one must distinguish between glyphosate (Roundup) and GM crops. The adverse health issues originate from the chemical and not from the genetic nature of the crop.
Secondly in South Africa, 70% of the GM maize (which is the most common GM crop) is bred for insect-resistance, not herbicide-resistance. Calling for a ban on the use of all GM maize would have a negative effect on national maize production in the short-term (up to 80% of maize products sold in South Africa have GM content).
Thirdly, if glyphosate is withdrawn from use, alternative options must be proposed. This is particularly important for large-scale reduced-tillage systems; there are crop varieties resistant to other herbicides but are these sustainable options?
Fourthly, the lesson must be learnt, that there are often unexpected downsides when using chemicals intensely. The goal of sustainable and productive cropping systems is obviously desirable, but new systems must be questioned and refined continuously.
Today's farmers work hard to improve their farming livelihood and ensure its sustainability. Farmers have learnt that to grow their enterprises, they needed to move away from producing what they want, to producing what buyers want. Against this backdrop, many farmers now sell fresh produce to markets... Read more
Today's farmers work hard to improve their farming livelihood and ensure its sustainability. Farmers have learnt that to grow their enterprises, they needed to move away from producing what they want, to producing what buyers want. Against this backdrop, many farmers now sell fresh produce to markets already overcrowded with the same produce - and the competition (over-supply), affects profit margins. For farmers to succeed in this environment, product differentiation is a solution to consider.
Farmers expand their market base by exploiting value adding opportunities. Value adding are extra features added to products that consumers are willing to acquire at a higher cost. Value adding takes many forms. While one farmer may just remove the excess soil and bunch his carrots, another may cut the tops, wash, sort, grade, package, brand, and have them sliced up. The second farmer took the time and effort to add something extra (adding value) to his produce, making it different and more appealing to consumers. The two farmers will receive different prices in the market simply because by adding more value gives the one a competitive advantage, resulting in higher prices. An important aspect is finding the synergy between a farmers' capacity to add value, and his ability to market the resulting product.
Adding value comes in different forms for different agricultural commodities. Basic activities that add value to agricultural fresh produce include processes like cleaning, sorting, grading, cutting, packaging, and cooling. More advanced processes include transforming the raw materials into products like jams, jellies, pickled vegetables and dried products. Adding value also maintains product quality, extends shelf life, enhances the produce appearance, or creates entirely new products.
Farmers can, therefore, increase their profit margins by adding value to their produce, and as a result, contribute to sustainable rural development. Value adding is a long-term approach that requires the commitment and ability to take calculated risks, invest capital, develop management skills, and dealing with additional rules and regulations. Adding value is putting in more work, for higher returns.
Extension Suite Online® provides Value adding activities for each commodity - go to Plant Production; Economics; and under Adding Value see Value Chains.
South Africa lies within a subtropical belt of high pressure causing sunny skies and reduced precipitation. For this reason, South Africa is rated as 27th amongst the driest countries in the world, with a mean annual precipitation of 500mm, compared to the global average of 850mm... Read more
South Africa lies within a subtropical belt of high pressure causing sunny skies and reduced precipitation. For this reason, South Africa is rated as 27th amongst the driest countries in the world, with a mean annual precipitation of 500mm, compared to the global average of 850mm.
Atmospheric pressure is affected by temperature and altitude. Warm air causes low pressure while cold air causes high-pressure systems.
The following air currents affect the climate of South Africa:
Two important ocean currents influence South Africa's climate. The warm Agulhas current, with a temperature of around 20 °C, originates at the Equator and flows south along the east coast of Africa. This current is a fast moving one and due to the high temperatures, evaporation is fast, causing precipitation.
The Benguela current originates in the Antarctic and flows north along the west coast of Africa. This current is a slow moving one with temperatures between 9 and 12 °C. The Benguela current supports an abundance of fish species and is very lucrative to the fishing industry. However, because of the low temperatures, very little evaporation takes place and this result in very little rainfall along the west coast.
South Africa lies between the 22° and 35° south latitudes. One degree of latitude equals 100 km. Temperature is affected by latitude. Annual temperatures decrease as the latitude increases and the effect of this aspect also becomes more pronounced. If all conditions were similar, the temperature would change by 0.4 to 0.6 °C for every one degree change, in latitude.
Altitude in South Africa varies from sea level to 3,400 m above sea level. For every 100 meter decrease in altitude, temperature increases by 0.5°C. If conditions are considered to be equal, Cape Town will have a mean annual temperature of 15.9°C while Table Mountain will have a mean annual temperature of 12.1°C. The reason for this lies in the difference of 760 meters in altitude.
For topographical purposes, South Africa consists of three areas:
The plateau ranges in elevation from 3400 meters in Lesotho, to 600 meters in the Kalahari. The Highveld is the main plateau in general terms, and here the altitude varies between 1,200 to 1,800 meters above sea level.
The coastal belt lies between the escarpment and the coastline. This area varies in width from 60 to 80 km in the west to 80 to 240 km in the south and east of South Africa. Aspect (the compass direction that a slope faces), has a major influence on temperatures. North-facing and western slopes are always warmer than eastern and south-facing slopes.
The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations defines household food security as "access by all household members at all times to adequate, safe and nutritious food for a healthy and productive life"... Read more
The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations defines household food security as "access by all household members at all times to adequate, safe and nutritious food for a healthy and productive life".
Food security is one of the biggest daily challenges that South Africa faces. There are several key role players involved in efforts to challenge food shortages. Livestock production is one of them. While serving as a contributor in food production, it also plays an important role in poverty alleviation. Livestock products create employment opportunities in the clothing industry worldwide, with accompanying financial rewards for farmers.
Livestock and livestock products mainly, are important contributors to total food production. Livestock and livestock products serve as a good source of high-quality protein as well as micro-nutrients such as iron, zinc and vitamins B-12 and A.
Industry contributions to the clothing industry includes providing skins, fibres and livestock manure to serve as natural fertilizer.
The milk industry in South Africa contributes about 0.5% to the world's milk production. At the same time, the pork industry, which is relatively big in terms of the overall South African agricultural sector, contributes 2.15% to the primary agricultural sector. With the high demand for nutritious food and consumers becoming more health conscious, livestock products play a major role in supplying many of the required nutrients.
The agricultural industry is the major food producer and employer responsible for 8 % of employment in the country. Key priorities of the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (DAFF) include the alleviation of poverty, creating employment and improving food security.
As part of the strategy to overcome food shortages in our country, farmers will have to manage their livestock to fight food security challenges. Comprehensive information on animal production is available on Extension Suite Online® that will assist farmers in managing their livestock.
Farmers are inclined to concentrate more on the production and operational stages of farming, and tend to postpone planning important activities like marketing for the last moment. The result is neglect of the "business" side of farming - often with disastrous effects. The production of agricultural produce requires effort and financial resources. It therefore makes little sense... Read more
Farmers are inclined to concentrate more on the production and operational stages of farming, and tend to postpone planning important activities like marketing for the last moment. The result is neglect of the "business" side of farming - often with disastrous effects. The production of agricultural produce requires effort and financial resources. It therefore makes little sense, to even think of producing while there is not certainty of what happens to the product immediately after harvesting. Experience tells us that this is often the case with small-scale producers. They don't know in advance where they will sell, who their potential customer will be, and at what price. If this knowledge is not available in advance, the size of the yield and the quality of the produce will not matter much. Without markets, production will be wasteful and futile, and farmers should therefore spend as much time and effort on marketing, as they do on production.
Farmers must know who their customers are, how much customers are prepared to pay for what (quantity and quality), and how often (consistency). The market unfortunately, is the final adjudicator of all processes of production.
Extension practitioners play an important role in ensuring that farmers gain access to reliable market prices and marketing information through their usage of Extension Suite Online (ESO). The system provides information on markets and market prices, as well as on value-adding and product marketing. ESO further offers information on the different marketing channels that farmers can use through the Economics Information Option on the Sidebar, under the Business Models Information Sub-Item.
The Sub-Item also contains helpful information on co-operatives (group marketing) and contract farming (direct marketing). Extension Practitioners will also find other marketing channels available on value chains under the Economics: "Adding Value": Information Sub-Item, to assist farmers. The value-chain chart maps the different marketing channels for commodities available on the system and includes; farm gate marketing, hawkers, informal markets, National Fresh Produce Markets, exporters, etc.
Value-adding (another form of marketing) presents users with practices such as proper harvesting methods, handling, grading, packaging, and storage methods, etc. Value-adding is important for a competitive advantage as it makes products more appealing to consumers, and introduces new markets to producers including the possibility of higher profit margins.
Marketing needs should be directing production in accordance with what markets require. Efficient agricultural marketing stimulates production, increases profit margins as well as the competitive advantage in the market.
Conservative estimates of post-harvest grain losses in Africa range from 10 to 20 percent prior to processing (African Post-harvest Losses Information System, APHLIS). Other sources cite figures as high as 40 percent. Whatever the amount... Read more
Conservative estimates of post-harvest grain losses in Africa range from 10 to 20 percent prior to processing (African Post-harvest Losses Information System, APHLIS). Other sources cite figures as high as 40 percent. Whatever the amount, the important point is: that reducing these losses would make grain available with no additional expense in terms of land area, seed, fertiliser or water. Quantifying this amount of loss, from another perspective, shows it equates to the amount of cereal imported annually into sub-Saharan Africa.
Furthermore food losses contribute to higher food prices by removing part of the potential supply from the market. There is also an impact on the environment because resources such as land, water, fertilisers and energy are used to produce and handle grain that no-one consumes.
There are various causes for post-harvest grain losses; these can be divided into two main groups. Technical causes may include poor harvesting methods, incorrect drying techniques (leading to disease), poor storage conditions resulting in pest infestations and damage, spoilage by animals, and grain contamination. Governance-related causes are generally off-farm, such as poor sales, procurement, storage, distribution and marketing practices.
However, for individual small-scale farmers the most important practice under their control is storage. They store grains through the year for domestic use, but often sell excess grain as soon as possible for cash-flow reasons and to avoid any possible storage losses. This means selling at a time when many other farmers sell; prices are consequently low which further penalises the small-scale farmer. If the farmer could reduce grain losses, domestic supplies would be bolstered and grain could be kept, without fear of loss, for later sale when market prices were favourable.
The question is "how can the individual small-scale farmer significantly reduce grain losses during storage?" Firstly all post-harvest best practices must be followed from harvesting to consumption or sale of the grain. Secondly there are some simple storage technologies that greatly assist farmers to reduce losses.
