Date interviewed 23 May 2017
Date newsletter posted 24 November 2017
Farmer Pieter Franck
Farm Franck PvR
Mill Pongola
Area under cane 74 ha
Distance from coast Approx 100kms
Dominant Soil type Rensburg
Cutting cycle 12 months (sometimes forced to carry over)
Record yield 204 tonnes / ha (N36 plant cane)
Av Yield 110  tonnes / ha
Av RV 13.8
Varieties N53, N36, N41, N57

Being a bit of a non-conformist myself, I was comfortable with Pieter’s independence from the community of Pongola, but I did find it sad in that humans are herd creatures and not designed for permanent isolation. None-the-less, I have the honour of having spent time with a successful Pongola farmer, who, against the greatest odds, has thrived. His farm is small – a mere 74 hectares, with no supplementary crops but, with intense focus and determination, he has prospered in the area for the past 45 years.

The mill is just visible in the distance, looking over the neighbour’s tomato crop and sugarcane.

Pieter hails from Klerksdorp in the Free State, the son of a medical doctor. In 1968 his Dad had a bypass, and was looking to wind down. He was lured into buying a farm by his neighbour who told wonderful stories about “stoep-farming” sugar cane in Pongola. So, in October 1971, Dr Franck bought this farm. Pieter was 26 years old and joined his parents in the new venture. He had picked up some experience in banking, military, auto electrical and corporate environments but was not completely prepared to be left alone on the farm, which is exactly what happened when his folks moved off the farm (to complete the schooling of Pieter’s youngest brother in town) in 1974. To compound the weight on Pieter’s shoulders, his dad then passed away that same year. His mom inherited the farm and Pieter endured many torrid years of incredibly hard work and sacrifice, eventually securing a loan to purchase the farm from her. He quickly learnt to spend only what he HAD rather than what he thought he was GOING TO HAVE. Living by this wisdom has been integral to his survival. Pieter has battled to buy additional farmland but, in 1992, did secure a small extension. This relatively small farm works well with Pieter’s management style – he prefers to stay in touch with all the details and has no “induna” between himself and the labourers.

Here’s a few more facts for our chapter on the “History of Pongola” … the irrigation scheme canals were built in the 1930’s and 10 000 hectares of rice fields was the first crop to benefit from the exercise. Then, when the sugar mill was built, in the 1950’s, sugar replaced the rice but the irrigation continued to be powered by gravity. Electricity was introduced to the area in 1974 and made more land agriculturally viable because the land above the canal could now be irrigated. This opened up further extensions for the farmers. Unfortunately, Pieter was not able to secure any of these.

Pieter believes that good soils make good farmers and, here in Pongola, the soils are not great. To overcome that challenge, farmers have to be smarter.

Standards are high on Pieter’s farm … any ratoon that yields less than 100 tonnes/hectare gets put on “probation” during which time Pieter invests his energy, paying particular attention to soil health. Recovery results in a stay-of-execution but failure to produce means that the field is ploughed out and replaced.

Irrigation: There is a particular struggle when a farm finds itself on the end of the canal, which is what has happened here. The drought didn’t leave enough water for everyone and fields that previously delivered 150 tonnes/hectare will yield half that this year.

In 1984, Pieter replaced the existing flood irrigation system with sprinklers. He now uses a combination of drip and sprinklers. Because of the reduced evaporation aspect, Pieter’s favourite method of irrigation is drip but poor water pressure and blocked duct challenges mean that this method has limited application on his farm. He is currently undertaking a huge project of extending his irrigation to fields that are currently dry. These pipes will soon form the mainline.

Herbicides: One of Pieters pet-hates. He does all he can to keep his farm weed-free.

Kweek is also an enemy that Pieter keeps the guns focused on – for this, he says Round Up does work. Pieter recommends that no mercy is shown with this invader. The roots can get to 3m deep! Using a shotgun approach, Pieter often has to sacrifice some sugarcane when poisoning this weed. Combination strategies he has employed is to leave infected fields fallow while he eliminates all sign of Kweek. He has also found that loosening the soil and “disorientating” the Kweek helps. On a small farm, there isn’t the luxury of allowing fields to lie fallow for very long. Every square metre must work all the time. If a field becomes over-run with grass, another solution is to plant a Round Up ready crop like cotton. This allows you the opportunity to kill the grass without killing the crop. At the end of the crop, you have an income and you have dealt with the grass.

