Most people will agree that they have had an ‘Ah ha’ moment at some point in their lives. In most cases, we often have the opportunity to have multiple ‘Ah ha’ moments. The important thing to take away from one of these break throughs, is that we change something in our behaviour or perception, ideally for the better.

Karel Du Toit had an ‘Ah ha’ moment a few years ago when he was offered the opportunity to visit the then Del Monte factory in Tulbagh that processed the peaches on behalf of Nestle for baby puree. As an approved peach grower to the factory, he stood in awe as he watched his peaches transformed from fruit to baby food without any additives, right before his eyes. The baby food was pure fruit, straight from his trees. He realized in that moment the impact of spraying chemicals onto food. If he used ‘hard’ chemicals to manage pests and diseases on his peaches, those chemicals, would end up in the mouths of babies.

Since then, Karel has been looking for alternative ways to manage pests and reduce resistance in pests. Over time he has moved away from farming citrus, which he says requires higher production (input) costs. In comparison, peach tree pests such as spider mites, fruit fly and moth species are easier to manage without hard chemicals. He is able to use traps to manage the fruit flies. If done with careful scouting as well as beneficial insects such as lacewing, fruit fly can be well managed. Karel also ensures his peach crops are healthy. He uses realIPM’s AminoK with every fertilizer application, and SeaBrix with every foliar spray (to boost chlorophyl production), plus Real Bacillus and Real Trichoderma TRC900. The combination of healthy soil and enhanced root growth, only serve to increase the ability of the tree to produce voluminous yields.

In the case of wine grapes, a crop he now plants in conjunction to peaches, rather than citrus, Karel is very happy with his alternative growing style. His grapes are grown using the ‘ballet-dress’ style. This ensures that the leaves of the plants obtain sufficient water and sunlight; are easy to harvest, and the temperature of the soil is cooler – maintaining soil water content. Karel uses a mulch of straw and wood ships and only uses minimal herbicide to manage weed growth near the base of the vines. Since reducing his herbicide use to a minimal amount, and focusing on soil coverage/protection, he has had five years of excellent production.

To this day, Karel continues to supply the baby food factory with quality peaches and his peaches are regularly tested for chemical residue. Thanks to his ‘Ah ha’ moment, Karel never has to worry about meeting minimum residue limits, and everything he has learnt along the way, with regard to sustainable integrative farming, has been applied to the other crops on his farm.

Thank you to Hardie, realIPM’s technical representative and Karel for hosting the realIPM team on his historical farm.