The most important of these is the use of hermetically sealed grain-storage systems; hermetic-storage systems eliminate all exchange of gases between the inside and outside of the container. Insects within the container will deplete the oxygen until they die or become inactive because of low oxygen levels. Hermetically sealed containers suit small-scale farmers because they eliminate the need for insecticides which are often expensive and difficult to obtain. To ensure the success of hermetic-storage, other storage problems must be avoided; grain must be clean and dried to below 14% moisture (preventing fungal mould growth). Containers must also be robust to protect the grains from birds and rodents.
There are three main types of hermetic grain-storage suitable for small-scale farmers. The first is a galvanised steel silo with a capacity of 200 to 1400 kg of grain. The silos have a life expectancy of more than 25 years and are suited to storage of maize, beans, sorghum, rice, and wheat. The price of a 1400 kg silo is estimated at about R 2 000. The second type uses plastic bags to achieve hermetic-storage. Fifty to 100 kg of grain is placed in a high-density polyethylene bag of 80μm thickness. A second bag is placed around this and then a third woven polypropylene bag is used for strength; it can then be handled without bursting. The life of the bags is about 2 years and the cost is approximately R 40. This storage technique is often referred to as the PICS system; it was pioneered by entomologist Larry Murdock at Purdue Improved Crop Storage Systems, PICS. The third method of hermetic-storage is to use re-cycled plastic containers. The suggested container is a 10 litre plastic oil container which can hold about 8kg of grain. Weevils do not survive in the container and maize has been stored for several months. The containers cost about R 15 and can last up to 3 years.
The use of these hermetic-storage systems has not been adopted by farmers as widely as hoped. Some reasons for this are, firstly, the lack of awareness of the technology not only amongst small-scale farmers but even extension agents. This highlights the value of an on-line information system such as Agrisuite® which bridges the gap between research, extension and the farmer. Secondly, small-scale farmers are influenced by financial considerations when deciding on new technologies. Initial capital costs can be prohibitively high especially if stainless steel silos are used. Furthermore, small-scale farmers require evidence of the financial benefits of adopting the technology. This can be difficult, but can be achieved by the involvement of some innovative famers. These individuals will provide a lead for the community. Development agencies (public sector) play an important role, at this incubation stage, in supporting the individual initiatives and promoting their dissemination.
Hermetic storage in plastic PICS bags (Purdue University)
While we enjoy the welcome warmer weather and signs of new growth that spring brings forth, the time also marks the start of yet another busy season for farmers. Along with the newest additions to herds and flocks when the calving and lambing season starts, it is also the time that farmers... Read more
Support at Extension Suite Online® is unique in the sense that our aim is not merely about giving a quick solution to an existing user query, but is more aimed at helping users understand and use our product continuously. It is a positive effort to guide users into using Extension Suite Online®, in the easiest and most effective manner. Because of the extent of content and functions on the system, some users require multiple help efforts.
Extension Suite Online® Users can contact the Extension Suite Online® Help Desk on "0860 376 376 / 072 382 8278" or email at "email@example.com". At the Help Desk, officers filter the queries and direct them to relevant subject matter experts - IT, Plants, Animals, Economics, GIS and Extension.
Alternatively users can use the "Question and Answer" facility on the Extension Suite Online® main page to look for previously asked questions as a possible source of assistance. They can also click on the "Ask question" icon to post a subject specific question to the Help Desk who again, will direct it to the relevant subject matter expert.
Extension Suite Online® users receive support about registrations and access to Extension Suite Online®, as well as training on using the system. This includes guidance on where to find useful tools on Extension Suite Online® to assist their farmers, and improve service delivery. Everyday queries are mainly about forgotten usernames and passwords, login problems, and changing user particulars. Over the past five years, all queries and problems received were successfully attended to, showing Support and Help Desk efforts.
While we enjoy the welcome warmer weather and signs of new growth that spring brings forth, the time also marks the start of yet another busy season for farmers. Along with the newest additions to herds and flocks when the calving and lambing season starts, it is also the time that farmers... Read more
While we enjoy the welcome warmer weather and signs of new growth that spring brings forth, the time also marks the start of yet another busy season for farmers. Along with the newest additions to herds and flocks when the calving and lambing season starts, it is also the time that farmers need to have a re-look at their health programmes. Tick numbers begin to rise with the increase in temperatures with peak activity occurring during the summer months.
Apart from damage to the skin from tick bites, ticks are important vectors of many tick-borne diseases. Growth and production losses are experienced when infestations are moderate to heavy due to anaemia, severe irritation and tick worry caused by a toxin in the saliva of ticks. Tick-borne diseases can cause large losses in unvaccinated livestock.
While ticks exist all year round, their numbers rise during the warmer months when they start becoming more active. Ticks have a huge economic impact for farmers who will need to start dipping their animals more regularly to control them. It is important for farmers to follow a proper health programme and to use registered products to control ticks. Using dips incorrectly can cause ticks to build up resistance to many of the chemicals used to control them.
To correctly control tick numbers, it is important to know the species of ticks prevalent in the area and when they will normally be at their most active. Hard ticks fall into three groups based on their lifecycle and understanding these lifecycles will help in the control of ticks. Ticks that only have one host, such as the blue tick, are easier to control because all their life stages occur on one host. They are however the most likely to develop resistance to dips. Ticks with 2 or 3 hosts are more difficult to control since they have an intermediate host that often includes a wild animal that is not treated, thus allowing the nymphs to moult into adults.
Extension Suite Online® can help users in several ways from learning to identify different ticks and the different diseases they cause, to finding contact details of local vets that can offer assistance with health programmes and tick control. Users can find information on the different lifecycles of ticks as well as tips for dipping.
It is important that users work with a local vet who will be able to recommend the best products to use and advise on a tick treatment programme based on the area. The vet will also know about the parasites found there as well as the types of animals farmed. Since not all ticks are widely distributed across South Africa, a vet will be able to advise a vaccination schedule as well. Some areas are high-risk areas, for some important tick-borne diseases like Heartwater. Vets will be able to assist with vaccinating animals, especially new animals entering the area.
Extension Suite Online® offers the contact details of local vets and offers a wide range of health and management guidelines that can assist users in identifying ticks and learning to control them to prevent high losses from tick-borne diseases.
Manstrat measures User ratings on Extension Suite Online® by monitoring utilisation activity in the nine provinces, by attaching a value to visits, pages visited and duration of visits. A rating is then calculated to establish within each province which is the top provincial user. The highest score attained by the nine top provincial users determines the Extension Suite Online® National Top User... Read more
Manstrat measures User ratings on Extension Suite Online® by monitoring utilisation activity in the nine provinces, by attaching a value to visits, pages visited and duration of visits. A rating is then calculated to establish within each province which is the top provincial user. The highest score attained by the nine top provincial users determines the ESO National Top User. Provincial users receive recognition through being mentioned in reports, interviews and during extension meetings.
Lesego Phakedi from Gauteng (GDARD) has been one of South Africa's top Extension Suite Online® users for some years. He has won the National Top User award four times in a row and remains on provincial and national top user lists to this day.
Lesego explained the impact that Extension Suite Online has on his farmers:
"Extension Suite Online®, as an information system has a vast array of agricultural information topics. It is designed to equip, empower and simplify the daily work of agricultural officers (Extension officers, Economics and Specialists and others).
The easily available and accessible information that one can access and experience by using Extension Suite Online® has built the confidence of many an agricultural officer. When interacting with farmers on a day to day basis this confidence in one's work is translated to one's clients. Most of them are aspiring farmers who may have the will to farm, but not the information to support what they want to establish. Emerging and commercial farmers are also often dependant on the information I can provide through Extension Suite Online®.
The impact that Extension Suite Online® has on the farmers that I work with is an exceptionally positive one due to the results achieved on the farms in terms of product quantity and quality on of products.
The farmers we work with daily range from start-up to active farmers. When experience farmers challenges, with Extension Suite Online® I can manage and solve them immediately, instead having to search through heaps of material or by trying to get hold of specialists.
The system harbours various benefits:
In a nutshell, Extension Suite Online® is a very important tool since it is informative, easy to use, understandable and accessible, also serving the purpose of assisting the development of farmers."
Grazing capacity is the grazable portion of a homogeneous unit of vegetation and defined as the area of land required to maintain a single animal unit without the deterioration of the vegetation or soil. To properly manage veld, one needs to balance the stocking rate of various species with the grazing capacity of the veld. When discussing grazing capacity, the term... Read more
Grazing capacity is the grazable portion of a homogeneous unit of vegetation and defined as the area of land required to maintain a single animal unit without the deterioration of the vegetation or soil. To properly manage veld, one needs to balance the stocking rate of various species with the grazing capacity of the veld. When discussing grazing capacity, the term "large stock unit" normally refers to an animal with a minimum mass of 450 kg, while stocking rates refer to the area of land allocated to each animal unit. Grazing capacity refers therefore to the number of animals the vegetation can sustain under normal circumstances. Stocking rate refers to the number of animals carried on a given piece of land for a limited/unsustainable period for feeding purposes. To find the balance between true grazing capacity and stocking rates, however, is difficult to achieve since various animal species impact their environments differently.
Many factors affect the productivity of vegetation in an area. Vegetation succession, the progressive development of vegetation has an impact on the grazing capacity. Vegetation that is in a pioneer state - hardy species that manage to colonise previously disrupted or damaged pieces of land - will be dominated by low yielding annual grasses resulting in a low grazing capacity. Vegetation in a predominantly climax state -vegetation developed in a specific area over a length of time that reach equilibrium, adapting to the conditions present in an area - will have a higher grazing capacity. Other aspects that play an important role in vegetation productivity include the special and temporal changes in the soil and water regime, the fire regime, soil nutrients and other determinants such as altitude and slope. Intensity, frequency and seasonal grazing play a role in the long term on vegetation productivity.
A simplified grazing capacity layer is available for use on Extension Suite Online® in the Environmental section. This layer was developed by using a satellite-derived vegetation index. The NDVI (Normalized Difference Vegetation Index) derived product was statistically transformed using existing grazing capacity ground data. Users can access the final grazing capacity map for planning purposes since it gives the user the expected grazing capacity for a specific region. It should be taken into account that the grazing capacity layer uses long-term NDVI data and that it will not be able to give information on the variability/fluctuations in grazing capacity between years. This map simply provides a guide, but the farmer will still have to adapt grazing practices according to the climatic conditions each year.
The NDVI map section was developed to provide extension advisors with information about the extent of improvement or deterioration of vegetation or veld conditions. Normal NDVI conditions should always reflect the long-term grazing capacity conditions. When NDVI values increase in a region, it indicates improved grazing capacity. However, when NDVI values deteriorate, it indicates lower grazing capacity. NDVI data in the NDVI section is updated monthly to provide the user with the latest available information.
