InteliGro Partnership prospers Cortina Farms
The Myburgh family’s magnificent apple farm Cortina Farms is situated in the fertile valley of Vyeboom between Grabouw and Villiersdorp. They have partnered with InteliGro and the results have been amazing. Richard Myburgh grew up in these parts and was in the fruit industry for more than 30 years before he and his wife Yvette and brother William bought the farm in 2000 to earn their income from apples and pears.
Their oldest child, Ricard, completed his schooling at Hoërskool Stellenbosch and went on to study pomology at Elsenburg. Ricard is the production manager of the farm and his duties include looking after administration, wages, GlobalGAP, CIZA, health and safety, and especially the spray programmes, which he manages together with Wian Smith of InteliGro, Vyeboom.
“I want to know all there is to know about an apple tree,” he says. Richard’s studiousness was the reason for the many awards he already received, including the 2017 Toyota SA/Agri SA’s New Harvest Award as well as the 2017 Fruitways Grower of the Year award
Cortina Farms is a client of Fruitways who packs their first-grade fruit for the overseas market. Ricard is extremely proud of this as Cortina Farms has had the highest pack-out percentage for Pink Lady’s® and Royal Gala’s from all the farms for two consecutive years. Cortina Farms also fared second best with their Goldens. Keith Bradley of Fruitways is of the opinion that soil moisture management is the backbone of all deciduous fruit farming, and Cortina Farms succeeds admirably with this. “It is a great pleasure to work together with Ricard as he performs agreed actions punctually within the allocated timeline, in this way ensuring that his fruit trees do not develop a backlog and suffer from unnecessary stress conditions,” according to Keith.
Ricard started working on the farm in 2013 at the same time that Wian Smith started working for InteliGro Vyeboom and the team worked together closely to ensure the best returns and quality of pome fruits.
Wian has an IPM (Integrated Pest Management) approach towards chemical and biological solutions for crops that is extremely successful, and he and Ricard get together weekly to determine progress and needs.
Blasie Franken of InteliGro put into effect Cortina Farms’ plant and foliar nutrition by means of the Carbology® programme more than 6 years ago. Ricard does not use any pellet fertiliser but concentrates solely on water-soluble nutrition for the soil.
Further, Ricard and Wian follow the total InteliGro Carbology® approach. The strategy comprises the carbohydrate management during flowering, which in turn promotes a strong flowering complex and, in this way better fruit set. During the growth season of apples and pears, certain elements are applied at specific physiological stages, which promotes internal quality that improves storage capacity.
“Ricard firmly believes that the Carbology® programme has a lot of merits, provided that one optimally manages all other production practices. Together we focus on a fully integrated pest management (IPM) strategy that also entails the implementation of the InteliBio Solutions approach,” