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Less stress; higher accuracy – produce ‘Agrico Green’ blueberries

Agrico
These blueberry bushes produce so profusely because they are fed so well on the best quality water and nutrition at the right time.

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“I feel I’m now in control of my farming system,” says Ernst Myburg of the farm Lekkerwater near Porterville. Ernst and his wife, Alana, took a great step when they decided to take their blueberry growing to a higher level through atomization and improvement of their irrigation system.

“Under present circumstances one cannot afford not to board the precision train,” says Ernst. “I was used to open the valves manually and then, before you know it, you are busy flooding Block A, while the berry bushes in Block B are wilting, dying from a lack of water. Now I feel like a king – I can see from anywhere in the world what is happening on my patch with my cellphone and make changes as and when necessary.”

He says his team of royal subjects are the technological solutions provided by Agrico. The Agrico team cooperated with his suppliers to design and install a ready-made system for his farm.

“People should not think of Agrico as only a centre pivot irrigation company,” says Alfred Andrag, operational director of this well-established agricultural company which has made it an ideal to make the whole of Southern Africa Agrico green.

“Centre pivot systems are only one section of the total Agrico irrigation management system. Agrico also specialises in micro, drip and peat bog irrigation systems, and supplies all components such as pumps, valves, pipes, filters, control systems and proficient design.

“To make the system on Lekkerwater work trouble-free, we had to route the water – which comes from a dam in the mountain, through a pumping station lower than the berry fields,” says Johan Burger, Agrico design engineer.

Die water is routed with a pressure pump through an AZUD filter bank to remove any impurities. Following on the filter bank, the fertiliser mixtures and biological fertilisers are added and the pH adjusted to suit the basic requirements of the berries.

This is the immaculate pumping station on Lekkerwater, farm of Ernst Myburg in the vicinity of Porterville. The pressure pump (1) sends the water through the filter bank (2). From the fertilizer tanks (3) the mixtures are automatically measured according to requirements (4) before being fed to the various main pipelines according to the requirements of each plant block be means of valves (5), which are opened and closed automatically by a computer.

The reason why the pumping station should be lower, is to avoid the building-up of air in the pipelines. The berries are not irrigated with a continuous water stream but with a pulsating action.

The ideal is to water the plant all day long while it is growing with enriched irrigation water, but you also don’t want it to become water-logged. Consequently the water runs for five minutes at a time every 30 to 40m minutes.

There are non-return valves preventing the water from returning. The ideal situation is to have the pipes full of water continuously enabling immediate irrigation with a short cycle and avoiding an initial stream of air.

The duration of the irrigation is adjusted beforehand depending on the size of the plants and reigning circumstances; whether it is dry and hot, or a cool and humid day. This irrigation method also makes it possible to measure and apply liquid fertiliser as accurately as possible.

The pH of the water (degree of acidity) and EC (the electrical conduction factor which indicates the amount of fertiliser in the water) is measured continuously at several positions, and the fertiliser mixtures are then added to the water in varying quantities. The measuring and application is controlled by a computer. Accurate application is very important, not only for the requirements of the plant, but also to prevent deposits in the pipes, blockages and the accumulation of saline deposits in the soil.

Fertiliser types cannot be mixed beforehand as the chemicals may react with each other. After the various substances have been applied, the main line runs in a circle or two to ensure turbulent flow and proper mixing. When required, hydrogen peroxide, or enriched oxygen, is added to the water to prevent deposits.

The valves to the different blocks are situated in the pump house and opened and closed automatically by the computer.

Ernst says the filter bank and pump station have been designed in such a manner that he can extend to manage the irrigation of up to 20 hectares. He is not limited to the growing of blueberries only and is presently contemplating citrus production. The existing system can be adapted to make it possible.

“This system removes all the painful aspects of irrigation. It works like a dream . . .” says Ernst.

Contact Alfred Andrag on 082-824-1214 or 021-950-4111, or send an email message to alfred.andrag@agrico.co.za to ensure you’ll be farming ‘Agrico- Green’.

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