Date interviewed 7 June 2017
Date newsletter posted 13 November 2017
Farmer Ludick Delport
Farm Baobab 1 Trust
Mill Pongola
Total farm size 389 hectares
Area under cane 322 hectares (this season)
Other crops/businesses Cabbage (rotation crop) Currently about 24 hectares
Distance from coast Approx 108kms
Latitude 27,38’ South
Dominant Soil type Wide range
Cutting cycle 12 months (av 8 years per ratoon)
Irrigation Centre pivot, sprinklers and drip
Record yield 220 tonnes/hectare *(see info on this field below, in the Fertiliser discussion)
Average yield 105 – 110 tonnes/hectare
Av RV 12.8%
Growing cycle 12-13 months
Varieties N41, N26, N53, N57, N46, N23, N40 (won’t plant N40 again)

This was a wonderful place to be. Baobabs being my favourite tree, and this being Baobab 1 Trust, bode well.

And from the outset, it was a relaxed and easy-going experience. Ludick is a very calm person and the farm runs efficiently under his respectful leadership. The first moment of enlightenment came as I arrived and Ludick immediately introduced me to his key staff members who were in the yard and gearing their teams up for the day’s tasks. Granted, I rarely arrive early enough to meet the staff, but it was refreshing to have key people acknowledged.

Ludick’s farming experience is extensive and goes back generations. Initially from Swaziland, Ludick’s dad settled in Komatipoort in 1975, where he farmed sugarcane. But they were 50kms from the mill and that proved to be too great a distance. As he was contemplating options, six farms, bordering the Pongola mill, became available and Mr Delport Snr. snapped up three of them. He was not going to be facing transportation issues any longer! One of these farms were originally owned by Koos van der Bank, who was the “Induna” when the irrigation canals were built in the 1930s.  The other two farms were originally owned by Willie Drieselman and Piet Olivier. Mr Delport Snr. bought these farms from C.G. Smith.  He obviously had his pick of farms and chose the ones on the mill’s doorstep. The Delport family settled here in 1984, just as Ludick completed his studies at U.OFS (BAgric) and national service, and he got straight into the family business.

The farming business has grown significantly since then. There are now eight farms within the Baobab 1 Trust stable. One of them is in Swaziland, where Henno, Ludick’s younger brother, is handling 40 hectares of macadamia plantations. This farm is only 77kms away and Ludick regularly visits to assist with management. The other two Delport brothers work in the corporate sector – one is an international auditor and the other works at the Pongola Sugar Mill.  Perhaps this large family is the reason Ludick is so easy going. He, himself, has had four children: two daughters and two sons. Tiaan, who is 22 and has completed a degree in Behavioural Sciences, is now getting his practical experience refined and currently heads up irrigation at Baobab, along with the experienced Judas. Tiaan’s older brother is currently studying Communications but is also showing an interest in farming. When the boys get older and all the land loans are all settled, they will probably divide the farms up into separate operations as Henno also has a son who is studying agriculture.

A photo of Pongola mill, taken while standing in Ludick’s fields.

Drought: Our first topic of conversation was the drought and what Ludick did to survive. Most importantly, he used any available water on germinating and small cane rather than on the established fields. He also made use of any rainfall, even if it happened in the middle of the night. Some herbicides require water so the sprayers would fire up their tractors and get to work if the heavens opened. Ludick is extremely grateful to his team who knew what was required and got the job done, regardless of the time they had to do it. During this challenging time, he fertilised only with Nitrogen, as part of cost cutting.

Varieties: The drought brought up discussions on varieties and Ludick laughs that the only dry land cane variety they have here did not fare well during the drought: N41 struggled with Eldana and Smut. N26 also became prone to Eldana during the drought. Ludick’s favourite variety is N23. He has a field that’s about to give its 17th yield at 120t/h. He admits that this field does have particularly good soil and warns that you must harvest N23 before September because it flowers thereafter and loses sucrose. It’s a nice, straight cane stalk.

Herbicides: Ludick chooses to blanket spray herbicides, using a variety of chemicals including Prowl, Cantron & Imposter. He also employs about 6 or 7 ladies who constantly spot spray Round Up on Kweek.

The dreaded Kweek

Labour: How Ludick handles this element of his operation is key to his success.