Legumes are second only to cereal crops (Graminaceae) in their importance to humans. They provide 27% of the world's crop produce; soybeans and groundnuts are the source of 35% of the world's processed vegetable oil. Furthermore, they are also a rich source of dietary protein for the chicken... Read more
Legumes are second only to cereal crops (Graminaceae) in their importance to humans. They provide 27% of the world's crop produce; soybeans and groundnuts are the source of 35% of the world's processed vegetable oil. Furthermore, they are also a rich source of dietary protein for the chicken and pork industries. Despite this importance, research has been more focused on cereals; yield improvements over the last 20 years in legumes have been only about 60% of those noted in cereals. These yield differences are even greater in small-scale growing conditions in Sub-Saharan Africa where yields of some legume crops are only 50% of those in developed countries. Soil degradation increased soil acidity, and intermittent droughts have exacerbated the problems.
Besides their importance in food production, legumes play an essential role in cropping and environmental systems through their nitrogen-fixation properties. Of the 19 000 species of legumes, 88% have the ability to fix atmospheric nitrogen in symbiosis with the rhizobia bacteria. Approximately 80% of the earth's atmosphere is nitrogen but this is not available to plants; the only other source of nitrogen for plant growth comes from weathering of rocks, but this is a negligible amount. Thus, virtually all plant and animal life is dependent on nitrogen-fixation.
Symbiotic bacteria reside in nodules on the roots of legumes and a few other plant species. These bacteria (mainly rhizobia) absorb the atmospheric nitrogen and convert it into ammonia and nitrates using photosynthate (energy) from the plant. These nitrogen compounds are soluble and can then easily be used by the plant to produce proteins, chlorophyll and other nitrogen-based compounds.
However, the "fixed" nitrogen remains within the plant and very little, if any, goes into the soil. The question is then â€œhow does this nitrogen become available to other non-fixing plants?â€ In the natural eco-system, the plants obviously die together with the bacteria and the nitrogen is then released into the soil.
In cultivated crops, the benefits from the nitrogen-fixation process are not as straight forward. When producers harvest a grain legume such as soybeans, most of the nitrogen is removed from the field. Humans and livestock benefit from the high protein food source, but the soil will still be deficient in nitrogen even if the soybean crop residue remains. This raises another question: "how do legumes provide any real benefit to cropping systems?"
Firstly if the crop is efficient at nitrogen-fixation, such as groundnuts, soybeans, and cowpeas, no nitrogen fertiliser needs to be applied. The nitrogen is obtained through fixation for "free" - up to 250 kg N/ha. The produce from these crops or pastures (alfalfa, clovers desmodium and others) is a source of high-protein food for humans and livestock.
There is, secondly, an environmental benefit. The use of nitrogen fertilisers, produced industrially, has increased 10-fold in the last 50 years and today this constitutes 30% of total nitrogen used or fixed annually. This fertiliser has contributed to the pollution of groundwater and the pollution of stored water (with consequent algae contamination). It has also increased soil acidity and other environmental problems; any reduction in its use, without downgrading crop performance, would be beneficial.
Thirdly there are numerous cropping practices, incorporating legumes, used to benefit non-legume crops. A couple of examples are firstly the use of legume crops as "green manures"; the legume is grown and then ploughed into the soil providing up to 250 kg N/ha. The following non-legume then obviously does not require nitrogen fertiliser. Secondly "alley-cropping" has been developed with non-legume crops growing between rows of leguminous trees (Acacia species, mopane trees, etc.). The trees are regularly pruned, and the trimmings are allowed to fall onto the soil and decompose, avoiding the use of nitrogen fertiliser.
Obviously nitrogen-fixation, as part of the nitrogen cycle, is necessary for all forms of life to persist on Earth. However, depletion of soil nutrients reduces efficiency of nitrogen-fixation and is a particular problem for small-scale farmers who cannot afford fertilisers. Nodulation and nitrogen-fixation in the soil are particularly affected by low phosphate levels and low pH. However, these problems can be overcome with more legume focused research. In Brazil, breeding selection for drought-tolerance, aluminium-tolerance (associated with low pH) and more efficient use of soil nutrients has resulted in soybean yields increasing by 120% over the last 30 years. These successes are critical and essential steps in ensuring legumes contribute to sustainable agricultural practices, particularly for small-scale farmers, going into the future.
In mathematics the saying "everything can be represented and understood through numbers" is widely supported. The same applies when providing a five-year overview of Extension Suite Online® user registration statistics... Read more
In mathematics the saying "everything can be represented and understood through numbers" is widely supported. The same applies when providing a five-year overview of Extension Suite Online® user registration statistics.
The number of registered Extension Suite Online® user accounts has grown by 154% since June 2010. The highest number of them (1 730) occurred in the first year 2010, with 1 328 in 2013. Today there are 4,390 registered users of Extension Suite Online® while the latest figures show that there are 3,342 Extension Advisors in South Africa. The rest of the numbers is made up from support and managerial functionaries - not regular users of the system.
Extension Suite Online® Users Statistics for the system is broken down into Registered and Activated accounts. Registered users are those registered by either their own provincial Systems Administrators, or by Manstrat Agricultural Intelligence Solutions Help Desk, and training personnel. Accounts activation is done by the officials themselves. Currently, activated accounts make up 62% (2 680), and non-activated 38% (1 710) of the total number of registered users - 4 390.
User databases are kept clean and functional by Manstrat through the removal of duplicates and other redundant registrations, and archiving accounts of officials that had left provincial departments. Archived accounts data is kept for research and recordkeeping purposes. Manstrat is dependent on information from the provinces about those who leave, or are added as new employees in order to keep user databases up to date. Accounts of former officials remaining on provincial databases have a negative effect on provincial user statistics.
Provinces can also improve their user statistics by motivating and encouraging registered officials to activate their accounts. Statistic proves that officials, who activate their accounts, develop the confidence to start exploring the system and quickly realise its immense value in contributing to the advisors' service delivery efforts.
Even with modern agriculture, and new farming techniques, animal power remains an important and effective tool for all farmers and society at large. We keep animals for many reasons. These may vary between companionship... Read more
Even with modern agriculture, and new farming techniques, animal power remains an important and effective tool for all farmers and society at large. We keep animals for many reasons. These may vary between companionship, food, fibre, recreation, work, education, exhibition, etc.
The Animal Protection Act, Act 71 of 1962 governs animal keeping and usage in our country.
Farmers use draught animals for ploughing and pulling carts and wagons during planting, weeding and transporting of produce, and thus saving on fuel costs. Farmers seem to forget that these animals also need proper maintenance and often neglect to care and manage draught animals correctly, resulting in eventual loss. Draught animals work long hours and injuries and pain can cause them to become unproductive, severely injured or even cause death.
Cruelty or mismanagement of draught animals is prohibited by law. Animals used for planting and pulling heavy equipment must be fit and healthy to perform their tasks and properly examined before commencing any work. Correct maintenance includes proper nutrition and feeding draught animals the correct types and quantities of feed to provide in their energy needs for hard labour. Resting periods are also important in the prevention of overexertion.
Health management, sound general management and welfare practices are important drives to a productive working animal. Animals in good health are those that are free from physical diseases and pain. Draught animals used for power traction need to be well trained and fit for the task at hand and need to be taken care of and not overworked.
More detailed information about draught animals is available on Extension Suite Online® under the Animal production section under the "Additional" module, where there is a section on Draught Animals. General management, feeding and health guidelines are available under the different animal modules.
Having draught animals performing at their optimum, farmers must ensure that their animals receive the correct care and maintenance. They in turn, will provide farmers with much-needed animal power, at a fraction of the cost of machinery, for many years to come.
South Africa is rated the 27th driest country in the world with a mean annual precipitation of 500mm compared to the global average of 850mm. Approximately, 66% of South Africa receives an average annual rainfall of less than 500mm, which is the minimum requirement for... Read more
South Africa is rated the 27th driest country in the world with a mean annual precipitation of 500mm compared to the global average of 850mm. Approximately, 66% of South Africa receives an average annual rainfall of less than 500mm, which is the minimum requirement for dry-land farming. About 21% of the country, mainly the arid western region, receives less than 200 mm per year. A characteristic of South Africa's climate is the high variability and large fluctuations in the average yearly rainfall, being the rule rather than the exception. Drastic and prolonged droughts regularly afflict us.
The country receives rainfall in three different ways:
South Africa has seasonal related rainfall patterns. The summer rainfall area covers 86% of the country and receives 75% to 100% of its rainfall from October to March. Only 10% of the country receives winter rainfall from April to September, and about 3% of the country receives rainfall all year round. The mean annual rainfall in the country ranges from 100mm along the west coast to as high as 3,000mm in the mountainous areas.
Precipitation can take on various forms:
Hail consists of frozen raindrops and not only destroys crops on the land, it also destroys fruit on trees. Hail damage furthermore not only has a negative impact on tree growth but can indirectly lead to disease development in fruit and trees.
Misty conditions occur when clouds form near the ground surface. Mist is a source of precipitation in mountainous areas of South Africa.
In contrast, fog is a very dense mist that occurs along the west coast of South Africa. When moist cold air from the ocean comes into contact with the dry, warm air of the arid western regions provide an alternative source of precipitation for this area.
Lastly, snow, the final form of precipitation mainly occurs in the mountainous areas during the winter months.
One of the several problem solvers on Extension Suite Online® enables the identification of pests and diseases infesting various types of crops. This tool facilitates the identification of specific problems. However, the immediate question, from farmers and extension advisors, is... Read more
One of the several problem solvers on Extension Suite Online® enables the identification of pests and diseases infesting various types of crops. This tool facilitates the identification of specific problems. However, the immediate question, from farmers and extension advisors, is "how can this information help the farmer because the damage has already been done to the crop?" The answer is, "this is true in some situations, but not all."
Crop production ranges from high-intensity, high-value annual crops, at one extreme, to extensive perennial plantation crops, at the other. On this spectrum of crop production, pest and disease identification plays an important role in pest control towards the perennial crop end of the spectrum, as described below.
Any pest problem in annual high-value crops, however brief, will affect their economic viability. These crops are grown over a few months, and any form of stress reduces their potential yield and quality. For this reason, pesticides are applied as a preventative strategy at regular intervals. Pest identification will be of little value because the damage has already occurred; however, the information could be used to modify preventative control measures used in future plantings of the crop.
This preventative strategy is, however, not suited to perennial plantation crops. Routine application of pesticides would be unnecessary, wasteful and accelerate the development of pest resistance to the pesticides. Regular scouting, with identification and enumeration of the pests, is essential. Economic thresholds have been established for many crops, and once pest populations exceed these thresholds, chemicals are applied. This strategy is cost-effective and is used together with the rotation of chemicals to avoid development of resistance.