Varieties: This is a key focus for Pieter. In his opinion, growing the right variety makes all the difference. He has been frustrated at having highly successful varieties withdrawn.

Right now, Pieter is harvesting N53 and the RV’s are not very good – he is getting about 12,22 whereas he expected about 14.

N36 is a very good variety for this farm and, depending on the soil preparation, can yield about 160 tonnes / hectare. It didn’t enjoy the drought though and has developed many gaps as a result of this incredible dry spell. He also has fields of N41. N57 is doing a lot better, bringing his average RV up. Pieter planted 2,8 hectares of N57 in Feb 2016 so it went through a very dry period. Despite this, it yielded an average of 153 tonnes/hectare but the RV was only 10,34. It appears to be a very moisture-filled cane and this moisture is lost quickly when the cane is cut. Ideally, this cane needs to get to the mill quickly, before the sugar turns to ethanol.

There are varieties (310, 376) that have done incredibly well on this farm but they have been discontinued due to smut susceptibility.

A fact I found interesting was that cane stops growing at 36’C. It also does not grow in extreme cold so Autumn is the prime growing time.

Planting: DEEP ridging is what Pieter recommends; a minimum of 700mm deep so that you go down, past the top soil, into the dead clay below from where nutrients can be released. Pieter prefers to use a Nardi plough, with one shear. One year he used that to plough up a field that was full of rock and shale, He planted N14 and that crop yielded 204 tonnes / hectare.

The billets are sprayed with Bandit when planting as Pieter believes that harmful mites are dealt with effectively at this stage. The seedcane is then partially covered and fertiliser is placed IN the rows. This fertiliser mustn’t be in direct contact with the cane – allow a small buffer of soil.

Fertilisers: Because of a bad experience, Pieter does not make use of soil sampling services at all. He explains that just applying the recommended nutrients is not enough – you have to be sure that the plant is able to use what you are applying. As a rule, Pieter uses 200kgs of Nitrogen per hectare. It can be any kind, for example 8:1:6, wherein the 8 is the nitrogen. He believes that cane with enough nitrogen is able to extract he P & K it needs from the soil.

Pieter says that correct pH levels are vital. High acidity prohibits the plant from using nitrogen available in the soil. Pieter knows his fields and uses his intuition is deciding what each one requires to produce the best crop. Perhaps this is not always viable on a large farm but here, he’s getting great results and enjoys being so “connected” to the earth.

Placement of fertiliser on top of the ratoons is suggested so that it is immediately available.

Mila is added to particularly bad soils and Pieter is always on the lookout for topsoil to supplement struggling fields.

Mechanisation: Pieter has sheds full of really nice equipment. It is clear that it is all well-maintained and that Pieter runs an efficient, tidy operation.

He prefers to operate his 140kw tractor himself so that he knows that the best job has been done. He loosens the soil as much as possible.

Pesticides: Administration of these chemicals is technical. The size of the cane and the time of the year all needs to be factored in to get optimum results. The drought brought with it a general susceptibility to Eldana and Pieter’s farm did not escape the menacing moth that invaded Pongola. He aerial-sprayed fields of N57 carry over cane last year. “It was expensive but worth it because Eldana can get deep into the base of your cane and ruin the ratoons.”

Another worm that enjoys sugarcane is “white grub” … it lies in the soil and eats the roots. Keep a careful eye out for this pest; dig in the soil and see what’s hiding from you.

Pieter has used Bandit effectively when battling Thrips and suggests that it is only used before the cane reaches shoulder height and before the end of February, at which time of the year the Thrips die naturally. A positive of the N57 variety is that he has never seen Thrips on it. Bandit seems to enhance growth as well as fight Thrips. Rust (all varieties) are also a challenge but remedies are not always cost-effective so Pieter does what he can and lives with what he doesn’t believe it is cost effective to fight.

Ripening: Pieter believes this is the key to his success, if success is measured in RV%. Not only does the sucrose content improve but accurate topping is also improved because the cane dies at the point where it must be topped. Four weeks drying out is followed by an application of Fusilade. Therefater minimal water is applied for the following 8 weeks, until harvest.

