2013 No-Till Club KZN Conference Report

Under the banner of ‘No-Till is Conservation Agriculture in Action’ the Club’s 14th annual AGM and conference was held for the 6th time at the Drakensville Resort near Bergville in KwaZulu-Natal from 3rd to 5th of September. This well-organised, ever-popular and much looked forward to event was attended by 205 delegates from many of the provinces in South Africa including some from Zimbabwe and Mozambique. In addition, no less than 15 exhibitors showcased their products and services of which the farm equipment on display was estimated at a value of R38 million.

 

The needs of the large number of those attending was well catered for by the Resort in respect of the large parking and machinery exhibition areas they had developed for last year’s conference and improvements to the event hall for last and this year’s event. To allow delegates to view machinery and interact more closely with machinery representatives, finger lunches were held in a tent located in the centre of the machinery exhibition area instead of as previously on the veranda of the hall.

 

As over the last three years, the event was fully video recorded and comprehensive packages of same covering the 2011. 2012 and this year’s 2013 event can be obtained at a cost of R250 each for local destinations, plus R150 for international destinations, from Softlight Media by emailing them at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

 

FIRST DAY

As has been done over last three years, day one commenced at 10h00 with a conducted tour of committee member Egon Zunckel’s nearby farm Rustenberg on which he has been practicing no-till for 17 years, to view and learn about the on-going benefits of no-till, the crop rotation system adopted and cover crops planted – in short, a Conservation Agriculture (CA) system in action. As Egon had introduced cattle this past season for the production of weaners into his system in order to more fully utilise his crop residue, long-standing no-till and livestock farmer Bruce Shepherd of Bergville then gave those attending benefit of his experiences as to how he successfully integrates the two practices.

 

Delegates then departed for the Drakensville Resort for registration and viewing of the exhibitions on display and the twelve cover crops growing in the demonstration plot adjacent to the machinery displays. Each of the delegates received a goodie bag containing a CA/No-Till informative conference folder with similar informative inserts , a July copy of the Club’s newsletter containing all the information about, and an agenda of, the September 2013 AGM and conference, a copy of Grain SA’s growth strategy up to 2016  and a precision planting CD.

 

At 18h30 delegates met in the hall to enjoy an informal braai at which they had an opportunity to mingle, renew and make new acquaintances and share experiences.   

 

SECOND DAY

 

The morning session of day two commenced with a welcome and Chairman’s report-back on the Club’s activities over the preceding year by Callie van der Linde at an open meeting. This was followed by presentations by: KwaZulu-Natal no-till pioneer and Club stalwart Anthony Muirhead on Why I started No-Till; Andrew Bennett, technology development lead: Africa, of Monsanto on Precision corn – the American way; no-till practicing farmers Egon Zunckel of Bergville, north-west KwaZulu-Natal (dryland and irrigation), Ralf Küsel of Paulpietersburg, far northern KwaZulu-Natal (dryland) and George Steyn of Ottosdal, North West (sandy dryland) all addressing How and why I adopted no-till; Dr. Hendrik Smith. CA facilitator of Grain SA, on Grain SA: Looking at Conservation Agriculture, and; Ernst Janovsky, head of ABSA AgriBusiness centre of excellence, on The effect of the macro economy on agriculture – threats and opportunities.

 

As per the conference programme, the afternoon session commenced with machinery representatives giving PowerPoint presentations on the machinery that they were to have demonstrated on MP Badenhorst’s adjoining farm immediately thereafter. However, as the machinery exhibitors expressed a reluctance to conduct the demonstrations out of concern of potential damage to their equipment, notably to tyres, due to the soil being extremely hard, the organisers agreed to cancel this event and extended the period for presentations. It was indeed ironical that last year’s demonstrations were also cancelled, but for reasons of incessant rain.

 

At 19h00 a cocktail hour was held during which Johann du Plessis, coordinator of Super Soya Yield Competition launched at last year’s conference, gave a report-back on progress to date and announced the winners of last season’s competition. This was followed at 20h00 by guest speaker Dr. Tonie Putter giving an insightful address on How come King Solomon was so smart after which delegates enjoyed a sumptuous dinner.

 

Third Day

The third day started with; Pastor August Basson of Growing Nations in Lesotho addressing delegates on Agriculture and faith builds positive self-worth; Bertus Venter, general manger and agronomist of ZZ2,  on Practicing Natuurboerdery at ZZ2 and Prof. Erik Holm retired professor of entomology, founding member of Natuurboerdery and ZZ2 executive committee member on Business systems and sustainable agriculture at ZZ2; Dr. Suzette Bezuidenhout of the plant protection unit of the KwaZulu-Natal Dept. of Agriculture and Environmental Affairs at Cedara on The use of allelopathy in controlling weeds; Victor Mahlinza past chairman of the of the Umtshezi district farmer’s association and crop and vegetable farmer at Ntabamhlope near Estcourt in KwaZulu-Natal on How I adopted no-till, and; Guy Thibaud, soil scientist with the KwaZulu-Natal Dept. of Agriculture and Environmental Affairs at Cedara and Dr. Hendrik Smith, CA Facilitator of Grain SA, on What visiting overseas scientific speakers have imparted at conferences over last four years

 

The conference closed with a panel discussion where delegates had an opportunity to pose questions to speakers and other experts present.