It is not only perennial crops that are treated in this way but also some annual crops. One such crop is cotton. Much research has been done on cotton, and the judicious use of chemicals is combined into an overall integrated pest management (IPM) strategy for best results. Spraying of pesticides at the correct time (at the economic threshold) is, however, completely dependent on good and skilful scouting. Without acquiring a good level of these skills, farmers have had to return to the strategy of preventative routine sprays, to ensure good control (see reference, CDT, Zambia). This method is more costly and probably unsustainable in the long-term because of the development of pest resistance.
An important and critical part of the scouting system is the enumeration and recording of pest numbers at regular intervals. This enables pest populations to be tracked over time and control measures to be applied when needed. Procedures and formats for recording each pest are explained and provided in Extension Suite Online® within the "Crop Protection" module. The concept of scouting and control of pests, when they reach economic threshold limits, is shown in a graphical representation below.
The problem solver on ESO, together with information sheets in the Crop Protection module, greatly facilitates the teaching of these scouting and recording skills to farmers by extension agents. It is a vital support tool that enables extension advisors to engage confidently with farmers when dealing with pest and disease problems.
Dr. M.S.M. Khokhar. Overview of Cotton Integrated Pest Management (IPM) Strategies. Cotton Development Trust, Zambia. 2010.
While fruit and vegetables are important to the human diet due to their health benefits, they are also highly perishable and start their deterioration when they are separated from the mother plant. To maintain the quality of produce harvested, requires that post-harvest handling... Read more
While fruit and vegetables are important to the human diet due to their health benefits, they are also highly perishable and start their deterioration when they are separated from the mother plant. To maintain the quality of produce harvested, requires that post-harvest handling processes start immediately after harvest, and farmers should have this knowledge to maintain quality and add value to the product. Post-harvest handling is the management of produce between harvesting and marketing that protects quality and safety of the produce. It entails processes such as cleaning, sorting, grading, packaging, storage and distribution.
Because any agricultural product is at the height of its quality cycle at harvest time, producers must strive to maintain that quality condition as much as possible after harvesting. The quality of a product cannot be improved after harvest, but only maintained. Farmers must, therefore, strive to follow proper crop production procedures for the highest possible yield and quality, and then employ proper post-harvest handling procedures to maintain the quality of the produce to ensure marketing success.
To maintain the quality of harvested fresh produce, producers need to ensure that:
All the above will help contribute considerably toward maintaining the quality of the product and reduce storage losses, and as a consequence, result in higher prices on the market. Extension Suite Online® provides post-harvest handling activities for each commodity on Plant Production navigation bar under Production Information sidebar.
A cultivar, or plant variety, is a grouping of identical plants selected for desirable characteristics, and then propagated. The seed is sold commercially to farmers to produce food or other products. The term "cultivar" is an abbreviation of "cultivated variety". A variety is distinct ... Read more
A cultivar, or plant variety, is a grouping of identical plants selected for desirable characteristics, and then propagated. The seed is sold commercially to farmers to produce food or other products. The term "cultivar" is an abbreviation of "cultivated variety". A variety is distinct from other plants or varieties within the crop species, and taxonomically forms a single botanical group of the lowest rank. We distinguish it from any other plant groupings of the crop, by its unique genotype.
Varieties are most often bred by research institutes or commercial seed companies with the aim of improving some characteristics. The aim is mostly for improved yield, resistance to disease and pests, climate tolerance, or drought resistance, etc.
Breeding and improving the nutritional value of many crops is now enjoying a lot of emphasis and is referred to as "bio-fortification" of varieties. For example, there are yellow maize (bio-fortified maize) varieties and orange-fleshed sweet potato varieties that are more nutritious than other standard varieties of these crops.
Bio-fortified maize, a yellow maize variety, is rich in a pigment called beta-carotene, that the human body converts to vitamin A.
Vitamin A deficiency occurs in 250 million children worldwide annually and leads to about 500 000 children losing their eyesight, many of them in sub-Saharan Africa. In southern Africa, vitamin A deficiency needs particular attention because up to 70% of the staple diet can be white maize products. Yellow maize has the equivalent of 214 IU (International Units) per 100 grams of vitamin A while white maize has none. Bio-fortified maize is thus a solution that provides a cheap and sustainable form of vitamin A to poor communities. However, there has been, over the years, resistance to the growing and consuming yellow maize because yellow maize has traditionally been fed to animals. The belief that even the newer varieties are not suitable for human consumption, contributes to this perception. In reality, there is no difference between the varieties except that bio-fortified maize has high levels of carotene giving it a yellow colour.
In many parts of Africa sweet potatoes are a staple crop and the new orange-fleshed sweet potato varieties, are also high in vitamin A compared to the standard varieties (white-fleshed). They also play an important role in combating vitamin A deficiency in vulnerable communities, especially young children and pregnant women.
Of nutritional significance are also deficiencies of zinc in the human diet. Zinc deficiency has serious consequences for health, particularly during childhood when zinc requirements are higher, and zinc deficiency results in stunting of growth. In sub-Saharan Africa, up to 50% of children under five years of age are affected by zinc deficiencies. The region has the highest death rate in the world of children under 5, attributed to this deficiency.
To combat these deficiencies, some new bio-fortified maize varieties combine vitamin A improvement with increased levels of zinc. Standard maize varieties are, firstly, inherently low in zinc and secondly, maize is often grown on lighter soils low in zinc, in southern Africa.
Other current bio-fortification breeding projects include iron-bio-fortification of rice, beans, sweet potato, cassava and legumes, and zinc bio-fortification of wheat, rice, beans, and sweet potato.
To fully benefit from these programmes, communities affected by malnutrition problems need educational programmes that instruct people on the nutritional benefits of diets. The programmes include yellow bio-fortified maize, orange-fleshed sweet potatoes, and other available bio-fortified crop varieties.
A yellow bio-fortified maize variety and an orange-fleshed sweet potato
SASAE is the professional body for agricultural extension practitioners, and its mission is to promote science and vocation of Agricultural Extension, through its members. Every year SASAE members have the opportunity to share research publications, hold discussions and... Read more
49th Annual Conference of South Africa Society of Agricultural Extension (SASAE)
SASAE is the professional body for agricultural extension practitioners, and its mission is to promote science and vocation of Agricultural Extension, through its members. Every year SASAE members have the opportunity to share research publications, hold discussions and exchange knowledge through the annual SASAE conference.
The 49th annual conference of SASAE was held from 2 to 4 June 2015, at the Ingwenyama Conference and Sports Resort, in Mpumalanga. The conference theme was "The Changing Dynamics of Extension in line with the Objectives of the National Development Plan".
The conference was attended amongst others by the MEC of Agriculture in Mpumalanga, the HOD of DARDLEA, and representatives from the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries. Also present were Fruit SA, Forestry South Africa, academic institutions, representatives of the private sector, international visitors (SASAE members) from Nigeria and Lesotho as well as members and managers from the different provinces.
In addressing the theme, The National Development Plan (NDP) objectives of chapter six were unpacked in detail by the different speakers and how South Africa can make these plans work. The main discussion points were the creation of the one million jobs in agriculture by 2030. The National Development Plan clearly states that agriculture is the primary economic activity in rural areas and has the potential to create close to this amount of jobs. Delegates discussed various ways of achieving the one million jobs targets by 2030 in some detail. Discussions included expanding irrigated agriculture, utilisation of underused land for commercial purposes, supporting commercial agriculture as it has the highest potential for growth and employment. Other interesting points of discussion included the sustainability of agricultural extension, a new cadre of extension advisors, changes in farmer's perception of extension services, and marketing channels for farmers.
The MEC acknowledged the pivotal role of extension services and highlighted how farming cannot succeed outside of extension services. He further stressed the importance of working together with commercial farmers, agribusinesses and promoting organised agriculture as this unity will "make things happen". The importance of public-private partnerships formed part of discussions and amongst other private sectors attending the conference was Manstrat Agricultural Intelligent Solutions (MAIS). MAIS, a silver sponsor for the conference, gave a presentation on allowing users to build their apps on MAIS products. Manstrat AIS is a full member of SASAE through the Central Branch. The Company plays an important role in the extension fraternity by developing and maintaining agricultural information systems that provide important linkages and information transfer mechanism between agricultural research and extension services and the farmers they serve.
Extension advisory services are vital to the agricultural value chain, and it is the mandate of extension advisory services to see that farming and farmers in the country have all necessary knowledge to succeed. At the same time, successful farming will lead to the creation of more jobs, increased living standards, and ensuring food security and in doing so, implement the objectives of the NDP: "Our future - make it happen".
Each and every agricultural extension advisor in South Africa plays an important role in the process of establishing a well-grounded sustainable future for the people of the country. Whether working with small scale, backyard, or large scale farmers, every advisor makes a difference. At the core of... Read more
Each and every agricultural extension advisor in South Africa plays an important role in the process of establishing a well-grounded sustainable future for the people of the country. Whether working with small scale, backyard, or large scale farmers, every advisor makes a difference. At the core of many of the success stories lies South Africa's premier decision making tool - Extension Suite Online, providing information to advisors where ever they are, in office or on the farm.
The only way that the information on Extension Suite Online® can be utilised is via its active users logging onto the system and extracting this information that is available. Whether it is to locate a specific point of infrastructure or to do research on plant or animal production, the system can only be as effective as the agents that uses it. It is therefore that we at Manstrat AIS saw the need to show appreciation to those that utilise the system and to encourage those that are still left behind to have an additional goal to set their minds to.
User ratings on Extension Suite Online® is determined through monitoring user utilisation in the nine provinces and by attaching values to visits, pages visited and duration of visits. A rating is then calculated to establish within each province who is the top provincial user. From these 9 users the Extension Suite Online® National Top User is then selected by comparing the ratings and determining who the user with the highest rating is. From here on each user receives some form of recognition for their efforts.
Each Provincial Top User receives a congratulatory certificate and their photo published on the respective provincial start page. In addition the Extension Suite Online® National Top user receives a prize according to how many times in a one year period he/she has acclaimed this recognition. First time National Top Users receive a value pack including a memory stick, certificate and pen. Second time National Top Users receive a digital camera. Third time National Top Users receive a Nokia Lumia mobile phone and finally a fourth time National Top User receives a Samsung Galaxy Tablet. Every National Top User also has an interview conducted with them by one of the Manstrat AIS staff members and a short article is published in the Extension Suite Online® newsletter to explain how this user utilises Extension Suite Online® and how it has affected his/her daily duties as an advisor.
These prizes serve the purpose to commend these users in their efforts towards the improved advisory service that we have today. Apart from this it also serves as an encouragement tool to motivate advisors to use Extension Suite Online® to its full potential.
