“Our dream was to get water to Groenvlei farm, located 5 km from the nearest water source,” says WG Treurnicht, who grows wine grapes just outside Porterville, at the foot of the Olifants River Mountains.
The farm joined hands with Agrico Piketberg to make this dream come true. They first set foot in the irrigation industry in 2004 with the planting of rootstocks. Before this, they were dryland grain farmers.
“It was the logical decision to approach Agrico, because I was at university with Walter Andrag,” jokes WG. Yet friendship with the managing director of the company is just one of the reasons for the successful longterm relationship. “Agrico has been the leader in water management in the Western Cape for decades, and with their expertise they have established a solid footprint throughout Southern Africa.
“We started irrigating without any experience. That is why we needed irrigation experts who could provide guaranteed products and service to make the journey with us,” says WG.
With a water source in the Olifants River Mountains, WG built a large catchment dam on the farm Soverby. The big challenge was to transport the water from the dam to the farm Groenvlei 5 km further downhill and handle the unmanageable pressure!
While pumps are used on the upper farm, Groenvlei relies on gravity and natural flow. With a drop of more than 70 metres, the pressure in the pipes is up to 8 bar. A burst pipe can be a disaster.
WG says that due to the high pressure, it is extremely important to have a trustworthy supplier and products. “About 90% of everything Agrico provides us with is buried 1,5 metres deep. There is only one chance to do it right!”
Today, there are 75 hectares of wine grapes and 10 hectares of rootstock that receive water through drip irrigation.
The nursery is moved every season for protection against diseases. Therefore, the block needs to be surveyed every season and the irrigation planned from the start.
The pipes are removed and rolled up to move them to the new block. Along with thorough planning and a smooth installation process, scheduling is just as essential. It is important that the system communicates and performs as planned.
WG has been practicing conservation farming for many years, and the choice for drip irrigation over the more common micro-irrigation in the area has been made with a view to the sustainable use of water.
Niël Carstens, Branch Manager of Agrico Piketberg, says one of the great advantages of the farm is its clean water source. The water is not full of minerals like iron or other impurities that tend to clog the drippers. This improves the consistency of the water application and reduces maintenance.
To make the correct recommendation for irrigation, factors such as the crop, soil type, slope and water quality are taken into account. “We try to get the maximum value for our customers from their available water — we do not believe in waste.”
Most of the water management takes place in the filtration house where the pressure and the distribution of the water are controlled.
Because Porterville is a winter rainfall region with hot and dry summers, they need to be proactive. Moreover, the seasons are not always predictable due to climate change, and from 2015 they have experienced many challenges with below-average rainfall.
WG concludes: “Our entire farming is future-oriented. Farmers need to understand that water will become a major challenge in the world. That is why it is important to build a relationship with an organisation like Agrico that is at the forefront of development in terms of water conservation and efficiency.”