Labour: Being the owner/induna/tractor driver/manager, Pieter works very closely with all 16 staff members. Being a small operation, he acknowledges that his situation is different to what is viable in a larger operation, but here is his advice for getting the most out of your people:

  • Treat everyone fairly. Be gentle and patient. Hone your resolution skills. Pieter says it is ALWAYS a two-way street and you can’t force your way through people, creating one-way roads.
  • Meet early, deal with any and all issues before work and then go into the day with positivity and motivation.
  • Know everyone well. Spend time with them. Talk ‘nonsense’ together. Care for the sick.
  • Believe in them. Desperate with frustration, Pieter started calling his most “challenging” employee “Champion”. Even he was surprised when this man eventually earned his title and became one of his most valued team members.
  • Never tolerate ANY intimidation.
  • Do what you can to minimise the hard labour ie: equipping with effective tools.
  • Keep standards high. Although Pieter burns his cane, all cutters must be able and willing to cut green cane.
  • Provide comfortable accommodation with clean water and firewood.
  • Realise that relationships take years to build up and allow time to invest in that. No one can walk into a relationship and expect perfection from day one. Have patience and remember that every day can be used to improve the relationship, which leads to better results for everyone.

Pieter chooses not to fire anyone – somehow he gets them to accept that they cannot fulfil the requirements of the job and they leave voluntarily. This sounds like a super power but it makes more sense as Pieter elaborates: the farm has a very easy-going and relaxed atmosphere and they work as a team. If someone is underperforming, the TEAM, as a whole, mocks them and it is this isolation of people who have not committed to the team that leads to them leaving voluntarily. Doing things this way requires lots of patience and skill in keeping team synced and morale high.


  • Cut low. Although this seems like logic, and we hear it again and again from the Top Farmers we have interviewed, it seems that some farmers still leave a substantial stalk in the field after harvesting. Pieter says he could make a fair living if he just reharvested some fields he has seen.
  • Remove all the leaves that don’t burn ie: top properly.
  • Leave these tops in the field to help retain moisture in the soil. Do not place them over the ratoons because a harmful fungus sometimes develops in cooler weather.
  • Do not burn tops in-field because the heat causes evaporation of essential soil moisture. You also loose valuable plant matter which adds organic content to the soil.

Administration: One of the biggest shocks of this visit was discovering that Pieter does not use email at all. This helped to explain how he manages his admin effectively as only the most important issues cross his desk. I think many of us spend a scary number of empty hours dealing with irrelevant emails. Unfortunately, I have to just do my best to filter because there is no ways I could manage without my cyber-world.

In wrapping up, I asked Pieter for some general words of wisdom:

  • Always be present. The farm owner has a level of problem solving creativity that can’t be expected from staff.
  • Although a farmer can deliver water and fertiliser and other support for the crop, the one thing he cannot do is MAKE the plant GROW. That power lies in God’s hands alone. Pieter believes that Jesus is the reason behind all his success and that prayer is the key.
  • When Pieter “repairs” a field, he leaves the “old” crop in because it tells him when the soil is healthy. This practice was shown to be highly effective a few years ago: Pieter had a field that had been water-logged for decades because of a canal leak. Desperate, he eventually repaired the leak himself but left the “sick” crop in until the salinity levels in the field reduced sufficiently, and the crop started to recover. When this cane showed him that the soil was healthy, he replanted and was rewarded with a plant cane crop of 160 tonnes / hectare. He does the same when a weed problem threatens the health of a whole field. He aggressively attacks the weed and then, only when the job is complete and the cane shows him the evidence that all symptoms of the “war” have been dealt with, he replants the field with healthy plant cane. Basically, this can be summarised as:
    • Remove the problem
    • Let the plants tell you when the problem has been resolved
    • Replant in healthy soil.
  • Pieter advises farmers that they constantly assess where they are investing their time and effort. “Actually work out what your effort is saving / costing. You might discover that it’s just not worth your time.” He illustrates this point with an example: Ripper shoes are expensive, so he was making high tensile faces himself, thinking that he was saving money. Only when he worked out how much he was saving vs how long it was taking him, did he realise that it wasn’t worth it. It’s easy to pour time and effort into activities that you THINK are sensible, but when you pick up a calculator, you find they are not worth your while. This is especially important in a small operation, with minimal staff and every minute of every day is valuable.
  • Never stop learning. We’ll never know it all and can never stop learning – in line with this philosophy, Pieter attends all meetings and presentations that offer the opportunity to learn.

