Crop production in KwaZulu-Natal/Information for smallholders

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This document is a guide to sources of information that may help smallholders in KwaZulu-Natal (South Africa) to produce crops and vegetables without expensive inputs.

Smallholder agriculture is practiced widely in KwaZulu-Natal. Although low-cost agriculture is unlikely to raise many poor people out of poverty, it can improve household livelihoods. This is because most households in the province have insufficient resources to generate a living wage from agriculture, and need other forms of income.

Smallholders in KZN generally have less than 2 ha (often less than 0.2 ha or 2000 m2) available for crop production. Despite this limitation, there are many successful smallholders; they often produce a variety of crops that may include a small patch of irrigated vegetables, a few fruit trees, and a mix of dryland (rain-fed) crops. There is a great deal of information available to help these farmers, but it is not always accessible. This document is an attempt to show what locally relevant information is available, and where it can be found (mostly on the world-wide web).


Smallholder spreading kraal manure on cropping land in KwaZulu-Natal


Natural resources[edit | edit source]

The availability of natural resources will limit the choice of crops that can be produced at low cost - Rainfall, temperature regime, soil type and terrain all vary considerably from place to place in KZN. At the scale of the smallholder, the soil and terrain usually require an on-site inspection to determine soil depth, soil drainage and slopes of individual fields. However, there are a number of mapping projects that can serve as guides regarding climate, soil patterns, terrain, and water availability for irrigation at the village or ward scale.

Bioresource Groups
Camp, K.G.T., 1999. A bioresource classification for KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa. https://researchspace.ukzn.ac.za/handle/10413/5406

Handbook on adaptation to climate change for farmers, officials and others in the agricultural sector of South Africa https://www.daff.gov.za/daffweb3/Branches/Forestry-Natural-Resources-Management/Climate-Change-and-Disaster-Management/Climate-Change-Unit

Agrohydrology Atlas

DWAS regulations regarding use of surface water

Climate-smart Agriculture[edit | edit source]

There are many low-cost technologies available that can help smallholders make the most of the limited climatic resources available to them. See: Information for smallholders in KwaZulu-Natal/Climate-smart Agriculture

Pest and Disease Control[edit | edit source]

Natural Pest and Disease Control Handbook Chemical control options for Fall Armyworm in maize https://www.kzndard.gov.za/images/Documents/RESOURCE_CENTRE/GUIDELINE_DOCUMENTS/Research_and_Technology_Bulletin/Chemical-control-options-for-Fall-Armyworm-in-maize.pdf Disease Management in Crops https://www.kzndard.gov.za/images/Documents/researchandtechnologydevelopment/publications/Research_and_Technology_Bulletins/2016.01-Disease-Management-in-Crops.pdf The application of plant based pesticides in sustainable agriculture https://www.kzndard.gov.za/images/Documents/RESOURCE_CENTRE/GUIDELINE_DOCUMENTS/Research_and_Technology_Bulletin/2015.08%20The%20application%20of%20plant%20based%20pesticides%20in%20sustainable%20agriculture.pdf

Weed control[edit | edit source]

A smallholder hand-weeding a plot of dry beans in KwaZulu-Natal

Weed Management Principles For Maize PDF
This four-page document discusses the principles of weed control in a maize crop. It indicates the importance of good general agronomic practices to ensure rapid closure of the maize canopy, makes recommendations regarding the use of tillage and mulching and gives guidelines for the use of herbicides.

Vegetable Production In KwaZulu-Natal: Weed Control PDF
A three-page document that outlines the importance of weed control in vegetable production and discusses the use of cultural methods and herbicides.

Bezuidenhout, S., 2015, Sprayer calibration. Research & Technology Bulletin 2015/10, KwaZulu-Natal Department of Agriculture and Rural Development. Republic of South Africa, Pietermaritzburg. PDF
A four-page document describing how to calibrate agrochemical spraying equipment. It includes sections on nozzle selection, water quality, and details of calculations used to calibrate knapsack sprayers and boom sprayers.

