Often, we fall into the trap of believing that farming is just about working the land, managing the growth of crops, and reaping the harvest. Perhaps this was the case hundreds of years ago, but it certainly isn’t Koshik Sitaram’s farming practice. Together with his brother Dicky, and son Yasteel, the men work together to farm and supply directly to retailers. Based on years and years of farming practice (Koshik’s father, now 83yrs old, started farming on Tegwaan Nest farm in Baynesfield many years ago), as well as the development of long-term relationships with retailers, Koshik plants according to a three-to-five-year plan that is implemented on an annual basis.

‘I was a red label product guy’ Koshik says, ‘but now I’ve managed to reduce chemical use to approximately 50%’. That’s an incredible fete considering that Koshik farms a wide range of vegetables. Currently they can farm up to eleven vegetables at one time, and their crops include peppers, cabbage, beetroot, butternut, carrots, coriander, spinach, chilies, and lettuce. With such high utilization of the land and quick turnover of the soil, it’s impressive to see how Koshik’s farming practices have enabled him to produce abundant crop yields and maintain soil health.

Prior to planting, Koshik does a seedling drench of Real Trichoderma TRC900, SeaBrix and Bacillus. These products along with Real Metarhizium 69 are further incorporated into the seedling bed prior to planting at land prep. Buthelezi, Koshik’s trusted right-hand man explains how this treatment has helped improve plant resilience and improved viability and cut rates when clubroot becomes a problem. Buthelezi is a Future farming success story and has worked his way up through the programme to where he is today. He explains that he is also using Biotrissol - a certified organic 3:1:5 NPK fertiliser, which stimulates healthy plant growth, the formation of flowering and improves fruit set, on peppers, chilies, butternut, and we are seeing positive results on spinach and celery. The results have been excellent, and the combination of plastic mulch, seedling drenches and Biotrissol allows Koshik to pick up to eleven rounds of peppers in a season.

Koshik explains that despite using chicken litter, to replenish the soil when he was using only chemicals on the farm, he started to notice the degradation of the soil. He began speaking to Steve and Ross at realIPM, and took up the process of regular soil analysis and data collection for each block of land, thanks to the additional guidance of the Future farmers organisation. He began a process of regular soil monitoring which informed Koshik on what additional nutrients are required. In addition, Koshik has introduced cover crops (green manure) such as black oats, a good crop to help manage nematodes (this is known as allelopathy - a biological phenomenon by which an organism (i.e., the black oats) produces one or more biochemicals that influence the germination, growth, survival, and reproduction of other organisms). Every now and then, he also plants his spinach (in summer) and his peppers under plastic mulch – this helps with water retention, less weed pressure and competition, and better overall results.

‘The truth is, it works, but… it comes down to the management and the timing’ states Koshik. He also explains that the real tests take place in summer, when there are extremely challenging environmental issues – heat and hail, combined with loadshedding and increased pest pressure. That is why they have opted to plant a wide variety of veg, explains Yasteel. Using data and market demand, the brothers have developed their planting schedule very specifically to provide for their buyer’s demands. When crops disappoint, there is a backup plan and a wide safety net. Over the past few years, they have bought another 80ha, and they now farm a combined 120ha. The new farm has afforded the opportunity to grow vegetables using a centre pivot and this increased land is put to good use. Yasteel explains that they farm to supply the market what it needs, no more and no less. As they have a direct line to their buyers, they are able to manage the link between production and demand. This has been critical in their development and growth as a successful enterprise.

In addition, the brothers are focused on delivering quality products. They have their own washing, cleaning, and packing plant, and are focused on ensuring their products are not only graded but arrive at the customer looking great. This attention to detail is what has definitely sealed the deal for their buyers. realIPM is honored to be a part of this incredible and exciting farm that is definitely going to continue to grow.

If you would like to know how realIPM’s products can complement your soil and pest management programme, contact us for more information.