Agricultural Infrastructure Data plays an important role in the success of agricultural activities. Data, for this reason, needs to be accurate, accessible, relevant, and properly maintained. The twenty-two sets of agricultural infrastructure data on Extension Suite Online® is collected... Read more
Agricultural Infrastructure Data plays an important role in the success of agricultural activities. Data, for this reason, needs to be accurate, accessible, relevant, and properly maintained.
The twenty-two sets of agricultural infrastructure data on Extension Suite Online® is collected across the nine provinces of South Africa. Information is gathered, checked and cross-checked in a number of ways, starting with internet searches and concluded by physically contacting every entry to confirm and add to the information. This methodology ensures that information on Extension Suite Online is accurate, accessible, relevant, and properly maintained. Extension Suite Online® makes it possible for users to access infrastructure data by using Local Municipality names, Farm names, and GPS coordinates.
The following agricultural infrastructure datasets is available in Extension Suite Online® :
Abattoirs; Auctioneers; Breeders; Cooperatives; Dairy Companies; Department of Agriculture Offices;
Educational Institutions; Feed Manufacturers; Feedlots; Financial Institutions; Fresh Produce Markets; Fruit and Veg Packers; Health Care Facilities; Local Municipalities Offices; Millers; Organised Agriculture; Poultry Suppliers; Silos; Tanneries; and Veterinarians.
Data displayed about services and products include the following information: Name of service, the GPS coordinates, Street and Postal addresses, Contact and Fax Numbers and lastly the services that they provide.
Producers at all levels are dependent on infrastructure information to ensure efficiency and cost effectiveness and apply to commercial farmers and small-scale producers alike.
Government Extension Practitioners require the data to advise their farmers and lead them to improved qualitative and quantitative production. Extension Suite Online® capacitates Extension Practitioners to help those that they serve, the farmers of South Africa.
Temperature plays an important role in photosynthesis. Photosynthesis is the chemical process where sunlight changes carbon dioxide into sugars used by plant cells as energy. The photosynthesis process increases slowly from 5°C to an optimum when leaf temperature reaches 30-35°C... Read more
Temperature plays an important role in photosynthesis. Photosynthesis is the chemical process where sunlight changes carbon dioxide into sugars used by plant cells as energy. The photosynthesis process increases slowly from 5°C to an optimum when leaf temperature reaches 30-35°C above which, the process starts to decrease. Generally, in South Africa, the plant growing season is characterized by optimum temperatures.
As latitude increases, temperatures decrease. Latitude in a way determines where we can grow tropical and subtropical crops while, on the other hand, altitude plays a role in the temperature. Although there is a 3-degree difference in latitude between Johannesburg and Bloemfontein, the 350m altitude difference causes the mean annual temperature to be the same.
Since a large part of South Africa's interior consists of a plateau and the great escarpment, this area tends to be cooler than other parts of the world with the same latitude simply because of the elevation. Temperatures in South Africa are further influenced by the cold Benguela current in the west and the warm Agulhas current in the east.
Humidity is the extent of water vapour in the atmosphere, measured as a density of vapour pleasure. Relative humidity refers to the ratio of actual vapour pressure compared to saturated vapour pressure expressed as a percentage. Relative humidity is high along the warm eastern coastal regions of South Africa and decreases significantly to the western parts of the country. High humidity reduces the transpiration rate, reducing water requirements of crops and increasing the rate of photosynthesis. While high humidity can be an advantage for some crops, it can lead to the development and spread of diseases in other crops.
Sunshine and radiation are important for plant growth and the more sunshine hours will lead to higher the crop yields and South Africa's abundance of sunshine makes it ideal for crop production.
Wind is air moving from a high-pressure area to a low-pressure area and the higher the difference in pressure, the stronger the wind. The temperature of wind can influence the temperature of an area and indirectly affect crop yields. Strong and warm winds lead to soil drying out and can cause damage to fruit crops. It also plays an aggravating role in veld fires, while wind erosion remains a serious problem as a major cause of loss of topsoil in grazing and cropping systems.
The Client Support Desk at Manstrat Agricultural Intelligence Solutions (MAIS) is a department of the Manstrat Information Centre in the Manstrat Data Research and Maintenance Division (DRM). The primary task of the Support Desk is the provision of support to users of the company's agricultural decision support system - Extension Suite Online®.... Read more
The Client Support Desk at Manstrat Agricultural Intelligence Solutions (MAIS) is a department of the Manstrat Information Centre in the Manstrat Data Research and Maintenance Division (DRM). The primary task of the Support Desk is the provision of support to users of the company's agricultural decision support system - Extension Suite Online®.
MAIS user support is divided into Technical and Operational:
Technical support pertains to user queries related to or based on animal, plant and GIS information available on the system. All queries in this regard follow a strict procedure to ensure that the query is solved to the user's satisfaction by the correct expert, and within a given period.
When technical queries are received, they are logged and forwarded to the relevant manager/expert who follows the procedure to ensure that the question is clearly understood by all parties involved. It is then solved by the manager, one of the department's employees or where necessary, by an outside expert. The answer/reply is then logged and forwarded to the user.
In terms of Operational support, the Client Support Desk plays a more active role and user problems are mostly solved immediately via landline, mobile phone or email.
Log in support is often required when users do not access the system during or soon after training due to a range of reasons and contact the desk at a later stage for support.
The Client Support Desk Users often, instead of using the electronic "Password Forgotten" function on Extension Suite Online® , contact the Client Support Desk directly and operators will then assist them.
Utilisation challenges such as the inability to find specific information on the system are met by helping (training) users in promptu and makes up the bulk of advice and support given by the Support Desk.
The Client Support Desk handles the registration of users and the keeping of user statistics and data.
Contacting the Client Support Desk can be done by using any of the following tools/methods:
Keeping animals healthy is a year-round effort with each season adding new challenges. Farmers need to attend constantly to their animals' needs to ensure they stay in the best possible condition right throughout the year. While the prevalence of most insect and tick-borne diseases show a peak in the autumn months, farmers should be aware that the colder months also... Read more
Keeping animals healthy is a year-round effort with each season adding new challenges. Farmers need to attend constantly to their animals' needs to ensure they stay in the best possible condition right throughout the year. While the prevalence of most insect and tick-borne diseases show a peak in the autumn months, farmers should be aware that the colder months also bring several health issues.
In winter, veld conditions deteriorate with many nutrient deficiencies occurring. Protein, energy, vitamin A and phosphorus decline over the winter period and some areas have reported mineral deficiencies such as copper and selenium. Animals that are not receiving sufficient nutrients will lose condition and will thus be more susceptible to diseases and parasites. The provision of licks and supplements during winter help to combat the effects of poor quality grazing. These licks are designed to provide animals with all the essential minerals and salts they require to maintain body condition.
The provision of licks and supplements, however, should not take the place of proper veld management. Licks provide for shortfalls in the nutrient content of veld grass and should be used in combination with a good veld management plan. The quality of veld grass varies from area to area as seen with sweetveld and sourveld forage. Farmers will also note that vegetation varies considerably over the different biomes. Thus, management of the veld will differ for every farmer.
An important consideration in the management of the veld is the control of poisonous plants. Hungry animals will consume anything, and there have been numerous cases of plant poisonings in the past.
When providing licks and supplements, it is essential to follow the manufacturer's guidelines as many licks contain urea as a non-nitrogen protein source. Animals should first be adapted to these licks over a period before providing the full quantity. Animals should also always be adapted to high grain diets to prevent acidosis and bloat.
To keep animals free of diseases, farmers should follow a health programme and vaccination schedule, even through winter. Many diseases are successfully controlled through vaccinations.
Farmers should continue to monitor for ticks and intestinal worms, especially farmers living in winter rainfall areas and if temperatures stay warm. Lice, mites and flukes are known winter issues and animals should be checked for these as well. Winter also sees cases of coccidiosis when food is scarce. This stress-induced disease can be minimised by farmers fixing leaking water troughs and avoiding muddy conditions that may harbour parasitic eggs.
Feedlot owners must be aware of respiratory diseases when animals are exposed to dry and dusty conditions seen especially during winter in summer rainfall areas.
Extension Suite Online® can assist farmers in identifying several health conditions and diseases and offer prevention and treatment suggestions. Contact details of local vets can are on the system, and will inform farmers of disease trends in their area and assist with a vaccination schedule and health programme to keep animals healthy this winter.
The Extension Suite Online® user community embodies a range of significant players in the agricultural production and advisory sphere. These players contribute immensely through various specialised advisory and decision support roles they offer to the recipients of their services. This User community on ESO is functioning throughout... Read more
The Extension Suite Online® user community embodies a range of significant players in the agricultural production and advisory sphere. These players contribute immensely through various specialised advisory and decision support roles they offer to the recipients of their services. This User community on Extension Suite Online® is functioning throughout the geographical spread of our nine provinces in the country. The Discussions Forum on Extension Suite Online® is an online platform that bridges the geographical spread, and subsequent demarcation setup that the user operates in. It serves to integrate them into a unified, online community with a common effort in agricultural production.
The Discussion forum enables this User community to post questions and for those who have knowledge about the questions posted in retrospect to posts the responses. The Discussion Forum is the platform that has seen a robust activity with the User community constantly exchanging ideas, observations, and practices in areas they operate in. Amongst other features it boosts, the Discussion Forum can also be viewed figuratively as a notice board for the User community to notify other users on general news that are relevant to their field of service.
The Discussion forum is by design covering all areas of Agricultural production. It has the Animal production, Plant production, GIS, Economics, Extension and General as its main discussion categories. All the Discussion categories expose the User community into a broad knowledge contents that are centered on all aspects of agricultural production. This also affords the User community an opportunity to raise general issues on the Discussion forum that have a critical influence on their functionality within their areas of operation, and offer suggestions on how the policy makers can best address those issues. The User community have also been sage enough to exploit the platform's potency in terms of massive traffic to also raise and point out to practical suggestions on how ESO can be improved for efficient utilisation.
The User community's traffic on the Discussion Forum has seen a massive growth rate since the platform has been developed on Extension Suite Online®. To date, in its 2 years existence there has been in excess of about 450 questions posted with replies and views topping 966 and 19,898 respectively.
The Extension Suite Online® Discussion forum it's simply an online platform where the minds in the agriculture production meet for stimulating discussion and interaction.