  • Baobab, here in Pongola, has about 50 labourers. 24 of those are cutters who generally go home in the off season. Accommodation is provided for all staff to live on the property.
  • Ludick lays out the organisation’s plan at the beginning of the season. Making sure that everyone understands the operation’s goals and the work required to achieve them enables the staff to make good, independent decisions quickly. This frees Ludick up to spend his energy on more strategic management issues that come with a large operation like this.
  • For the cutters, he has changed to payment-per-tonne so that it correlates with his tons delivered per field. He does this without having to weigh the cane. He only has to measure metres per cutter. Here is a fictitious example:
  • Basic respect. Ludick introduced his key men as though they were partners. It is clear that he has high expectations of them but also acknowledges their positions. As a result, Ludick rarely has problems. He loves to travel and has the peace of mind to leave the farm for 2 weeks, knowing there won’t be any issues. All it takes is clear explanation of his expectations: what they need to do and what not to do.

Fertilisers: Ludick does test his soils. Up until 2 years ago, this was done in the USA but lately, he has made use of the laboratory in Nelspruit.

In the table at the beginning of this article, it shows that Ludick’s record yield for a field is 220 tonnes per hectare. That was for a field where about 400t/hectare of mila had been applied once off. The cane was N25, 15 months old and had terrible sucrose. It sure was heavy though! These fields now have almost toxic levels of phosphates and therefore only receive Nitrogen and Potassium. All new fields get whatever they need, as well as mila whenever it is available.

Ludick has learnt that his fields generally require Gypsum more than Lime. The high salinity (Sodium) in the soils can be addressed with sulphur, which comes in the gypsum. This reacts with the sodium to form sodium sulphate that, with the help of gypsum, can drain from the soil.

Split fertiliser applications are not practiced here. Ludick believes it’s too expensive for an operation this size where he is looking for ways to minimise tasks rather than add to them.

Urea based fertilisers are used. When irrigation is on hand, volatilisation is less of a concern.

Processes: Ratoon fields: Immediately after harvesting, the land is irrigated to stimulate growth. A few days later, fertiliser is applied. Herbicides are then blanket sprayed when the first weeds appear.

Plant cane: Ludick grows the majority of his own seedcane but will also buy in new varieties if they’ve performed well in the area. When replanting a field, Ludick rips to a depth of 750mm because of the value gained by loosening and lifting a profile that has been sinking over the past 8+ years. He furrows, places a double row of sticks and cuts them in the furrow. The furrows are then closed and the field irrigated all on the same day it is planted. Fertiliser and herbicides follow as with the ratooned fields.

Pests: Since the drought, Eldana has been a challenge. Ludick has sprayed for the pest and N41 might make him spray again this year. He uses the tractor to apply the chemical, saying that the problem is exacerbated when the stalks are left too high. See below for an example of Eldana low in the stalk (red colouration indicates presence of Eldana):

The downside of having your farm AT the mill entrance is that every stick of Pongola cane is transported past your farm – who knows what pests and fungi are dropped along the roadside and into the roadside fields.

Although RSD is something Ludick takes preventative action against (by ensuring that all cane knives are dipped in Jeyes fluid daily) the farm is free of this disease. Thrips is not a challenge this year but smut has been. Again, N41 is particularly susceptible and one field had to be removed completely.

Ripener: Ludick uses Fusilade, usually through the mill helicopter programme but, this year, when the helicopters were late, he had to begin spraying with the Venturi system. Everyone has their own way of controlling irrigation through this ripening process but Ludick chooses to stop irrigating the day before spraying. In summer, he’ll then continue irrigating for a further 3 weeks after ripening and dry-off for 4 weeks. In winter, the cane is not irrigated again after ripening. All harvesting is done 7 weeks after ripening.

Irrigation: This beautiful farm has two centre pivots, one covering about 50 hectares and the other about 15 hectares, (both Agrico) and Ludick is looking to install a third to cover a 60-hectare field. Then there is drip irrigation in a further 20 hectares. The balance of the farm is irrigated through sprinklers, most of which are semi-permanent. Ludick says the semi-permanent set up is the only way to go as it reduces the labour intensity of moving the irrigation. Every 18m there is a hydromatic valve with short drag hose. The hoses on each sprinkler are therefore much shorter and easier to move. Poor soil quality meant that drip irrigation in some fields of a farm recently purchased had to be removed. This will be used in the Swaziland macadamia operation and the damaged field will lie fallow with a rotation crop until the organic matter levels have improved enough to sustain a sugar cane crop well. Further sprinkler irrigation will be used here.

