A Good Year for Citrus at Marble Hall

 Citrus picking and packing are in full swing at SAFE’s Marble Hall farm in Limpopo, and the prospects for a first class harvest are excellent, says farm manager Frans Vorsatz.

“We anticipate a very good citrus harvest this year – water has been plentiful and there has been no hail so far, whereas last year hail caused a lot of damage.

Our water comes from Loskop Dam, which is on the Highveld about 80km away, and at present the dam is 100% full, so we have had a full quota of water for the current crop.

“We expect to pack around one million cartons this season compared to just over 500 000 last season. We also changed our spraying programme at the start of the growing season, so a higher percentage of the packed boxes will consist of class one citrus, with less of the other classes than previously,” says Frans, who has lived in the region all his life.

“The harvest is well under way, and we are packing about 11 000 boxes of naartjies a day. We expect the harvest to continue for another three to four months as the various other varieties ripen at different times.”

Marble Hall is a 472 ha farm about 150 km from Pretoria, and is mainly planted to citrus, but also has about 200 ha of cash crops, such as red and white beans.

In the following few weeks these will be harvested to sent to the farmers in Delmas, with whom SAFE has a contract to grow the produce for the domestic market.

The farm employs close to 100 full time staff, and also takes on temporary staff, from the nearby towns, in the packhouse during the harvest.

“We plan our orchards so that the farm is expanding each season, and many of the varieties now growing will be bearing fruit for the first time next year.

“At present, we have lemons, nova naartjies and mineolas as well as other citrus such as Navelina and Bahianinha, Rustenburgs, Witkrans and Deltas,” says Frans.

“We still have a lot of space for new trees, but we have to watch the water situation. The whole of South Africa is a scarce water region, so you have to be very careful not to expand to the extent that in a low rainfall year you might be unable to irrigate the orchards and crops you have planted.

“When the dams aren’t full, the farmers don’t get their full quota of water for the year, so you always have to bear that in mind when planning future expansion.”

Like most farming operations, the citrus cycle is ongoing. A few weeks into the harvest the trees that have been picked are pruned back, after withholding water for a short time so that growth slows.

‘Windows’ are opened in the trees and dead branches are removed to prevent them scratching the new fruit that is forming. The dried branches are left under the trees as mulch, spraying is carried out, and compost and other fertilisers are applied, following the fertilising and pesticide programmes of Lowveld Agrochem

“This has been a very good season for citrus,” says Frans. “We are providing the marketing department with regular updates on the packing process, so that they can let overseas clients know they can expect top quality produce this year.”

Marble Hall farm manager, Frans Vorsatz.

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