Cold temperatures accompany winter in most areas of South Africa. The question is how farmers can keep their animals healthy, productive and comfortable in winter. Just like human bodies, livestock nutrient requirements change when temperature changes and it is, therefore, important for farmers to prepare in advance for the winter... Read more
Cold temperatures accompany winter in most areas of South Africa. The question is how farmers can keep their animals healthy, productive and comfortable in winter. Just like human bodies, livestock nutrient requirements change when temperature changes and it is, therefore, important for farmers to prepare in advance for the winter season. The prevention of loss is an economical strategy of overcoming a problem rather than waiting for the worse to occur. The best thing farmers can do is to ensure that there is sufficient nutritional feed and water available to animals at all times throughout the cold, dry season. It is just as important that there is a properly constructed shelter for protection against harsh weather conditions.
Animal feed is an important fuel for keeping the metabolic system of animals functional. It is essential to ensure that there is sufficient feed available and fed to animals according to their production needs. Failure to feed animals based on their requirements will result in poor production, drastic weight loss and unhealthy animals.
During winter the nutritional value of grasses in the natural veld declines. Protein values drop and the grasses become less palatable and less digestible. Feed intake is reduced and animals start losing condition. In order to maintain condition, farmers should provide their animals with licks and supplements and plan an animal feeding programme.
There are a number of common winter feeds available for animals when the grazing quality drops during autumn and winter:
A winter feeding programme is important and should be planned well in advance. One must consider some herd factors before drawing up a feeding programme. Thus a checklist of the following must be included:
A sound winter feeding programme is one that caters best for each farmer's animal's needs. A programme that will complement pasture conditions (pasture deficiency) and area-specific environmental conditions, animal nutritionists will be of assistance. There are many feed manufacturers producing winter licks and feeding programmes, designed by animal nutritionists specifically for different locations in the country based on sourveld and sweetveld regions amongst other factors. Users can login to Extension Suite Online® for more information on licks and supplements, as well as veld and pastures. Feed manufacturers are also available on Extension Suite Online® under the Regional Data Module, Infrastructure.
We define Biomes as areas with specific climatic conditions to which vegetation communities adapt. A biome, therefore, is a large area of land characterized by uniformity in the general vegetation. There are different ways to classify biomes, and South Africa is divided... Read more
We define Biomes as areas with specific climatic conditions to which vegetation communities adapt. A biome, therefore, is a large area of land characterized by uniformity in the general vegetation.
There are different ways to classify biomes, and South Africa is divided into seven biomes. The elements usually taken into account include climate, habitat, animal and plant adaptation, biodiversity and human activity. Human activity is determined by climate, and since biomes are closely related to climate, they provide natural boundaries for human activity.
The vegetation consists of trees that form an uninterrupted canopy of leaves and is the smallest biome in land area in South Africa. These areas have a high annual rainfall, between 600 to 800mm and frost is absent.
This biome is found mainly in the valley systems in KwaZulu-Natal and the Eastern Cape where rainfall varies from 500 to 900mm per year. The valley system is relatively open in the northern regions, but to the south it becomes very dense. A deterioration of grass species and increase of bush density is often caused by overgrazing and bad land management.
Commonly referred to as the bushveld, this biome consists of grasses and trees. The canopy cover of this vegetation type varies from open to a relative closed canopy. Savanna biome is found in the summer rainfall region with an annual rainfall of more than 200mm and mainly used for grazing and browsing by livestock and game.
This biome is located in the summer rainfall region with rainfall of between 400 to 2,000mm with grasses as the dominant vegetation type with frost a common occurrence in winter. With good management practices, the carrying capacity of this biome remains very high.
The mean annual rainfall in this biome varies between 100 and 500mm and the vegetation mainly consists of grass and shrub veld with frost frequently occurring in the winter months. These areas are suitable for the grazing of smaller animals, mainly goats and sheep.
The mean annual rainfall in this Biome is between 20 to 350 mm per year. The rainfall mainly occurs in the winter months, and the vegetation consists of succulent plants. Although the biodiversity is extremely high, the grazing capacity is very low, and therefore mainly suitable for goat and sheep farming.
The rainfall in this biome differs from 200 to 3000mm. The vegetation mainly consists of fine-leaved species. Frost in these areas is very low. Despite its very high biodiversity, the grazing capacity of this biome is very low.
Livestock has always been an important source of food, and in South Africa also often used for ceremonial and draught purposes. The keeping of livestock in urban and peri-urban (city outskirts) areas is rather common, with increasing amounts of people moving into urban areas... Read more
Livestock has always been an important source of food, and in South Africa also often used for ceremonial and draught purposes. The keeping of livestock in urban and peri-urban (city outskirts) areas is rather common, with increasing amounts of people moving into urban areas. Farm animals are a regular feature in townships while poultry and small animals such as rabbits and guinea pigs are frequently kept in the backyards of urban houses. These animals contribute to food security and are also used to generate incomes.
Urban animal production involves raising animals for household consumption of animal products or raising them for draught purposes including the transport of goods and products. Certain constraints however prevent many producers from keeping livestock in urban areas. Diseases, lack of feed and low fertility are common challenges.
Due to the lack of proper housing and grazing facilities, many animals are left to wonder around freely. These animals are not only a nuisance to neighbours when foraging on vegetable and flower gardens, but they also pose a safety hazard if they wander out on the roads. They may also become a health risk to humans and animals through the spread of zoonotic diseases.
Rather than removing animals from urban areas, livestock owners can implement some form of management and control over their animals to address these common constraints and to improve livestock productivity in urban areas.
There are important guidelines and laws and regulations to follow when keeping animals in urban areas. Owners must comply with municipal bylaws in their areas as well as follow any relevant national legislation linked mostly to animal and public health, and animal welfare.
Extension Suite Online® provides useful information on the care and management of farm animals ranging from handling, feeding and condition scoring, to recognising important diseases, parasites and injuries that may require veterinary attention. Owners can learn how to mark their animals for legal identification and study other important legislation regarding the protection of animals and disease prevention. Communities can work together and share knowledge. By building community kraals that can house the animals, they can keep them in a safe area where animals can be fed and provided with basic care.
Well cared for animals are healthier and perform better thus increasing animal productivity and allowing the continued provision of income for their owners for many years.
Mobile devices such as Smartphones, Tablets or Notebooks with internet connectivity enable farmers to obtain a wealth of agricultural information. Currently, this is done by extension experts who use Extension Suite Online®, interpret and pass the information to farmers. Much of this information has traditionally been of... Read more
Mobile devices such as Smartphones, Tablets or Notebooks with internet connectivity enable farmers to obtain a wealth of agricultural information. Currently, this is done by extension experts who use Extension Suite Online®, interpret and pass the information to farmers. Much of this information has traditionally been of a general nature and has been fairly constant (or static); it did does not change much with time, or from one location to the next. However, it is possible to receive a range of dynamic information (daily data) through mobile devices and includes information such as weather, market prices, news and similar data. In addition, mobile devices can also locate the position of the user through their geo-locating satellite systems enabling information to be specific to the users' location.
The question is "How does this all help the farmer?"
Firstly, information specific to the farmers' location can now be obtained. Secondly, and more importantly, this geo-referenced information can be combined with dynamic data to produce derived information. This kind of information is important in planning and decision-making on the farm; it improves efficiencies and consequently economic viability.
The example of weather and crop data used to predict the onset of crop fungal disease problems, explains the importance of information to the farmer.
Development of fungal diseases depends to a significant extent on weather conditions. The probability of a disease developing can be modelled using daily weather parameters such as temperature, humidity, rainfall, wind, cloud cover and dew. In general, the models take into account the spread of the disease (wind and rain), initiation of the disease (temperature, rain and dew), and its growth and multiplication (temperature, humidity, cloud cover). Also of importance is the period (number of days) during which conditions are favourable for the disease to continue spreading and developing. This means that one must consider the conditions prior to the current daily assessment; in general this may be the weather of the previous 3 to 5 days. Also, forecasted weather data can be used to predict the risk of disease over the coming few days.
One such example is downy mildew disease in crucifer vegetables (cabbages, cauliflower, broccoli and Brussels sprouts). The figure below shows the predicted risk of the disease developing over a 7 day period and is based on actual weather data received over the Internet during August. In the example, the period is for two locations. The one location is a summer rainfall area on the Highveld (Pretoria), and the other is a winter rainfall location (Cape Town). In the drier Highveld conditions, there is no expected risk of the disease developing. On the other hand, in the wetter and humid conditions of the Cape (where there is rain during this period) it can be seen in the figure that there is a risk of disease development.
If the risk of the disease rises to a "medium" or "high" level, the mobile device will give the farmer an automatic "alert" or "early warning". The farmer would then apply a preventative spray to the crop.
Example of predicted daily risk of downy mildew developing in cabbages in two different locations
This illustrates the potential of mobile devices in providing meaningful and useful localised information to farmers on a daily basis. Numerous other diseases in vegetables have been modelled to predict their development in varying weather conditions together with diseases in other crops such as fruits, grains, oilseeds and others.
Using these kinds of tools, farmers can react in time and avoid significant financial losses. Besides this example of the prediction of crop disease risk, there are numerous other valuable applications using dynamic data that can assist farmers in decision-making, such as market prices, the risk of hail and more.
Extension Suite Online® is an integrated agricultural production and extension support knowledge base. Not only does the system host a plethora of production related information, but it also provides facilities to collect additional information from experts and users alike, allowing... Read more
Extension Suite Online® is an integrated agricultural production and extension support knowledge base. Not only does the system host a plethora of production related information, but it also provides facilities to collect additional information from experts and users alike, allowing for the continuous improvement of its databases, with practical solutions. In short, the more it is being used, the more intelligent it becomes.
Extension Suite Online® provides intuitive intelligent solutions to problems. Firstly as a system that provides answers almost before questions are asked, and secondly as a system that grows with every logon of every user, tracking utilisation patterns, providing guidance to finding information based on what it can learn from its users and those who are involved with the maintenance of its databases.
Linked to its GIS, production and economic databases, the Q&A sections, discussion forum as well as the problem solvers all contribute towards providing comprehensive and intelligent answers. Adding to the total knowledge base are the people using the system, a network of users - including experts in every possible field - who are linked through the system and its communication ability. This community of users distributes information, helping each other and contributing to the vibrancy and wealth of Extension Suite Online® information on a daily basis. It is therefore not only the system that will help itself to grow, but also the users who provide information and intelligence.
Extension Suite Online® will thus become more than just a knowledge base. It will grow into a true agricultural knowledge centre where the information needs of farmers are translated into research activities; the results of research are translated into practical farming solutions; and where Extensionists are assisted to help farmers to develop productive and economically viable farming enterprises throughout Africa. The system will reduce the time spent on searching for answers, by providing intelligent and appropriate solutions quickly - right there where it is required - allowing Extensionists and farmers to spend valuable time on the implementation of such solutions instead of waiting for answers.
The basis for an intelligent knowledge base has been created in Version 1. In version 2 the technology will be consolidated, and the system will be integrated to create a true agricultural knowledge centre.