All forms of irrigation have their pros and cons. Ludick finds that drip irrigation, although the best at delivering moisture to the point it is required and therefore saving water and electricity, is constantly being chewed by the cane rats and rabbits. Every day, the irrigation team must check the system and repair damages. Despite this, it is still his preferred method of irrigation, “Subsoil would be best, but you need a lot of land to make that investment viable,” says Ludick.

The sprinkler irrigation is moved twice a day and runs for about 7-8 hours at a time. Each field is watered about once a week. Luckily, the majority of these farms are below the water canal so pumping (smaller pumps, less power) is relatively inexpensive. A challenge that plagues Ludick is to tailor irrigation to soil type: in a field, there will be multiple soil types, each with their own moisture requirements, yet irrigation is uniform across the field. It makes the task challenging and means that the best (as opposed to the perfect) decision made for the field as a whole.

Crime: Ludick does not see crime as a huge problem. Any issues on his farms have been related mainly to steel theft and, now that most of the irrigation systems has been changed to plastic parts, there’s nothing of resale value to steal. Generally, it is easy to look around and check that the sprinkler system is still there but extra vigilance is required when it is shut off because of rain or canal maintenance.

Talk about crime led me to wondering about land claims in these parts: yes, the practice is alive here but, so far, not too successful. Ludick enlightened me about why. Again, his ancestors are a part of the story. In the very early 1900’s the Swazi king wanted to give concessions to white farmers so that he created a buffer between his land and the Zulus. The Vermaaks (Ludick’s great grandparents) were one of those farmers, but they declined the gift, preferring instead to pay for the land. The purchase records form a part of the old Transvaal archives and are signed by all parties concerned. Payment was made in cattle. Canegrowers are handling the current disputed land claim and Ludick is confident it won’t succeed.

Harvesting: What tips does Ludick have for us here?

  • Cut VERY low to remove as much of Eldana as possible.
  • Check the mill figures. If you get a low RV, find out why. Usually, it is either a topping issue or a timing issue. Topping issues can be resolved by talking to the cutters concerned. Timing is usually only a problem with the “clean up” bundles, ie: there has been a delay in getting them in to the mill.
  • Ludick uses a Bell and loads in-field. To minimise the compaction effects he has placed a 3m road for the tractor and trailers every 36m. The Bell loads from 18m on one side and 18m on the other side. Because of his proximity to the mill, and no haulage requirement, loading zones and reloading for transportation is irrelevant.

The road right behind the tractor is the one entering the mill. In the foreground is the cutter, topping his cane.

Equipment: Ludick prefers Landini tractors and their excellent consumption figures. His use only 4,5 litres per hour, whereas others brands he’s had experience with can consume three times that.

Education: If anyone is wondering what tertiary education is endorsed by a successful cane farmer, Ludick believes that understanding soils is vital to successful farming. And, to be successful in Pongola, a thorough knowledge of irrigation is also important.

Administration: Rather than running a farm office, Ludick has chosen to leave all administration of the business to external auditors. They keep track of all costs and present reports that even detail what each piece of equipment is costing. He says this information helps him to make decisions and he couldn’t imagine having to handle all the paperwork that goes into generating that.

Other crops: Besides the usual rotation crops of Sunhemp in summer and oats in winter, which are ploughed back into the field as organic feed, Ludick also grows cabbages. He plants 4 hectares at a time, 24 hectares per year.

A few seconds of maths and I had to ask why, at those prices, he was bothering with cane at all? Ludick laughs, “Diseases in cabbages can be a problem. Last year I lost almost 80% of one field. Otherwise, they are very profitable but not as easy as cane farming.”

And that brings to the end of our visit and time to sum Ludick up … this was difficult because he is such a laid-back, casual man. I think I have to go back to his special way with people …

Thank you Ludick for being such a gracious and relaxed host and for sharing everything about your farm.

