Mr Ed Gevers, an alumnus of UKZN with a Master’s in Horticulture, is the manager of the Fountain Hill Estate in Wartburg. Gevers generously hosted the Field Crop Management class from UKZN during their recent field trip.
According to Professor Albert Modi, who teaches the module, the farm is an ideal representation of a complex agroecosystem that includes conservation farming. The module aims to provide students with knowledge of management practices involved in the production of field crops.
Visiting the Estate gave the students the opportunity to learn about sustainable agriculture, an important aspect of the module, from someone who has not only had similar academic experience to the students, but has practical experience as a farmer and farm manager.
The major components of the Fountain Hill agroecosytem are sugarcane, avocadoes and pastures for beef and game. The farm has a well-managed irrigation system using eight dams, but relies largely on dryland production. The students had the opportunity to observe a management system that includes crop rotation, green manuring and sustainable crop protection practices. In their reports, the students indicated that they were very impressed to learn about the challenges associated with farm management. They learned that farming involves continual learning about new strategies and innovations. It also requires accurate record keeping.
‘The Fountain Hill Estate farm has a long-term goal of achieving a sustainable integrated agroecosystem, and would like to work with researchers and students,’ said Mr Gevers.