In order to promote general health in livestock herds, health products are routinely administered to animals in order to treat or prevent sickness. It is important that procedures are executed correctly to reduce chances of injuries and to prevent infection. The incorrect application... Read more
In order to promote general health in livestock herds, health products are routinely administered to animals in order to treat or prevent sickness. It is important that procedures are executed correctly to reduce chances of injuries and to prevent infection. The incorrect application of medicines has the potential of doing more harm than good.
Incorrect inoculation mostly results in the incorrect administration of animal medication or vaccines. Vaccines (killed or live vaccines) are injectable in different forms. Therefore, it is important to understand the intended type of medication and the injection method selected. There are three injection methods for animals. They are: subcutaneous injection (under the skin); intramuscular injection (into the muscle); and intravenous injection (into blood vessels or the jugular vein).
Labels on containers carry dosing instruction and measures that are vital to study before injecting animals to ensure the correct administration of medication. Incorrect interpretation and application of the medication will build up resistance and will result in ineffective medication. The effect is often uncontrolled spread and inability to control the disease, with resultant high mortality, and even the total wiping out of the herd or flock.
For effective and correct administration of animal health products, it is important to consider these factors before administering.
Extension Suite Online® provides information and basic guidelines in terms of animal health programmes and specific treatments under the Animal Health and Diseases section. The ESO Animal Health Section contains a notice with Terms and Conditions that users must accept before continuing to ensure that users are aware of the importance of correct administration of animal health products. Users must note that information contained in the system are general guidelines, and they should consult veterinarians or technicians to ensure that the best possible options are applied.
Manstrat not only develop and maintain the Extension Suite Online® software, but also provide maintenance and support services to our clients. Extension Suite Online® is therefore, a-well-supported Decision Support System containing information that... Read more
Manstrat not only develop and maintain the Extension Suite Online® software, but also provide maintenance and support services to our clients. Extension Suite Online® is therefore, a-well-supported Decision Support System containing information that is continually improved and updated through the Manstrat Information Centre (MIC) consisting of three main programmes.
Maintenance of databases:
Extension Suite Online® is database driven, containing a large number of databases without which, Extension Suite Online® will not be able to operate and will become out-dated quickly. Data contained in these databases are either of a static or dynamic nature:
This data does not regularly change and remains more or less intact throughout the life of the product. Examples of such data include soil types, fertiliser requirements and most of the regular aspects of crop and animal production.
There is an even larger amount of data contained in the databases that regularly changes and which requires regular adaptation and updates. To further add to the complexity of these data types, Extension Suite Online® has been tailored to suit the specific needs and requirements of each province, adding increased "provincial diversification" to the dynamic data component. It is obvious therefore that these components must be maintained on a regular basis in a responsible and sustainable manner to ensure that the provinces retain the full advantage and strength of the system.
The programme for support to extension personnel and other users consists of two main components:
Technical ICT support:
Technical ICT support includes enquiries and requests for assistance on how to use Extension Suite Online® (i.e. lost passwords and usernames). Support also includes checking the system regularly, ensuring systems integrity, and limiting downtime as far as possible.
Technical production related support:
When users of the system are unable to find solutions to their questions on Extension Suite Online®, they can direct them to the Manstrat Information Centre. The Centre processes the queries firstly to ensure that everyone understands the problem correctly. Then the Centre activates an expert to provide a solution, ensure that the solution is in an understandable format, after which it ensures that the solution reaches the original user.
Adding new information to the system:
As technologies evolve, and new information surfaces, it is taken up into Extension Suite Online® and made available to its users. Examples of this include adding information on newly developed cultivars, new medicines and products in both the crop production and animal husbandry fields.
Considering the above, it is clear that the provision of maintenance and support services is a crucial component towards ensuring successful implementation and sustainable operation of Extension Suite Online® in South Africa.
Agricultural engineering is the application of engineering principles to agricultural production and processing. It involves the technologies and equipment involved in crop and animal production, processing of food and non-food products. More recently agricultural and bio-resource... Read more
Agricultural engineering is the application of engineering principles to agricultural production and processing. It involves the technologies and equipment involved in crop and animal production, processing of food and non-food products. More recently agricultural and bio-resource engineering is developing efficient and environmentally-sensitive methods of producing food, fiber, timber, bio-based products and renewable energy sources for an ever-increasing world population.
Agricultural engineering on Extension Suite Online® is categorized, for convenience, into sections on land, water, built structures and processing. Below, the reader will find some aspects of engineering related to the land and water.
On the land section, various technical aspects of activities and equipment are outlined. Obviously tillage is a major activity together with the subsequent planting cultivation, treatment and harvesting of the crop; followed by post-harvest activities involving processing, value-adding, and marketing. Each activity involves different equipment, and the cost-efficiencies of these operations are critical in deciding the economic viability of the cropping enterprise.
However, tillage is the prime activity affecting the land and as well as a contentious one. Poor planning and inappropriate tillage systems have in the past led to soil erosion and land degradation. This not only degrades the value of the land as a national asset but also leads to diminishing returns for the individual farmer and has stimulated concern for long-term conservation of the land and the soil. An approach has developed with the aim of achieving sustainable farming systems that are productive and maintain the soil in its optimal condition. We refer to this approach and its implementation, as conservation agriculture. It is, more specifically, a system that maintains an optimum environment for root growth and reduces run-off from the soil surface (which increases water in the soil for plant growth). It is also a system that increases ground water levels and promotes biological activity in the soil (that contributes to the capture, retention, chelation and slow release of plant nutrients). Reduced tillage, zero tillage, and appropriate crop rotations are all part of the conservation agriculture approach.
The question is, does it work in practice? The benefits are not immediate but seen after a couple of seasons. Throughout the world, it is increasingly being adopted and, as a result halting land degradation. From an individual farmers' viewpoint, yields can be as good, or better, than conventional systems and production costs lower. In addition, this success has been transferred to appropriate small-scale cropping systems and embraced by these farmers. Comprehensive information on these small-scale systems is available on Extension Suite Online®.
The importance in the economy, of water used in agriculture, cannot be over-stated. Agriculture production activities and processes use up to 70% of all the water consumed in the country. Much of South Africa receives low annual rainfall that is insufficient for reliable crop production. Securing reserves of surface and underground water in the form of dams and boreholes used to irrigate crops is critical.
Planning, building and using these structures require engineering skills in the form of civil, hydraulic, and irrigation expertise. The ordinary farmer does not need to know these specific details and must obtain the appropriate assistance. On ESO an understanding of the principles is provided; more detail can be obtained from the accompanying documents.
Of particular importance to the farmer are the different irrigation systems that can be used on the farm. An understanding of the various systems enables the farmer to select the most appropriate method for the crop, the climate and the location. It is often thought that small-scale farmers, such as vegetable farmers with a couple of hectares, have restricted options for irrigating the crop; it is assumed that irrigating these small plots is labour intensive and inefficient. However, small-scale drip systems have been introduced in recent years through many African countries, with marked success. Water is used by the crop more efficiently and less time is spent on irrigation, enabling time to be spent on other activities.
A good understanding of the engineering aspects of all activities and processes on the farm will not only improve efficiencies but can stimulate innovative approaches to various problems by the farmers.
Losses in crop production through insects, diseases, and weed problems can be significant. To avoid or reduce these losses requires immediate action; the "Plant Health" problem solvers developed and displayed on Extension Suite Online®, assist... Read more
Losses in crop production through insects, diseases, and weed problems can be significant. To avoid or reduce these losses requires immediate action; the "Plant Health" problem solvers developed and displayed on Extension Suite Online®, assist with a timely and appropriate response to a wide range of problems.
The "Plant Health" tab consists of Pests and diseases; Storage pests; Weed control; Weed identification; and Post-harvest pests and diseases. It further provides answers to most potential problems and help to minimise crop yields losses, and avoid quality loss in crops.
The objective of these tools is to enable users to identify crop health problems on-farm by applying a process consisting of a logical series of images displayed on the system, coupled with the appropriate control measures.
The pest and disease sub-item explores all the listed pest and diseases on selected crops and offers quality visual displays and recommend registered control chemicals for application.
To access this information on Extension Suite Online®, users can navigate to the "Problem Solvers" sidebar option and select the Plant Health information item with its five sub-items. The pest and disease sub-item explores the most common insects, pests and diseases on the available crops. It also offers visual displays and recommended control measures where applicable.
The Storage-pests Problem-Solver presents the problems producers face after harvest and during storage.
Finally, the improved Weeds Problem Solver, enables users to identify plants classified as weeds on-farm. The tool also offers information on preventing or eradicating weeds using listed registered herbicides and the correct application methods and times.
The identification of "problems" using the Problem Solver is a step by step process as shown in the sequence below (also see diagram).
The final step has a link going to a Crop Health page that provides the user with more detailed information on the causal agent and suitable control measures.
The Problem Solver development and improvement continues daily through the Plant Production Core team at Manstrat, with the necessary technical support. The aim is to provide users with up-to-date, reliable information to assist them in their daily challenges.
The broiler industry in South Africa has rapidly changed during the past couple of years and has become a highly competitive and technically based business. The unique structure of poultry farming, its long-term investment and the ever increasing demand of white meat as... Read more
The broiler industry in South Africa has rapidly changed during the past couple of years and has become a highly competitive and technically based business. The unique structure of poultry farming, its long-term investment and the ever increasing demand of white meat as animal protein have all added to this situation. As a result, new broiler producers should be aware of the financial and managerial requirements of poultry production before they commit themselves and their resources to broiler production. It is important to have all relevant information and properly plan before starting the business.
To ensure success, broiler producers must have sufficient knowledge of all the different aspects of broiler production and management. Successful broiler production depends on the adoption of a systematic and efficient management program (including purchasing and a rearing system for day-old and growing stock, feeding, health and disease prevention, housing and marketing).
The following tips are important contributors to successful broiler production:
For comprehensive information on the planning of a broiler enterprise, users of ESO can navigate to the "Broiler Chickens" main menu icon at the top of the Extension Suite Online® main desktop. Select "Production Information" on the sidebar; "Production", then "Management", "Nutrition and Water" and "Health and Disease" for the required information.
The "Economics" section (also on the sidebar) provides an "Enterprise Budget", "Adding Value", current and historic "Market Prices" and different "Business Models".
"Regional Data" (on the main navigation bar) provides "Infrastructure" (suppliers and services) and "Environmental Data" (climate) information to assist in planning a broiler chicken enterprise.
For research to be complete and scientifically correct, there have to be supporting documents providing detailed information on the subject to serve as references. Extension Suite Online® offers related articles and extension guides for each content page that... Read more
For research to be complete and scientifically correct, there have to be supporting documents providing detailed information on the subject to serve as references. Extension Suite Online® offers related articles and extension guides for each content page that contain in-depth information explaining and illustrating the topic further.