En nou vir die Afrikaanse weergawe:

Datum van onderhoud 7 Junie 2017
Publikasie datum 13 November 2017
Boer Ludick Delport
Plaas Baobab 1 Trust
Meule Pongola
Grootte van plaas 389 hektaar
Oppervlak onder suikerriet 322 hektaar (huidige seisoen)
Ander gewasse/besighede Kool (wisselbou-gewas) Huidiglik ongeveer 24 hektaar
Afstand vanaf kus Ongeveer 108km
Breedtegraad 27,38’ Suid
Dominante grondsoort Wye verskeidenheid
Kapsiklus 12 maande (gem 8 jaar per ratoen)
Besproeiing Spilpunte, Oorhoofse sproeiers and Drup
Rekord opbrengs 220 ton/hektaar *(sien  inligting ivm hierdie land later, in die bespreking oor Bemesting)
Gemiddelde opbrengs 105 – 110 ton/hektaar
Gem RV 12.8%
Groeisiklus 12-13 maande
Variëteite N41, N26, N53, N57, N46, N23, N40 (Sal nie weer  N40 aanplant nie)

Hierdie was die wonderlikste plek om te wees.  ‘n Boabab of beter bekend in Afrikaans as ‘n Kremetart , is my gunsteling boom, daarom gaan dit goed met Boabab Trust 1.

Hierdie onderhoud was van die begin af baie ontspanne en gemaklik. Ludick is  baie rustig as persoon en daarom verloop alle werksaamhede op die plaas, baie glad onder sy gerespekteerde leiding.  My eerste kennismaking hiermee, is pas nadat ek op die plaas gearriveer het.  Hy het my aan sy voormanne voorgestel wat besig  was om take vir die dag uit te deel.  Ek moet  skaamteloos erken, dit is selde dat ek so vroeg op ‘n plaaswerf is, om die werkers raak te loop  en dit was vir my ‘n aangename ondervinding.

Ludick se ondervinding in boerdery is omvangryk en gaan al geslagte terug.  Sy pa was aanvanklik van Swaziland afkomstig. In 1975 vestig hy hom in Komatipoort, waar hy met suikerriet begin boer het.   Die 50km, wat hulle egter tussen die meule en die plaas moes ry, het met verloop van tyd nét te vêr geraak.  Hy het begin om ander geleenthede te ondersoek  en op ses plase, wat aan die Pongola suikermeule grens, afgekom. Mnr Delport Snr. het dadelikdie geleentheid aangegryp en drie van die plase gekoop. Sy vervoerprobleme was nou iets van die verlede!  Een van hierdie plase het aanvanklik behoort aan ene Koos van der Bank. Koos was die “Induna” toe Pongola se kanaalstelsel in die laat 1930’s gebou is. Twee van die ander plase, het oorspronklik aan Willie Drieselman en Piet Olivier behoort, maar Mnr Delport Snr. het dit by C.G Smit gekoop.  Vanselfsprekend het hy plase gekies wat op die suikermeule se drumpel geleë was. Die Delport-familie het in 1984, hulle hier kom vestig. Dit was net nadat Ludick sy B.Agric studies aan die Universiteit van die Vrystaat  en ook sy diensplig voltooi het. Hy het dadelik in die familie besigheid ingeval.

Die boerdery het aansienlik sedert daardie tyd gegroei. Daar is op die oomblik agt plase in Bobaab Trust 1 se stal. Een van hierdie plase is in Swaziland geleë, waar Henno, Ludick se jonger broer, met 40ha Makadamias boer. Hierdie plaas is net 77km vanaf Pongola en Ludick gaan gereeld soontoe om met die bestuur handjie by te sit. Die ander twee Delport broers, is in die koöperatiewe sektor werksaam – een ‘n internasionale ouditeur en die ander een is by die suikermeule in Pongola werksaam . Dit is waarskynlik agv hierdie groot familie, dat Ludick so gemaklik en rustig deur die lewe gaan. Ludick het self vier kinders; twee dogters en twee seuns.  Tiaan (22), het sy graad in Gedragswetenskappe voltooi. Hy is tans besig om die  praktiese sy hiervan te verfyn,  terwyl hy in  beheer van  Bobaab se besproeiing is,  onder die wakened oog van die meer ervare Judas. Tiaan se ouer broer is tans besig met sy studies in Kommunikasiekunde, maar sy belangstelling in die boerdery skemer ook deur.  Wanneer die seuns eers ouer is en al die boerdery-lenings betaal is, sal die grond waarskynlik opgedeel word in afsonderlike ondernemings, omdat Henno se seun ook in ‘n landbou rigting studeer.