Pieter is an astute businessman with so much knowledge and wisdom to share. My hope is that he one day feels a part of the place he has spent most of his life. Thank you for allowing me into your space and sharing so freely.

En nou vir die Afrikaans:

Datum van onderhoud 23 Mei 2017
Datum van nuusbrief 24 November 2017
Boer Pieter Franck
Plaas Franck PvR
Meul Pongola
Oppervlak onder suikerriet 74 hektaar
Afstand vanaf kus Ongeveer 100 km
Dominante grondtipe Rensburg
Kapsiklus 12 maande (word somtyds verplig om oor te staan)
Rekord opbrengs 204 t/h(N36 plantriet)
Gem. opbrengs 110  t/ha
Gem.  RV 13.8%
Variëteite N53, N36, N41, N57

As ‘n buitestaander is ek gemaklik met Pieter se onafhanklikheid van die gemeenskap in Pongola. Dit is vir my hartseer dat die mens wat beskou word as ‘n tropdier, nie gemaak is om in permanente isolasie te lewe nie.  Nietemin het ek die voorrreg gehad om tyd te spandeer met een van Pongola se mees suksesvolle boere wat teen alle verwagtinge in floreer.  Sy plaas, ‘n skamele 74 ha, met geen aanvullende gewasse nie floreer die afgelope 45 jaar as gevolg van intense fokus en determinasie.

Die suikermeul is net-net sigbaar in die verte met sy buurman se tamatie- en suikerrietlande in die voorgrond.   

Pieter, die seun van ‘n mediese dokter is afkomstig van Klerksdorp in die Vrystaat.  Sy pa het in 1968 ’n hartomlyning gehad en het ‘n besluit geneem om ‘n rustiger lewe te lei.  Dr. Frank se buurman het hom met wonderlike, “boer vanaf die stoep,” stories oor suikerrietboerdery in Pongola omgepraat en oorreed  om ‘n suikerrietplaas in Pongola te koop.  Dr. Frank het sy plaas in Oktober 1971 gekoop.  Pieter wat toe 26 was, het saam met sy ouers hierdie nuwe avontuur aangepak.  Op daardie stadium het Pieter net ondervinding gehad in bankwese, die weermag, motorvoertuie se bedrading asook ondervinding in die ko-operatiewe omgewing.  Hy was nie naastenby voorbereid om ’n plaas op sy eie te bestuur nie. Dit het wel in 1974 gebeur toe sy ouers dorp toe moes trek sodat Pieter se jonger broer sy skoollooppbaan kon voltooi.  Met sy pa se afsterwe in dieselfde jaar, is nog ‘n swaarder las op Pieter se skouers geplaas.  Sy ma het die plaas geërf en Pieter moes vir jare baie hard werk en baie opofferings maak om uiteindelik ‘n lening te kon bekom om die plaas by haar te kon oorkoop.  Hy het vining geleer om slegs dit wat jy het te spandeer eerder as dit wat jy dink jy gaan hê.  Om volgens hierdie brokkie wysheid te leef, is noodsaaklik vir sy oorlewing.

Pieter wou baie graag nog grond koop, so bekom hy ‘n ekstra stuk grond in 1992.  Hierdie relatiewe klein stukkie grond, pas goed in by Pieter se bestuursstyl, hy verkies om in voeling te bly met alle gebeure op die plaas.  Pieter bestuur self die plaas en werk direk met sy werkers sonder ‘n induna as tussenganger.

‘n Paar feite uit die geskiedenis van Pongola,  die besproeiingskanaalstelsel  is in die 1930’s gebou. Die eerste gewas wat hierby baat gevind het was 10 000 ha ryslande.   Toe die suikermeul in die 1950’s gebou is, het suikerriet die rys as gewas vervang, maar steeds was besproeiing deur gravitasie moontlik.  Elektrisiteit is eers in 1974 na die area aangelê wat toe meer grond vir landbou beskikbaar gestel het.  Die grond aan die bokant van die kanaalstelsel kon toe ook besproei word. Uitbreidings op bestaande grond was nou vir baie boere moontlik, maar dit was nogsteeds nie vir Pieter beskore nie.