Running a profitable and successful enterprise involves acquiring a wide range of information from different reliable sources making it important to have access to broader and practical knowledge. Related articles and guides provide valuable added information on subjects linked to the information viewed on Extension Suite Online®. "Cattle Identification," found under the Management section on Extension Suite Online®, is an example of the value of related articles. The Content Page (Cattle Identification) explains different identification methods used on cattle, and when to apply each identification mark. The related articles added to the subject, further explain the application process for registering animal identification marks. According to the Law, identification marks used on animals must be registered with the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries for purposes of eradicating livestock theft, and to proof ownership.
Related articles are found at the bottom of each content page on Extension Suite Online® under the headings "Related Articles" or "Extension Guides". All articles are in a PDF format that is easy to open and print. For each related guide, there is also a summary of the guide that also gives the number of pages.
Other Related Articles are available under "Tools, Tips and Guides" in the sidebar and categorised under specific main headings, e.g. Health, Management, Economics, etc.
Regional Data on Extension Suite Online® consists of Agricultural Infrastructure Data and Environmental Data. Information regarding the agricultural environment is most important to farmers, and the Environmental Module on Extension Suite Online® provides a... Read more
Regional Data on Extension Suite Online® consists of Agricultural Infrastructure Data and Environmental Data. Information regarding the agricultural environment is most important to farmers, and the Environmental Module on Extension Suite Online® provides a broad range of environmental data under the headings:
The sections are similar in structure with an explanation tab that provides a description of the specific data subdivision. A summary of the data of that subdivision is displayed below the explanation tab and finally, links are provided to relevant documentation and maps on those sections. The Borehole section is different as it displays the closet boreholes to the farm/point selected. Information about the boreholes can be accessed by clicking on the borehole links.
Extension practitioners, using Extension Suite Online® regional data, can access the environmental information for any farm of interest within their province. They can also familiarise themselves with the environmental conditions as well as the prevailing agricultural activity in the area, even before visiting an area or farm saving time and increasing their efficiency and service delivery.
In this, the second article of the two-part series (the first article appeared in Edition No 40 - March 2013), we will be looking at the next Steps (3 & 4) of Compiling research from Extension Suite Online®... Read more
In this, the second article of the two-part series (the first article appeared in Edition No 40 - March 2013), we will be looking at the next Steps (3 & 4) of Compiling research from Extension Suite Online®.
Step 3: Undertaking the Research and Recording Findings
This step proposes a logical process and procedure towards finding information on Extension Suite Online® by using the list of keywords and phrases developed during Step 2. For demonstration purposes (research topic: finding information on diseases found on tomatoes) it is assumed that such a list will typically include the keywords and phrases. On Extension Suite Online®, this will include crops/plants, vegetables, tomatoes; production; diseases; crop health; crop protection; disease control; agrochemicals; fungicides and pesticides; spray programmes, etc.
Now proceed as instructed using your keywords as pointers:
Action 1: From the Main Navigation Bar, select the Plant Navigation Tab. Then click on the desired Main Menu Icon - Vegetables. From the Sidebar, click Crop Selection and select Tomatoes from the various vegetable options in the drop-down menu.
Action 2: Still in Tomatoes, via the Production Information option, select the Crop Health section and click the Disease and Disease Control option (bringing us to our core research topic). In the Content Panel, the most important and prominent diseases found on tomatoes appear (approximately 25 diseases listed in alphabetical order). Clicking on any of these, displays a range of information on that specific disease; from a description of the disease (including a picture), its impact and effect, to its prevention and possible treatment. The Content Panel also offers an alternative route to more information related to diseases prevalent in tomatoes. The link contained in the last entry listed in the panel will automaticallytake you to the Problem Solver section on Extension Suite Online® and then selecting Plant Health and Pests and Diseases. This Problem Solver route takes you through an identification process including where the problem lies, i.e. the fruit, flowers, leaves, stems, roots or the whole plant.
Action 3: You can also obtain further information related to our research topic via the Crop Protection Information Itemin the sidebar. The Sidebar offers more generic advice on how to manage and control diseases via chemicals and other means.
Step 4: Evaluating research results and determining how best to disseminate such to the farmers
Research results must finally be evaluated against the needs, requirements, circumstances and profile of the end user (who for the purposes of our demonstration are literate but inexperienced farmers). While great care was taken to ensure that Extension Suite Online® content is user-friendly, it is important to check that the language and sophistication level match the profile of your beneficiary farmers.
Also, note that ESO has some very useful functions to facilitate the recording, printing and presentation of research results. These include a printer button; the ability to select and copy any section within Extension Suite Online® to a Word document in text format; and the ability to email documents contained on Extension Suite Online®, to your computer.
We trust that this example demonstrates the ease with which you can undertake research on Extension Suite Online® that will stand Extension Officers in good stead.
This two-part series provides tips towards undertaking successful research on Extension Suite Online®. For demonstration purposes, it is assumed that the research is undertaken by an Extension Officer and aimed at finding information and solutions on how farmers can deal with common diseases found on their tomato crop.... Read more
This two-part series provides tips towards undertaking successful research on Extension Suite Online®. For demonstration purposes, it is assumed that the research is undertaken by an Extension Officer and aimed at finding information and solutions on how farmers can deal with common diseases found on their tomato crop.
The series will focus on the following four key steps of the research process:
This first article in the series will address Steps 1 and 2, while the next article will tackle Steps 3 and 4.
Determining Research Needs
The first step in the research process is to determine your research needs. To this end, one must consider the purpose of the research and the profile of the recipient target group. For example, who is the end user of the researched information and how will their profile influence the type, sophistication level, amount and format of information to be researched and provided to them. Such a purpose statement will help you to stay focused and directed, and keep you from getting side-tracked or overwhelmed by all the information you may find.
Purpose Statement: Establish the most common diseases found on tomato crops grown in South Africa and how farmers could deal with such problems.
Target Group Needs: The majority of farmers who will receive the information are literate but have had limited experience in farming with tomatoes. Almost none of them have had any previous experience in working with chemicals and pest and disease control.
Define your Research Topic and Field
This step aims to define what we need to research and is achieved by developing an understanding of the topic, and then to identify and select keywords, related to the topic. They are called "keywords" because they can "unlock" the doors that will lead you to useful information. How do I develop and list keywords?
In the next edition, we will guide you through the process of researching the keywords within Extension Suite Online® and recording and evaluating the findings.
A university Professor once asked me where we bought the core of Extension Suite Online®, and to his surprise, the answer was - "we developed it ourselves". What about the knowledge base and intelligent search engine, answer - "we developed it... Read more
A university Professor once asked me where we bought the core of Extension Suite Online®, and to his surprise, the answer was - "we developed it ourselves". What about the knowledge base and intelligent search engine, answer - "we developed it ourselves". The dynamic menu system - "ourselves", the Geographical Information System - "we developed it ourselves", and what about information contained in the system, again - "we collected and reworked it ourselves".
Who else can do this job better than a development and support team that was bred and born in Africa? Who better understands the needs, constraints, priorities, fears and expectations of Africa better, than an African Development and Support Team? Who understands the challenges of an African Extensionist better than another African Extensionist??That is why Manstrat Agricultural Intelligence Solutions (Pty) Ltd has given serious consideration to the appointment of African professionals, why we have forged partnerships with African universities and why we have spent considerable resources to further understand the specific needs and requirements of Africa.
We firmly believe that Extension Suite Online® is, and should remain, an African product - developed and maintained by Africans, for the benefit of agriculture in Africa. It is amazing what you can do if you believe in the resilience of Africa and its professional people, even where we do not have the knowledge and skills, it can be developed in a relatively short period, since our people are eager to learn and even more eager to make a contribution towards Africa's development.
To ensure the long term sustainability of this strategy, we have embarked on an internship programme more than five years ago. This programme is supported by the National Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries. Each year we enrol between five and eight interns in various agricultural disciplines and to date have had a 90% placement rate. To encourage our own people to grow further, Manstrat is willing to provide employees with post graduate bursaries annually, assisting our personnel to obtain higher degrees and to enrol for courses that will help them to do their work better.
Apart from formal training efforts, Manstrat also provides its personnel with opportunities to learn from each other by forming intelligent project groups where different disciplines are combined in such a manner that participants are co-dependent and that appropriate results can only be achieved when the group teaches each other.
Extension Suite Online® is a true "Africans for Africa" product and we are proud of it. It is a product that allows other African countries to benefit from the South African ICT backbone and infrastructure and it allows users access to African experts right there, where they need it - on the farm.
Livestock farming comprises the farming of a number of different types of animals. The most common animals kept for commercial purposes are cattle, sheep, goats, pigs, chickens and ostriches - many different animals for many various reasons... Read more
Livestock farming comprises the farming of a number of different types of animals. The most common animals kept for commercial purposes are cattle, sheep, goats, pigs, chickens and ostriches - many different animals for many various reasons. Therefore, before any production enterprise is set up, farmers need to keep in mind what their goal is, their choice of animal, and whether there is a market for their products.
Under the "Animal Production" navigation tab, the Extension Suite Online® user can scroll through to the "Additional" menu icon. By selecting this icon, the user will find general information on the following:
Under each of these headings in the sidebar, general information on the animals and why they are farmed is provided. This information is supported with related articles for the user about keeping and caring for these animals.
Aquaculture and wildlife have big markets due to the popularity of angling and hunting in South Africa. Wildlife is a major attraction for tourists from abroad and South Africa hosts a wide variety of unique wildlife such as the "Big 5". Angling is an important recreational activity and while many aquaculture farms are set to breeding fish to supply this demand, the importance of fish as a source of protein is well recognised and many marine and fresh water species are being farmed to meet consumer demands of fresh, high quality products.
Equines, especially horses, are well known in the sporting and entertainment world, and for doing light work. While horses generally are associated with the elite, there are many horse and ponies along with donkeys and mules that perform invaluable roles on farms like herding other animals and providing transport and draught power.
The draught animal section gives more details on the role draught-animals play in agriculture today. The different animals are listed in the sidebar and a brief description is given along with some related articles.
For the small-scale and subsistence farmer: rabbits and bees are an excellent source of additional products that can be sold to sustain a household income. These are found under the "Other" heading in the sidebar. Rabbits provide a valuable source of animal protein and skins, while bees are sought-after for their honey and honey comb wax. They are relatively inexpensive and easy to keep and do not require large spaces.
Bullfrogs are farmed mainly for conservational purposes as their habitats are being threatened with urban and rural developments. Many people have taken to trying to conserve their numbers by breeding them and keeping them in a safe environment.