‘n Foto van die Pongola suikermeule, vanuit Ludick se suikerrietlande.

Droogte:  Ons eerste onderwerp van bespreking was die droogte en wat Ludick gedoen het om dit te oorleef.  Die mees belangrike,  hy het alle beskikbare water op die ontkiemende en jong suikerriet, eerder as op gevestigde lande, gebruik. Hy het ook van alle beskikbare reën gebruik gemaak, selfs al was dit in die middel van die nag.  Sommige onkruiddoders benodig water direk na toediening. Met die eerste tekens van reën, het al die trekkers met onkruiddoderspuite onmiddelik aan die werk gespring. Ludick is ongelooflik dankbaar vir sy span, wat besef het waaroor dit gegaan het. Die werk was vining afgehandel, ongeag die tyd van die dag of nag. Gedurende hierdie  uitdagende tye,  het hy slegs met stikstof bemes, as deel van sy bestuursplan om onkostes so laag as moontlik te hou.

Variëteite: Die droogte het baie bespreking rondom, wat die mees geskikte die variëteit is, uitgelok.  Die enigste droeëland variëteit wat tot sy beskikking was, het nie goed in die droogte gevaar nie –  N41 was met Eldana en Smut besmet.  Die variëteit, N26 het ook skade gely agv Eldana infestasie gedurende die droogte. Ludick se persoonlike gunsteling suikerriet variëteit is N23. Hy het ‘n land met hierdie variëteit wat binnekort ‘n 17de oes gaan gee, met ‘n opbrengs van 120t/ha. Hy herken egter dat hierdie spesifieke land, baie goeie grond het en dat hy die variëteit altyd voor September oes.  Indien dit nie gebeur nie vorm dit blomme en daal die sukrose inhoud. ‘n Verdere voordeel van die variëteit, is lang en reguit rietstronke wat kap en laai vergemaklik.

Onkruiddoders: Ludick verkies breedwerpige toediening van onkruiddoders. Hy gebruik ‘n verskeidenheid onkruiddoders wat Prowl, Cantron & Imposter insluit. Verder maak hy ook gebruik 6 of 7 vrouens, wat kolle kweek voortdurend, met Roundup, in ‘n rugsak spuit.

Gewraakte, kweek

Arbeid:  Hoe Ludick hierdie element van sy boerdery hanteer, is die sleutel tot sy sukses

  • Boabab, in Pongola beskik oor ongeveer 50 arbeiders. Dit sluit 24 rietkappers in wat normaalweg na hulle huise toe terug gaan, in die afseisoen. Akkommodasie vir al die werkers word op die plaas voorsien
  • Ludick voorsien ‘n werksplan aan die begin van die seisoen. Hier maak hy seker elke werkers verstaan wat die bedryfsdoelwitte vir die seisoen is en wat van elkeen verwag word om hierdie doelwitte te bereik. Op hierdie manier kan die werkers vinnige en onafhanklike besluite neem. Dit het ook tot gevolg dat Ludick meer tyd en energie kan bestee aan strategiese bestuursbesluite wat inherent deel is van so groot boerdery soos hierdie.
  • Hy het die rietkappers se loon verander na betaling-per-ton. Dit korreleer met die tonnemaat wat hy per land kry. Hy maak hierdie berekening sonder om die suikerriet fisies te weeg. Hy meet die slegs die hoeveelheid riet wat ‘n kapper gekap het in meter. Hier is ‘n denkbeeldige voorbeeld: 
  • Basiese respek. Ludick hanteer sy sleutelwerkers asof hulle venote is.  Dit is duidelik dat hy hoë verwagtinge van hulle het maar gee ook erkenning aan die posisies wat hulle beklee.  Die gevolg is dat Ludick selde probleme ondervind.  Hy is baie lief om te reis en dit is met ‘n geruste hart, dat hy met verlof vir twee kan gaan, wetende dat daar nie ernstige probleme sal wees nie. Al wat dit verg, is om baie duidelik te maak wat sy verwagtinge is – wat gedoen moet word en wat nie gedoen moet word nie.

