A winter’s tale

27 August 2012

It’s mid-August and we are slowly but surely emerging from our winter hibernation here in the Boland. As fruit farmers we need a good winter for fruit trees to produce an optimal crop. And a winter is a good one when we had sufficient rain and cold.

dam-snow

The Koue and Warm Bokkeveld is one of the few intensive agricultural production areas in South Africa where there are no public irrigation water schemes. All farms therefore rely on storing winter run-off in their own dams for irrigating fruit trees in summer (in many cases this is supplemented by boreholes).  Up until the beginning of August our valley was well behind on its normal rainfall. Fortunately the cold fronts that hit the Western Cape the last three weeks brought enough rain to fill all of our nine dams on Koelfontein and we are indeed very blessed and grateful.  In fact, some are overflowing. The last time that we had such a wet winter was in 2009, so, literally, our cup runneth over.

three-dams

Besides good rainfall during the winter months, we also need the winter-cold so that the fruit trees can go into the requisite “hibernation” that they need in order to do what we planted them for – produce great quality fruit in sufficient quantities. We measure the “coldness” or chilling effect of a particular winter by calculating “chilling units”. Different models are used to measure the number of chill units that a fruit tree has accumulated during winter. On Koelfontein we make use of the Infruitec Chill Units model which means that every one hour between 2.5°C and 9.1°C represents one chill unit. For example, a Bon Chretien pear tree needs about 800 chill units for it to blossom on time in spring and with the right number of flowers to ensure the desired crop in summer. This winter was an exceptionally cold one and we have already accumulated 1 300 chill units on Koelfontein, which is well above our long term average, so things are going well!

rainbow

Every now and again the rain takes a break, though, and last week a rainbow wrapped his colourful arms around the At Source factory. One of our colleagues, FC Truter, took this picture while he was out, searching for the ever evasive pot of gold.

blossom2

And somewhere between the rain, the cold and the snow on the mountains, the first signs of spring have crept up on us: the bright pink blossoms of the early cling peach orchards are a fair sight.

Blossom3

Unfortunately the stormy weather and gale force winds caused some damage as well, but more info on that to follow. At the moment we are just so grateful and excited at how the season is setting up.

– Annelie (At Source Commercial Manager)