Pieter glo dat goeie kwaliteit grond ‘n goeie boer maak, die grond in Pongola is egter nie baie goed nie. Om hierdie struikelblok te oorkom, moet boere slimmer boer.

Pieter handhaaf baie hoë standaarde op sy plaas.  Enige van die ratoenrietlande wat ‘n opbrengs van minder as 100 t/ha lewer, word op ’n “proefperiode” gesit.  Gedurende hierdie tydperk vestig Pieter al sy aandag en energie op grondkwaliteit.  Indien die resultate positief uitdraai, bly die land behoue, indien nie word die riet uitgeploeg en herplant.

Besproeiing:  Dit is ‘n unieke uitdaging wat ‘n plaas voer wanneer die plaas op die eindpunt van ‘n besproeiingskanaal geleë is.  Dit is presies wat hier gebeur.  As gevolg van die droogte was daar nie voldoende besproeiingswater vir almal nie.   Dit het beteken dat ‘n land wat voorheen 150 t/ha riet gelewer het, in die laaste jaar net die helfte daarvan gelewer het.

Gedurende 1984, het Pieter die bestaande vloedbesproeiing met sprinkelbesproeiing vervang.  Hy gebruik tans ‘n kombinasie van vloed- en splinkelbesproeiing.  Pieter se gunsteling manier van besproeiing is egter drupbesproeiing.  Die hoof rede hiervoor is die lae verdampingsvlakke wat hiermee gepaard gaan.  Drupbesproeiing is egter baie beperk op die plaas as gevolg van lae waterdruk en gereelde verstopping van die sisteem. Pieter is tans besig met ‘n groot projek waar hy die besproeiing uitbrei na lande wat tans as droëland verbou word.

Pype wat binnekort die hooflyn sal wees

Onkruiddoders:  Pieter doen alles in sy vermoë om sy plaas onkruidvry te hou.

Kweek, is ‘n vyand waarop Pieter altyd gefokus bly, hiervoor sê hy werk Roundup verseker en beklemtoon dat hierdie indringer geen genade moet ontvang nie.  Die wortels van hierdie onkruid kan tot 3 m diep groei.  Met Pieter se sogenaamde haelgeweer metode, word selfs van die suikerriet beskadig in die proses om die onkruid te vernietig.  Pieter pas ‘n kombinasie van strategieë toe, hy laat die infesteerde lande braak lê waartydens hy alle tekens van kweek uitroei.  Hy vind ook dat indien die grond los gemaak word rondom die kweek, dit die onkruid “disorieënteer”, wat help met die beheer daarvan.

Op ‘n kleinerige plaas het mens egter nie altyd die voordeel om lande vir baie lank braak te lê nie.  Elke vierkante meter grond moet te alle tye ten volle benut word.  Indien ‘n hele land oorgroei word deur kweek, is ‘n ander moontlike oplossing om ‘n “Roundup Ready” gewas soos katoen aan te plant. Dit gee jou die geleentheid om die kweek te beheer sonder om die gewas te beskadig.  Aan die einde van die seisoen het jy steeds ‘n inkomste, terwyl jy kans gehad het om iets aan die kweek te doen.

Variëteite:  Hierdie is die sleutelfokuspunt vir Pieter.  In sy opinie maak die keuse van die regte variëteit die wêreld se verskil.  Hy is baie gefrustreerd wanneer suksesvolle variëteite onttrek word.

Op die oomlik is Pieter besig om N53 te oes en die RV% lyk nie goed nie, hy kry op oomblik 12.2% maar het 14% verwag.

N36 is ‘n baie goeie variëteit vir hierdie plaas.  Afhangende van die grondvoorbereiding kan dit tot 160 t/ha lewer.  Dit het egter nie die droogte goed hanteer nie en het baie uitgesterf.  Pieter het ook lande met N41.  N57 doen aansienlik beter wat tot gevolg het dat dit Pieter se totale gemiddelde RV% verhoog.  Pieter het 2.8 ha N57 in Februarie 2016 gedurende ‘n baie droë periode aangeplant.  Ten spyte van die droogte het dit ‘n gemiddelde opbrengs van 153 t/ha gegee, maar die RV% was slegs 10.3%.  Dit wil voorkom of N57 baie vog bevat wat vinning verlore gaan nadat dit gekap is en indien dit nie gou genoeg by die meul gelewer is nie.