Soil Fertility[edit | edit source]

FAO. 2020. Soil testing methods manual – Soil Doctors Global Programme - A farmer-to-farmer training programme. Rome. DOI PDF
Abstract: The Soil Doctors programme is developed under the umbrella of the Global Soil Partnership and promotes the establishment of a farmer-to-farmer training system. The Soil Doctors Global Programme aims to build the capacity of smallholder farmers on the practice of sustainable soil management and, by doing so, support governmental agencies and organizations working on agricultural extension at the field level (promoting broader impact and a reduction of costs). Trainings will also rely on the establishment of demonstration farms and experimental fields by the Soil Doctors, which might attract the interest of research institutes and universities involved in the programme. The programme also aims to educate farmers on soil science principles for practices of sustainable soil management and aims to achieve this by providing them with a set of tools composed of some educational materials and a soil testing methods (STM) manual for preliminary soil analysis. The STM is a collection of locally relevant, and easy to use, soil analyses procedures that would be selected by each area where the program is implemented.

Using Manures To Supply Plant Nutrients https://archive.org/details/miles-1998-using-manures-to-supply-plant-nutrients A two-page guide to the use of manures. It includes information on the nutrient content of manures and suggested application rates.

Soil Testing for Better Crops https://www.kzndard.gov.za/images/Documents/researchandtechnologydevelopment/publications/Research_and_Technology_Bulletins/Soil-Testing-for-Better-Crops.pdf A four-page guide to soil sampling and the submission of soil samples for fertilizer recommendations.

Manson, A.D., 2020. Soil acidity and liming in KwaZulu-Natal. Research & Technology Bulletin 2020-21/03. KwaZulu-Natal Department of Agriculture & Rural Development, Pietermaritzburg, South Africa.PDF DOI
Acid soils are very common in KwaZulu-Natal and yields of crops and vegetables are often poor. There are differences between the various vegetables and crops with respect to their abilities to grow on acid soils. Amelioration of soil acidity with agricultural limestone is often cost-effective, and is best done based on soil tests. Photographs of several acidity-related symptoms are included.

Completing the Sample Submission Form https://www.kzndard.gov.za/images/Documents/researchandtechnologydevelopment/publications/Research_and_Technology_Bulletins/Completing-the-sample-submission-form.pdf A pamphlet outlining the information requested when submitting soil samples for fertilizer recommendations.

Crop-specific guidelines[edit | edit source]

Vegetable Production In A Nutshell https://archive.org/details/allemann-young-1998-vegetable-production-in-a-nutshell Crop-specific guidelines are given for a range of vegetable crops grown in South Africa, along with general fertiliser guidelines. Suitable climate, soil types, cultivars, sowing times, seeding rates, plant population and spacing are outlined, and brief indications are given regarding the required fertiliser, possible pests and diseases, and likely yields. Vegetables included are beetroot, brinjal (eggplant), cabbage, carrot, chilli (hot pepper), trailing cucurbits (butternut, gem squash, hubbard squash, pumpkin), green bean (bush type), green pea, lettuce, amadumbe (taro), onion, potato, sweet pepper, sweet potato, swiss chard, and table tomato.

Brochures and Production guidelines for a wide range of props are available on the website of the South African Department of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development (DALRRD) https://www.dalrrd.gov.za/Branches/Agricultural-Production-Health-Food-Safety/Plant-Production/Production-Guidelines

Important rain-fed (dryland) crops Maize Dry beans Sugar cane Pumpkin Madumbe Sweet potato Irish potato Minor rain-fed crops Cowpea Field pea Dryland leafy greens - Japanese radish, kale, amaranthus, swiss chard Sorghum Millet Vegetables (most need irrigation or water harvesting) Trees for fruit, nuts, medicinal purposes, edible leaves