Just around the corner from Port Elizabeth is the famous Citrus Growing region of Sundays River.
From humble beginnings in 1924, the Sundays River Citrus Company (Pty) Ltd (SRCC), previously known as the Sundays River Citrus Co-operative, has grown to become the largest packer and marketer of citrus in southern Africa. From the 20,000 cartons packed in its first year, SRCC and its grower shareholders have managed to increase their production to the record of 8,5 million cartons that was packed and exported during the 2006 season (12% of this total represents South African citrus crop!).
Spring is the season for new growth, when growers plant their open root trees and potted trees. Some planting takes place in March and April.
With the exception of lemons, which flower up to four times per year, flowering occurs during Spring. The buds appear in early August, and by early October the last petals fall, leaving tiny fruitlets behind.
The picking season is clearly the most important and exciting part of the production cycle for the citrus industry, since this is when the hard work during the rest of the year pays dividends.
Where it all begins
The growing process begins when the grower orders his trees. It is vital that growers buy from a reputable SA Nurseryman’s Association accredited nursery to ensure good quality trees. The nurseryman plants the root stock from seed and once the plant is big enough, he grafts a bud of whichever cultivar the grower requires, onto the root stock.
All bud wood and seed originates from the Outspan Foundation Block in Uitenhage, considered the best of its kind in the world. Citrus is prone to viral disease, but stock from this facility gives the grower peace of mind that his plants will not only be true to type, but virus-free. Once ordered, it takes up to two years before these trees are ready for planting.
Citrus farming is a long term project, since not only does it take up to five years before a tree bears fruit, but the average life expectancy of a tree is between 25 and 30 years.
Navels have traditionally been the preferred cultivar planted in the Sundays River Valley and the area has won world wide acclaim for this fruit. In recent years, however, the valley has become world renowned for the high quality lemons that is produced.
The Sundays River Valley is well known throughout the world for the fact that it is able to produce almost any kind of citrus, thanks to both its special climatic conditions and its location in a valley, which is not too close to the sea. Citrus farming is particularly dependant on both summer and winter temperatures. Ideally, for the best possible quality fruit, with internal quality and good colour, the temperature should not be too hot in summer, nor too cold in winter. Despite its hot summers, which allows the area to produce fruit with a high sugar content, the Eastern Cape is regarded as a cool citrus producing area. This accounts for the excellent quality of the navels and lemons it produces. The cold, frost-free winters assure good colour development.
The climate also allows growers to diversify their range of products and so increase the length of their picking season. Thanks to this flexibility, the Sundays River is known as the one-stop-shop where international suppliers know they can purchase all their requirements from.
One of the most vital resources required for good citrus production is water, which the Sundays River Valley enjoys in abundance. Fed via a tunnel from the Gariep Dam into the Fish River, the water flows into the upper reaches of the Sundays River and from there into the Darlington Dam, which feeds the valley’s irrigation system.
Soil enhancement and adaptation is achieved through the use of fertilizer. There is a huge drive towards using organic products like compost and humic acid to improve the overall soil health and microbial activity in the soil. By improving the organic matter content of the soil, less inorganic fertilisers is necessary and a more sustainable root environment is created.
Date: November 06, 2015 13:03
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Article source: http://mype.co.za/new/oranges/55888/2015/11