Daar is variëteite, NCo310 en NCo376, wat ongelooflik goed in hierdie area doen, maar is uitgefaseer as gevolg van sensitiwiteit vir Smutbesmetting.

‘n Feit wat Pieter baie interessant vind is dat suikerriet by 36°C ophou groei.  Dit groei ook nie in ekstreme koue nie wat beteken dat herfs die beste groeiperiode is.

Plant: Pieter beveel DIEP operting aan, ten minste 700mm diep sodat dit onder die bo-grond is en in die onderste dooie kleilaag vanwaar die voedingstowwe vrygestel kan word bloodstel.  Pieter verkies om ‘n eenskaar Nardi ploeg te gebruik.  In die verlede het hy dié implement gebruik om ‘n land te ploeg wat baie klipperig en skalieatig was.  Hy het N14 aangeplant en dit het ‘n opbrengs van 204 t/ha gelewer.

Die rietsteggies (billets) word met Bandit gespuit wanneer daar geplant word. Pieter glo dit speel klaar met skadelike myte wat hier mag voorkom.  Die rietsteggies word net gedeeltelik bedek en die kunsmis word in die plantvoor geplaas. Hierdie kunsmis moet nie in direkte kontak met die saadriet wees nie – verseker altyd ‘n dun grondlagie as buffer.

Kunsmis:  As gevolg van ‘n slegte ondervinding maak Pieter nie gebruik van grondontledingdienste nie.  Hy verduidelik, dat om slegs die aanbevole voedingstowwe toe te dien nie genoeg is nie.  Jy moet seker maak dat die plant in staat is om dit wat jy toedien te gebruik.  As reël gebruik Pieter 200 kg N per hektaar.  Dit kan van enige bron wees bv. 8:1:6 waar 8 die N is.  Hy glo dat indien suikerriet genoeg N ontvang, dit die nodige P en K uit die grond kan onttrek.

Volgens Pieter is die korrekte pH vlakke van die grond van kardinale belang.  Indien die pH te hoog is kan die plant nie die beskikbare N in die grond gebruik nie.  Pieter ken sy lande en het ‘n aanvoeling wat elke land benodig om die beste opbrengs te lewer.  Hierdie benadering is seker nie altyd lewensvatbaar op groter plase nie, maar hier kry hy baie goeie resultate en hy geniet dit om “in voeling” met die grond te wees.

Hy stel ook voor dat kunsmis bo-op ratoene geplaas word, sodat dit onmiddelik beskikbaar is.

“Mila” word by baie swak gronde gevoeg en Pieter is altyd op die uitkyk vir maniere om bo-grond aan te vul om sy swakker lande te verbeter.

Meganisasie:  Pieter het skure vol handige implemente.  Dit is duidelik dat dit goed onderhou word en dat Pieter ‘n netjiese en effektiewe boerdery bedryf .

Hy verkies om self sy 140 kW trekker te bestuur sodat hy weet die werk is goed gedoen.  Hy bewerk die grond soveel as moontlik.

Plaagdoders:  Die toedien van hierdie middels is baie tegnies.  Die grootte van die suikerriet asook die tyd van die jaar moet in berekening gebring word om optimale resultate te verkry.  As gevolg van die droogte het suikerriet se algemene vatbaarheid vir Eldana verhoog en Pieter se plaas het nie die bedreigende mot wat Pongola binne geval het vrygespring nie.  Hy het oorstaanlande N57 wat verlede seisoen ‘n lugbespuiting vir die pes gekry het. “Dit was baie duur, maar die moeite werd, Eldana dring diep in die suikerrietstronk in en vernietig ratoene.”

Nog ‘n wurm wat suikkerriet geniet is die “wit maaier” (white grub).  Dit kom in die grond voor en vreet die suikerrietwortels.  Wees altyd op die uitkyk vir die pes, grawe in die grond en kyk wat vir jou wegkruip.