Kunsmis: Ludick laat toets sy grond gereeld.  Tot 2 jaar gelede het hy dit in die VSA laat doen, maar deesdae maak hy gebruik van die dienste van ‘n laboratorium in Nelspruit.

In die tabel aan die begin van hierdie artikel, word daar verwys na ‘n rekord oes van 220t/ha. Op hierdie land het hy ongeveer 400t/ha “Mila” eenmalig toegedien. Die variëteit was N25, dit is op ‘n ouderdom van 15 maande gekap en het vreeslike lae sukrose inhoud gehad, maar dit was ongelooflik swaar!  Hierdie lande het nou byna toksiese fosfaat vlakke en kry daarom net Stikstof en Kalium as bemesting. Alle nuwe lande kry bemesing volgens behoefte en daar word terselfdertyd “Mila” toegedien, wanneer dit beskikbaar is.

Ludick het deur ondervinding geleer dat sy land oor die algemeen meer gips as kalk benodig. Die hoë soutgehalte (Natrium) van die grond, kan met swael   reggestel word, wat vanaf die toegediende Gips afkomstig is. Dit reageer met die natrium om sodoende natriumsulfaat te vorm, wat relatief maklik uit die grond loog.

Ludick bemes nie twee keer (split application) gedurende die seisoen  nie. Hy glo dit is nie koste effektief in ‘n boerdery so groot soos  hierdie nie. Hy altyd op soek na maniere om take minder te maak, nie meer nie.

As ‘n reël word kunsmis met ‘n ureum basis toegedien.  Indien voldoende besproeiing beskikbaar is, is vervlugting nie ‘n groot probleem nie.

Werkwyses:  Ratoenlande : Lande word onmiddelik na oes besproei, om nuwe groei te stimuleer.  Die land word ‘n paar dae later bemes. Onkruiddoders word breedwerpig toegedien, sodra die eerste onkruid  ontkiem.

Plantriet: Oor die algemeen kweek Ludick sy eie saadriet, maar sal ook nuwe variëteite, wat goed in hierdie omgewing presteer, aankoop.  Wanneer Ludick suikerriet aanplant, word die grond tot op ‘n diepte van 750mm met ‘n skeurploeg bewerk. Die doel hiervan is op die grondprofiel weer te op te lig wat gedurende die vorige 8+ jare ingesink het. Hierna trek hy vore en plant ‘n dubbel  ry rietstronke. Hierdie stronke word dan in die vore in stukke opgekap.  Die vore word toegemaak en die land word op dieselfde dag as wat dit geplant is, besproei. Hierna word   kunsmis en onkruiddoders toegedien soos in die geval van die ratoensuikerrietlande.

Peste:  Sedert die droogte, is Eldana ‘n groot uitdaging.  Ludick het die nodige middels gespuit, maar agv die vatbaarheid van N41, kan dit dalk nodig wees vir nog ‘n bespuiting hierdie jaar.  ‘n Trekker word gebruik om die produk toe te dien. Indien die rietstronke nie baie kort tydens oes nie gekap word nie, vererger dit die probleem. Onder is ‘n voorbeeld van Eldana infestasie, in die onderste gedeelte van ‘n rietstronk (Die rooi kleur is ‘n aanduiding van die teenwoordigheid van Eldana):

‘n Nadeel daarvan, dat  jou plaas NABY die meule se ingang is, is dat elke rietstronk in Pongola verby  jou plaas vervoer word – daar kan maar net bespiegel word, watter peste en plae saam met die riet wat langs die pad val  en in die lande langs die pad  te lande.

Ten spyte van die feit dat RSD nie op sy plaas voorkom nie, tref Ludick voorsorg maatreëls. Alle kapmesse word elke dag in Jeyes Fluid gedoop. Blaaspootjie was nie ‘n probleem in die suikerriet hierdie jaar nie maar Smuts was wel. Weereens was N40, baie vatbaar vir hierdie probleem, in so ‘n mate dat ‘n hele land uitgeploeg moes word.

