Surrounded by lush maize and sunflower fields, approximately 200 growers and agents who sell agriculture input products met at the world-class Syngenta trial farm outside Bethlehem in the Free State to learn more about precision farming on 29 and 30 March 2023. The occasion was the second Syngenta/John Deere Knowledge Hub and, judging by the enthusiasm with which attendees participated in the discussions and activities, it was a resounding success.

A recurring theme was the role of technology in food security. The United Nations estimates that by 2050 the global population will exceed 9 billion people and the general consensus is that global agriculture production has to increase by between 60% and 70% from current levels to meet the resultant food demand.

“Only through continuous research and the appropriate use of technology can we satisfy our continent’s current and future food requirements,” says Christian Giesel, marketing manager: crop protection at Syngenta. “However, the best technology has to applied correctly to achieve the best results, hence the closer collaboration between Syngenta and John Deere holds huge value for growers and agents alike.”

Christian Giesel

The first Knowledge Hub event took place in September last year in Napier in the Western Cape with a programme specifically relevant to wheat growers. The feedback was so positive, that Syngenta and John Deere immediately started arranging a similar day for maize growers in die central regions of South Africa.

The Knowledge Hub programme in Bethlehem focused on summer row crops and growers and agents could choose which of the two days to attend. Syngenta’s Maize Maze proved a popular attraction. The imaginative route took visitors past seven information stations where they could listen to presentations on the latest research into the control of cutworm, nematodes and pigweed, notably the newcomer Amaranthus palmeri, and learn more about AgriClime™, Syngenta’s crop-cover solution that is based on top-class weather data.

Darius Zeelie from Syngenta’s Seed Division led the discussion about new Sensako cultivars and, among others, referred to the launch of Agrisure Viptera®, a stacked-gene product for the control of stalk borers, fall armyworm and cutworm that were planted extensively in maize trials over the past two seasons. “We are looking forward to sharing the results with our clients,” Zeelie said.

The information Stefan van Zyl from Syngenta Seedcare shared around the best treatments to protect seed and seedlings received much attention, as did the demonstration of John Deere’s latest plant and spray equipment.

Given the growing importance of producing more with less resources, growers derived tremendous value from the tips shared by Jack Pickering, Syngenta’s crop protection application specialist, on how to ensure that the efficacy of crop-protection products is not thwarted by poor nozzle choices or unfavourable weather conditions. “The product is only as good as its application,” Pickering cautioned.

Jack Pickering

Results that are being achieved with the Syngenta fungicide hat trick – MIRAVIS® Neo, AMISTAR® Top and ARTEA® – were discussed with reference to a trial plot, while several growers also shared their first-hand experience with the effective trio.

It is exactly this kind of interaction and the combination of theory and practice that set the Knowledge Hubs apart from traditional farmers’ days, notes Giesel. He explains that the idea for Syngenta and John Deere to host an event centred on precision farming was born early in 2022. “Successful farming rests on the ability to identify, understand and integrate many different variables, from when you plant to when you harvest. The fact that our crop-protection products can only do their work when they are applied properly and precisely, made the decision to join forces with John Deere an easy and logical one.”

Giesel sees this partnership as an opportunity for two of the most trusted names in agriculture to share knowledge, introduce ground-breaking technology and shine the spotlight on farming best practices. All this is in service of safeguarding the production of high quality food against current and future challenges and to lay the foundation for precision farming in South Africa. “We achieve this many-facetted objective by giving Knowledge Hub attendees the opportunity to experience for themselves what can be achieved when input, digital and equipment technology converge,” says Giesel.

“The Knowledge Hub was a world-class day hosted with utmost professionalism,” says Fires Janse van Vuuren, an agent with Laeveld Agrochem in Kroonstad. “The quality of the presentations was outstanding, and I think people who couldn’t be there really missed out. The information that was shared was practical and of great value.”

Source: Syngenta