Pieter gebruik Bandit om blaaspootjie effektief te beheer en stel voor dat dit gebruik word voordat die suikerriet skouerhoogte bereik en voor einde Februarie.  Gedurende die res van die jaar gaan die blaaspootjie natuurlik dood.  ‘n Positiewe kenmerk van N57 is dat hy nog nooit blaaspootjie op dit opgemerk het nie.  Dit wil voorkom asof Bandit groei stimuleer en terselfdertyd blaaspootjies beheer.  Roes, op alle variëteite, is ook ‘n groot uitdaging. Die beheermaatreëls hiervoor is nie altyd koste effektief nie.  Pieter doen wat hy kan en lewe saam met wat hy glo nie koste effektief is om te bestry nie.

Rypmakers:  Pieter glo dit is ook een van die sleutels tot sukses, dit is as sukses gemeet word in RV%.  Rypmakers het nie net tot gevolg dat sukrose verhoog nie, maar die akkurate verwydering van die groenloof (toppies) word ook hierdeur moontlik gemaak.  Die riet gaan dood op die hoogte waar die loofblare verwyder moet word.  Suikerriet word vir vier weke afgedroog en daarna word dit met Fusilade behandel.  Na die Fusilade behandeling word minimum water toegedien gedurende die volgende agt weke totdat die suikerriet geoes word.

 Arbeid:  As eienaar, induna, trekkerbestuurder en plaasbestuurder werk Pieter baie nou saam met sy 16 werknemers.  Alhoewel hy ‘n relatiewe klein boerdery het, erken hy dat sy situasie baie anders is as wat ‘n groter boerdery sou vereis.  Hy het egter goeie raad hoe om die maksimum produktiwiteit uit jou werksmense te kry:

  • Behandel almal regverdig. Wees vriendelik en geduldig.  Slyp jou probleemoplossingvaardighede.  Volgens Pieter het ‘n saak altyd twee kante en jy kan nie jou manier op mense afdwing nie.
  • Vergader vroeg in die dag en los probleme op voor werk begin en gaan dan die dag in met posititiwiteit en motivering.
  • Leer ken alle werkers goed, spandeer tyd saam met hulle, praat nonsense met mekaar en gee om vir die siekes.
  • Glo in hulle. Desperaat en uit frustasie het Pieter een van sy moeilikste werkers “Kampioen” begin noem.  Selfs hy was verras toe die persoon uiteindelik sy titel verdien het en die mees waardevolle lid van die span geword het.
  • Moet nooit intimidasie duld nie.
  • Doen alles in jou vermoë om harde handearbeid tot ‘n minimum te beperk deur gepaste gereedskap te voorsien.
  • Hou standaarde hoog.  Alhoewel Pieter sy suikerriet brand moet die kappers ook bereid wees om groenriet te kap.
  • Voorsien gemaklike akkomodasie met skoon water en vuurmaakhout.
  • Besef dat verhoudings jare neem om op te bou en gee genoeg tyd vir dit om te ontwikkel. Geen mens kan ‘n verhouding begin en verwag alles moet perfek wees vanaf dag een nie.  Wees geduldig en onthou elke dag kan gebruik word om die verhouding te verbeter wat tot almal se voordeel sal lei.

Pieter verkies om niemand af te dank nie – op een of ander manier kry hy dit reg dat hulle besef hulle kan nie doen wat van hulle verwag word nie en dan bedank hulle vrywillig.  Dit klink asof Pieter een of ander bo-menslike krag besit, maar dit maak meer sin as hy verduidelik; “die atmosfeer op die plaas is baie gemaklik en almal werk as ‘n span saam.  Indien iemand nie sy kant bring nie sal die hele span hom spot en dit is hierdie isolering van die res van de span wat dan tot gevolg het dat die persoon vrywillig bedank.”  Om op hierdie manier te werk te gaan, neem baie geduld en vaardigheid om die span se moraal hoog te hou.


