The future of the Rooibos industry depends to a large extent on the sustainable production of healthy seedlings. Realising this, Rooibos Ltd organised an exploratory workshop where the five biggest Rooibos seedling growers could share information about terrain and soil selection, soil preparation, fertilisers, the planting season, planting density and the challenges of seedling nurseries. The event started off in Ysterfontein on 26 April 2018.
The five biggest seedling nurseries each uses over 200 kg of seed per annum. These nurseries are BBV Boerdery, FG Kotze, SA de Beer, Ysterfontein Boerdery and Zeekoevlei Boerdery.
The workshop started with Willie, Braam and Jan sharing their experiences of growing Rooibos seedlings. Their biggest challenge was weed control. Willie mentioned that Rooibos Ltd’s effective seed treatment process ensured the best germination rates. The others confirmed this.
Next, the group visited the nursery of Deon and Kerneels at Grootfontein. In 2017, their nursery received Rooibos Ltd’s Rooibos Seedling Nursery of the Year Award. Their biggest challenge was wind damage.
At Zeekoevlei, Robert and Japie showed the group their conventional nursery and talked about challenges associated with the use of compost. They also have an organic nursery where they apply soil solarisation, using plastic sheeting to cover the soil before planting the seedlings. The plants grow more slowly at the beginning. The germination rate of the seeds are also lower than at the conventional nursery. However, the organic nursery is still in a development phase and their research is ongoing.
Their next stop was Pampoentuin where Sypie, Gideon and Koos explained their challenges with wind and weed control. They also visited their organic nursery where they pointed out the danger of above-ground diseases during years with above-average rainfall.
The group ended off the day with a visit to the picturesque Paleisheuwel area. On the farm Bo-Bergvlei, Gawie talked to the group about the methods he applied to ensure healthy seedlings. His biggest challenge was nosy baboons and bat-eared foxes damaging his nurseries.
Mindful of the cold winter months ahead, Rooibos Ltd gave branded caps and hot water flasks to all the workshop participants and their staff. Each participant also received a file with information on the sustainable cultivation of Rooibos seedlings.
Lunch was served at Bo-Bergvlei. The group agreed that this workshop should become an annual event, inviting all seedling growers. Currently, there are about 45 Rooibos seedling nurseries of which 17 are commercial ventures. Every year, Rooibos Ltd, together with the Agricultural Research Council, visits as many of these nurseries as possible. New technology and the latest research findings now enable most of the seedling growers to use mechanical seed sowers and to apply the sustainable fertiliser programmes developed by Rooibos Ltd.