Skietlaagte Farms cultivates summer crops, predominantly white and yellow maize, and sunflower. Sugar graze sileage is also planted and harvested for cattle feed.
Maize was first introduced into South Africa in 1655 and accounts for roughly two thirds of the country’s commercial area under crops. White maize is used for human consumption whilst yellow maize is the primary energy source in livestock feed.
Crop rotation is a critical element of the production strategy with maize planted in rotation with sunflower. Crop rotation essentially reduces the dependence on one set of nutrients, overall pest and weed pressure, and the probability of developing pests and weeds that become resistant.
Overall soil health management is important to ensure the optimization and sustainability of crop production. Each block of land is analysed to determine depth, type, texture and water retention capacity and on a three-year rotating cycle the soil chemistry including PH Levels is examined. This analysis in conjunction with yield and rainfall data provides the information needed for the annual liming, fertilization and crop planting plan. All corrections are done prior to planting.
Skietlaagte Farms uses two planting systems
Maize is planted in a six-row x 90cm conventional system with each six-row group having a combined width of 5.8m and using granular fertiliser.
Sunflower is planted using a ten-row x 76cm no-till system using liquid fertiliser.
Both systems make use of precision farming techniques for cultivation, fertilization, planting, chemical spraying and harvesting.
Maintaining the balance of crops and cattle within the overall farming operation of Skietlaagte Farms is challenging and over time some marginal crop lands have been converted to grass lands with the necessary fencing and infrastructure put in place to manage the herds of cattle more effectively. During the winter months the cattle benefit from feeding off the maize lands once they have been harvested and this has increased the cattle carrying capacity of the farms significantly.