The extraordinary diversity of wheat production conditions in South Africa is a major challenge to both breeder and researcher. From the mediterranean climate of the South Western Cape, to the more unreliable and often harsh semi-arid dryland production areas of the Free State, to the numerous and scattered irrigation schemes throughout the country, the breeder and researcher have to find the right variety, together with all the applicable production practices, to ensure economic and sustainable wheat production.
This not only enables the wheat farmer to produce a crop that will ultimately ensure that affordable, sufficient and good quality bread is made available to the nation, but that he can also effectively and successfully compete with his counterpart on the international market.
In order to supply producers with reliable, objective and scientific data, the Production Systems Division runs three cultivar adaptation programmes in the three different wheat production areas of South Africa, aimed at determining the best adapted variety for a specific production region. After receiving high-yielding varieties with good yield stability, excellent agronomic characteristics, superior grain quality, as well as with resistance to pests and diseases, from all the various seed companies and organisations, these varieties are compared in trials and the best suited varieties are then recommended for cultivation in a specific production region.
These recommendations function under the auspices of a National Committee, comprised of representatives from all the various facets of the industry, which ensures a scientific, objective and industry-related approach to the subject.
The results are used to make recommendations to producers and other role-players in the industry through the two very comprehensive "Guidelines for small grain production in the winter rainfall region" and "Guidelines for small grain production in the summer rainfall region", farmer's days, advisor's days, scientific congresses, etc. This programme is a unique service of its kind in South Africa.
Correct cultivar choice and the utilization of a portfolio of cultivars can contribute considerably to risk aversion and good risk management, on condition that the producer is supplied with scientifically sound information that is obtained from such a cultivar evaluation programme.
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