  • Kap laag. Alhoewel dit baie logies klink hoor mens dikwels van top presterende boere waarmee daar al onderhoude gevoer is, dat daar nog ‘n substansiële gedeelte van die stronk na die oes in die land agterbly. Volgens Pieter kan hy gemaklik lewe van ’n inkomste wat hy kan verdien indien hy van hierdie lande ‘n tweede keer sou kap
  • Verwyder alle blare wat nie verbrand het nie en “top” behoorlik.
  • Los die toppies in die land as deel van die vogbewaring van die grond. Moenie die toppies oor die ratoene versprei nie want swamme kan ontwikkel, veral in koeler weersomstandighede.
  • Moenie toppies in die land brand nie want dit hitte sal veroorsaak dat waardevolle vog uit die grond verlore gaan. Terselfdertyd gaan waardevolle plantmateriaal verlore wat kan bydra tot die organiese inhoud van die grond.

Administrasie:  Een van die grootste skokke wat ek gekry het tydens my besoek is dat Pieter geensins van eposse gebruik maak nie.  Dit verduidelik hoe hy sy eie administrasie so effektief kan bestuur.  Slegs die heel belangrikste sake beland op sy lessenaar.  Pieter dink baie mense spandeer skrikwekkende hoeveelhede tyd per dag aan irrelevante eposse.  Sommige persone kan egter nie hiersonder funksioneer nie.

Opsommend het ek vir Pieter vir ‘n paar wyshede gevra:

  • Wees altyd teenwoordig. Die plaaseienaar se kreatiewe vlak van probleemoplossing kan nie van werkers verwag word nie.
  • Alhoewel ‘n boer water en kunsmis en ander nodige ondersteuning aan die plant kan gee kan hy nie die plant maak om te groei nie. Hierdie krag lê slegs in God se hande.  Pieter glo dat Jesus die rede is vir sy sukses en dat gebed die sleutel is.
  • Wanneer Pieter ‘n land “herstel”, los hy die vorige gewas in die land, want dit gee ‘n aanduiding of die grond gesond is. Hierdie praktyk was baie effektief ’n paar jaar gelede:  Pieter het ‘n versuipland gehad as gevolg van ‘n kanaal wat gelek het.  Uit desperaatheid het hy die kanaal self herstel.  Hy het die “siek” gewas in die land gelos totdat die soutvlakke laag genoeg was vir die gewas om te herstel.  Toe die suikerriet wys dat die grond weer herstel het en gesond was, het Pieter weer suikerriet geplant.  Hy is beloon met ‘n oes van 160 t/ha.  Hy volg dieselfde praktyk wanneer onkruid ‘n land totaal oorgroei.  Hy val die onkruid aggresief aan en slegs wanneer hy dit suksesvol uitgeroei het en die suikerriet ten volle herstel het, herplant hy die hele land.  Basies kan dit soos volg opgesom word:
  • Verwydering van probleem
  • Laat die plante jou wys of die probleem opgelos is
  • Herplant in gesonde grond
  • Pieter se raad aan boere is dat hulle voortdurend moet asseseer hoe hulle hulle tyd spandeer en hoeveel moeite dit is om ‘n taak te voltooi. “Bereken dan of jou moeite jou geld kos of geld spaar.  Jy sal heel waarskynlik besef dat sekere take net nie die moeite of tyd werd is nie“.   Hy illustreer sy punt met ‘n voorbeeld:  Skeurploegtandskoene is baie duur, daarom het hy dit self probeer herstel en so gedink hy spaar geld.  Slegs nadat hy bereken het hoeveel geld hy gespaar het teenoor hoeveel tyd hy daaraan spandeer het, het hy agter gekom dat dit nie die moeite werd was nie.  Dit is maklik om tyd te spandeer aan aktiwiteite wat jy dink nodig is, maar wanneer jy ‘n berekeninge maak kom jy agter dis net nie die moeite werd nie.  Dit is veral belangrik as jy ‘n relatiewe klein boerdery met ‘n minimale aantal werkers het en dat elke minuut van elke dag kosbaar is.
  • Moet nooit ophou leer nie. Ons weet nooit alles van alles af nie en kan daarom nooit ophou om te leer nie. Pieter woon alle vergaderings en voorleggings by waar daar ‘n geleentheid is om iets te leer.

Pieter is ‘n vernuftige besigheidman met baie wysheid en kennis om te deel.  My wens is dat hy eendag deel sal voel van hierdie plek waar hy die grootste gedeelte van sy lewe spandeer.

Dankie, dat jy my in jou ruimte toegelaat het en dit so vrylik met ons gedeel het.