“The high level of water-use efficiency and the ability to optimize plant nutrition is why we use drip irrigation in our citrus orchards. Switching from traditional drip irrigation to low flow drip irrigation required a paradigm shift with regards to scheduling especially. It is however an even more efficient water delivery method and eases management significantly.” Tiaan Snyman, Indigo Fruit Farming
Based on a November 2020 tree census, the Citrus Growers Association recently updated the Citrus Long-term Crop Projection Model. The key projection is that citrus volumes are likely to increase at approximately 7.1% year-on-year over the next five years.
Past and projected growth in citrus production can be attributed to a variety of driving factors including increased demand and improved farming practices and technology. The November 2020 census totals citrus hectares planted at 96 031. This shows a significant increase from the 2019 census totalled at 88 569 hectares.
According to Chris Malan, agronomy manager at Netafim South Africa, there has furthermore been a steady increase in the number of citrus orchards established in South Africa under drip irrigation over recent years. This is mainly due to improved drip irrigation and fertigation technology and products, agronomic support, on-farm managerial skills and increased pressure on water resources. In fact, improved drip irrigation and fertigation technology and methodology are two of the important drivers of growth in the citrus industry. “Fertigation has made a massive contribution to the popularity of drip irrigation on citrus and other tree crops,” says Chris Malan, agronomy manager at Netafim South Africa. “Drip irrigation and fertigation create benefits for citrus production as it allows the farmer to better control a few major processes, such as water and mineral availability, distribution and uptake, as well as root activity.
Further development of drip irrigation on citrus has been driven by the availability of low flow drip irrigation and the concept of ‘Centralised Low Flow Drip Fertigation as coined by Netafim. “South African citrus producers are world leaders in this regard,” says Malan.