Rypmaker:  Ludick dien gewoonlik Fusilade toe met behulp van ‘n helikopter wat deur die suikermeule gesubsidieer word, maar omdat die helikopters hierdie seisoen baie laat was, het hy rypmaker met die Venturi sisteem toegedien.  Elkeen het sy eie siening oor besproeiing tydens die rypmakingsproses. Ludick verkies om alle besproeiing te staak die dag voor toediening. Gedurende die somer, gaan hy voort met besproeiing,  vir nog 3 weke nadat hy die rypmaker toegedien het. Daarna word die riet afgedroog vir 4 weke. Gedurende die winter, word die riet nie na die toediening van rypmaker, weer besproei nie. Alle riet word 7 weke na rypmaking geoes.

Besproeiing:  Hierdie pragtige plaas het twee spilpunte, waarvan een ongeveer 50ha beslaan en die ander een ongeveer 15ha. Beide is van Agrico en Ludick beplan om ‘n derde een te installeer, wat ‘n 60ha land sal kan besproei. Die drup-besproeiingstelsel beslaan ongeveer 20 ha. Die res van die plaas word hoofsaaklik semi-permanente, oorhoofse sprinkelaars (klapspuite) besproei.  Volgens Ludick, is hierdie semi-permanente stelsel die effektiefste, omdat nie baie arbeiders gebruik word om dit te skuif nie. Na elke 18m, is daar ‘n hidromatiese klep, met ‘n kort sleeptou.  Hierdie tou of pyp, is aan ‘n enkele sproeier gekoppel, wat dit maklik maak om te verskuif. Swak grondkwaliteit op sommige dele van die plaas wat onlangs gekoop is, het hom genoop om die drup-beproeiingstelsel   uit the haal. Gelukkig kan hierdie stelsel weer in Swaziland, by die Makadamias gebruik word. Die land met die swak grond sal eers braak gelê word waarna ‘n wissebou gewas geplant sal word, totdat die organiese materiaal in so mate verbeter het dat daar weer met suikerriet geboer kan word.  Intussen sal  oorhoofse sprinkelaars , hier gebruik word.

Alle besproeiingstipes het voor en nadele. Ludick het gevind, dat alhoewel drup-besproeiing, die mees effektiewe tipe besproeing is tov water- en elektrisiteits besparing, dit voortdurend deur rietrotte en hase gevreet word. Die besproeiingsspan moet dus elke dag die stelsel deurgaan en skade herstel. Ten spyte hiervan, bly dit steeds sy eerste keuse as dit kom by besproeiing. “Indien die stelsel onder die grond geinstalleer kan word, sal dit baie goed werk, maar mens het baie grond nodig, om dit ekonomies te regverdig,” sê Ludick.

Die oorhoofse sprinkelaarbesproeiing, word 2 keer per dag geskuif – en bedryf vir 7-8 ure per keer. Op hierdie manier kry elke land, so een keer per week water. Gelukkig is die meeste plase laer as die waterkanaal geleë is, wat beteken dat pomp van water (kleiner pompe, dus minder krag) relatief goedkoop is.  Een van Ludick se groot uitdagings is om die tipe besproeiing by die grondtipe aan te pas; indien ‘n enkele land verskeie grondtipes het, het elkeen sy eie waterbehoefte, maar die tipe besproeiing is eenvormig oor die hele land. Dit maak the taak baie uitdagend, want die mees gepaste besluit moet gemaak word vir land in sy geheel.

Misdaad:  Ludick beskou nie misdaad, as ‘n groot probleem nie. Die meeste misdaad op sy plaas het verband gehou met steel van toerusting. Noudat die meeste van die besproeiingsstelsels se onderdele plastiek is, het dit nie herverkoopwaarde nie.  Terwyl die besproeiing werk is dit maklik om op te let waar daar ‘n moontlik probleem is, maar mens moet baie meer oplettend wees wanneer daar nie besproei word nie agv reën of herstelwerk aan die kanale.

