RESEARCH AND TECHNOLOGY TRANSFER BY THE AGRICULTURAL RESEARCH COUNCIL TO SUSTAIN THE SOUTH AFRICAN HYDROPONIC INDUSTRY
The Agricultural Research Council, Vegetable and Ornamental Plant Institute (ARC-VOPI), developed an integrated programme to assist hydroponic vegetable farmers in South Africa. The Gauteng Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (GDARD) provides basic infrastructure to resource poor farmers, while ARC-VOPI is responsible for applied research and information dissemination. The research programme is designed to develop new methodology aimed at optimization of cultivation practices. Information dissemination efforts include tailor made training courses to improve the skills of hydroponic vegetable growers. ARC-VOPI utilizes two hydroponic systems, i.e., gravel-flow technique (GFT - closed system) and an open-bag system (OBS) for research and technology development. The research programme focuses on plant manipulation, including plant spacing, fruit and stem pruning, fertigation, cultivar evaluation and comparative performance of vegetables in different production systems. Recent research results in GFT revealed that optimization of plant density and harvest methodology resulted in more than double the yield of leafy vegetables with an additional advantage of a shorter growth season and improved quality. A nutrient solution (EC) concentration of 2 dS/m resulted in optimal yield and quality of leafy lettuce during four different growing seasons. Tomatoes produced in a GFT under a shade net structure and in a temperature-controlled tunnel (OBS) out yielded four other systems utilised in local hydroponic production of tomatoes. Shade net structures increased the incidence of early blight and fruit cracking, while production in a non-temperature-controlled tunnel resulted in a high incidence of fruit cracking. Spacing and stem pruning of tomatoes and sweet peppers in OBS resulted in increased yield and quality. The training facilities at ARC-VOPI are utilized for research, as well as training of resource poor farmers and community members who are trapped in a food security crisis. The beneficiaries are selected by GDARD, the main funder of the project, while ARC-VOPI provides training to empower the trainees to become financially independent.
du Plooy, C.P., Maboko, M.M., van den Heever , E. and Chiloane, S. (2012). RESEARCH AND TECHNOLOGY TRANSFER BY THE AGRICULTURAL RESEARCH COUNCIL TO SUSTAIN THE SOUTH AFRICAN HYDROPONIC INDUSTRY. Acta Hortic. 947, 147-151
gravel-film technique, open-bag system, plant manipulation, training