AMARANTH IN SOUTH AFRICA: HOW A FARMER DECIDED TO GROW AMARANTH AND WHAT HAPPENED FROM THAT

Автор - | 03.03.2019

We bring to your attention another interesting material, which tells about the cultivation of amaranth in the Republic of South Africa. Farmer Jerry Nevudt, who lives in the Western Cape Province (in the south-west of South Africa), was interested in the high nutritional properties of the plant. And also the fact that it can withstand harsh climatic conditions. Therefore, he decided to grow it on his land.

The material on the results was published by the journalist Glenneis Kriel in the Farmers Weekly edition in the early summer of 2017.

How it all began
Fifteen years ago, farmer JERRY NEVUDUDA amaranth seeds were given by a person looking for farmers to grow this plant in South African lands in order to eventually start exporting grain to Europe. 

Not knowing exactly what kind of harvest Jerry could get, he asked his friend Paul Schlechter, who worked as a manager on a farm near Clanvilliam, to plant seeds on his farmland. The results were unexpected.

“In almost any condition, with any sowing costs, we got plants that multiplied like weeds,” recalls Jerry. “Paul collected the seeds and returned them to me. We did not experiment with the food potential of the seed, though, because then we were completely unfamiliar with it. “

Jerry put amaranth seeds on the farthest shelf of his closet and completely forgot about them. At that time, he produced a number of agricultural products on his farm. However, the results were far from the most positive:

  • watermelons were spoiled and rotted on the way to the market;
  • Coriander was too sensitive to local soil.

After that, Jerry made an attempt to small-scale sheep farming and seemed to start to succeed in this direction. But soon the farmers of the region began to suffer from predation of jackals. Jerry traded sheep for cattle, but this trend quickly came to decadence – leopards began attacking the farm.

And only last year, Jerry noticed a forgotten jar of amaranth seeds in a closet and began to explore its features, read about plant articles on the Internet.

“My“ online research ”made it clear that amaranth is native to Central America and was grown by the Aztecs more than 6,000 years ago. Today it is cultivated in different parts of the world, including China, India, Africa and the USA, ”says the farmer.

The growth of amaranth popularity
The global demand for amaranth skyrocketed in the 1970s. The reason for this was the growing public awareness of its properties for an amaranth in the health field, including the absence of gluten in products derived from amaranth. Its grain can be crushed into flour, and the leaves – used as greens in salads. In addition, butter is squeezed out of the grain and popcorn is prepared.

Jerry also found that amaranth is classified as “pseudo-grain” because it comes from a broadleaf plant, whereas most cereals, such as wheat and rice, are made from plants of another family.

Amaranth grain is currently sold in South Africa ranging from $ 10 to $ 14 per kilogram. According to Jerry, amaranth seed imports can bring up to $ 160 per kilogram.

Research amaranth varieties
Jerry began to look for relatively hardy varieties of amaranth that would be resistant to soil salinization. Recalling his experience in growing watermelons, he also wanted a crop that would be easy to transport and would not be damaged, rotted, or otherwise negative after harvest. Jerry is convinced that amaranth meets all requirements.

After his research, Jerry decided to plant a crop of 8,000 m² of his farm. Kenneth Kaunda, head of the Northwestern Agricultural District Service, provided him with 2.1 kilogram of amaranth A. cruentus seeds, and IntelliGro supplied him with fertilizers.

Note! The species A. cruentus, A. hypochondriacus and A. caudatus are internationally recognized grain-producing varieties, while there are also varieties more suitable for leaf production.

“I do not expect anything supernatural, but, most likely, the result will be close to the international industry standard of 1000 kg of seeds per hectare of sown area,” says Jerry.

He found that the best time for planting is between mid-September and the end of October, as his farm is located in the Southern Hemisphere. Jerry emphasizes that he is a farmer, not a scientist, and therefore his observations are applicable only to his crops.

Based on the results of the analysis, the nutritional requirements for agricultural crops and the climatic conditions in the region, PETER SAIMAN, a specialist in growing crops at Intelligro, advised him to use NPK fertilizers. Peter says that his company was pleased to participate in the project because they recognize the importance of having alternative crops in the Klanvilliam region.

“We are always excited about new projects that can help increase the income of farmers, especially if this can lead to a reduction in water consumption,” says Peter.

Approximately three weeks after germination, the seedlings were thinned to an interval of 1 meter between rows and an interval from 25 cm to 30 cm within each row, which amounted to about 33,600 plants per hectare of the cultivated area.

“I used a low planting density to prevent internal competition and overshadow the plants,” explains Jerry.

The first batch of seeds was planted too deep into the soil and did not germinate, so Jerry sowed a new batch with a pepper pot and covered them with a thin layer of soil 1 cm thick.

Although the soil in this region of South Africa is usually quite sandy, there are areas of soil where soil compaction makes it almost impossible to plant. Seedlings planted in these areas, struggled to establish themselves, in contrast to those that are planted on more loose sandy soil.

Like almost all plants, amaranth grows best with irrigation, but it is well known for its ability to survive even in conditions of lack of moisture.

“I know Mexican farmers who lost all their corn during droughts, but managed to collect amaranth that same year,” says Jerry. “Amaranth has a well-developed root system and highly efficient photosynthesis pathways, which makes it drought-resistant. In extremely dry conditions, plants can temporarily completely wither and then come to life after the “appearance” of water.

AJ De Clerk, Agrinet Consultant, provided Jerry pumps for testing for free. Jerry experimented with drip irrigation, micro-sprinklers in every second row and above-ground sprinklers, and believes that the second and third options gave the best results.

Seedlings received from 14 to 15 mm of water twice a week for four months. Since growth was uneven, Jerry stopped irrigating when seeds began to ripen on most plants.

Amaranth continued to grow after the cessation of irrigation. Despite the fact that he cannot compare water consumption with corn crops in the area, Jerry knows a farmer near Lambert Bay (63 km from his farm), who irrigates his lands almost without stopping. Therefore, Jerry suspects that amaranth’s water requirements are significantly lower, depending on climatic conditions and soil type.

“I hope that we will be able to continue the development of the amaranth market in South Africa and in this process significantly expand production. The harvest promises to increase food security because of its low water requirements and high nutritional value, ”said Jerry.

Summarizing
Of course, the characteristics of the climate, the soil, as well as other varieties of amaranth used in sowing differ from the conditions of our country. However, the experience of the farmer Jerry Nevudt can be useful to domestic producers of amaranth. Since it indicates that the plant feels great even in not the most favorable conditions and is able to produce a good harvest!

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