Die misdaad onderwerp het my skielik laat dink aan grondeise in hierdie area: ja, daar is eise hier wat tot dusver nie te suksesvol was nie. Ludick lig my gou in oor die stand van sake. Sy voorgeslagte is weer deel van die storie.  In die vroeë 1900’s, wou die Swazi koning konsessies aan die blanke boere uitdeel. Die doel hiervan was om ‘n bufferstrook te skep, tussen sy eie land en die Zoeloes. Die Vermaaks (Ludick se Ouma en Oupa grootjie) was van die boere. Hulle wou egter nie die land as geskenk ontvang nie, maar dit eerder die koning daarvoor betaal. Die verkoopkontrak, is in die ou Tranvaalse argiewe en is deur al die betrokke partye geteken. Beeste is as betaling gebruik. Die suikerriet- kwekersvereniging hanteer tans hierdie  grondeis en Ludick is vas oortuig dat dit nie sal slaag nie.

Oes:   Het Ludick enige wenke wat hy wil deel?

  • Kap BAIE laag om moontlike Eldana te verwyder.
  • Gaan gereeld die meule se syfers na. As jy ‘n lae RV resultaat kry, probeer vasstel wat die rede is. Dit is gewoonlik ‘n top probleem of ‘n tyd probleem. Top probleme kan gewoonlik opgelos word deur die kapprosedure aan te pas deur die kappers daarop te wys. Met ‘n tyd probleem word bedoel, te veel tyd het verloop van kap totdat die meule die riet ontvang.
  • Ludick gebruik ‘n Bell-rietlaaier en laai die suikerriet in die land. Om kompaksie wat deur die trekkers veroorsaak word, te verminder is daar ‘n 3m pad vir die trekkers en sleepwaens elke 36m in die land. Die Bell-laaier kan 18m aan die een kant en 18m aan die anderkant van die trekker laai. Agv die kort afstand tussen die plaas en die meule is probleme wat normaalweg met die vervoer van riet gepaard gaan irrelevant.

Die pad sigbaar reg agter die trekker, is die pad meule toe. Op die voorgrond is ‘n rietkapper wat toppies kap  

 Plaastoerusting: Ludick verkies Landini trekkers wat volgens hom toon uitstekende branstofverbruik toon wat dit logies maak. Dit gebruik slegs 4.5 liter per uur, terwyl ander handelsname waarmee hy ondervinding het, drie keer soveel verbruik.

Opleiding:  Ludick glo vas kennis van grond en grondsoorte is ‘n baie belangrik  deel van ‘n suksesvolle boerdery. – indien enige iemand al daaroor gewonder het, watter tersiêre vakgebied, deur ‘n susksesvolle suikerrietboer ondersteun word. Indien jy egter ‘n suksesvolle boer in Pongola wil wees, sal ‘n goeie agtergrond oor besproeiing van groot nut wees.

Administrasie:  Ludick verkies om eerder die administrasie van die boerdery, aan eksterne ouditeure oor te laat, as wat hy self probeer om ‘n kantoor op die plaas te bestuur. Die ouditeure hou boek van alle kostes en voorsien dan gedetaileerde verslae.  In hierdie verslae word selfs die waarde van alle plaastoerusting ingesluit. Hy sê dat hierdie tipe inligting hom baie help, om besluite te neem.  Hy kan homself nie voorstel hoeveel papier werk nodig is, om al hierdie inligting te versamel nie.

Ander gewasse:  Sunhemp word in die somer en hawer in winter as wisselbougewasse aangeplant. Dit word beide ingeploeg om as organiese bemesting te dien. Verder plant Ludick ook 24ha kool per jaar, so 4ha op ‘n slag.

Hy verdien ‘n goeie prys vir die kool en, na ek vinnig ‘n paar somme in my kop maak, moet ek vir hom vra, hoekom hy nog enigsins moeite doen om suikerriet te plant?  Ludick lag net, “Siektes in kool is ‘n groot probleem.  Ek het, verlede jaar, 80% van die kool, in van een land verloor.  Maar andersins, is dit baie winsgewend, maar nie so maklik as om met suikerriet te boer nie.”

En dit bring my aan die einde van my kuiertjie en dit is nou tyd om Ludick op te som … Dit is baie moeilik, want hy is so ‘n gemaklike en rustige persoon. As ek nou terug dink,  gaan dit oor sy spesiale slag met mense …

Dankie Ludick, dat jy so aangename en ontspanne gasheer was en dat jy alles oor jou plaas, met ons gedeel het.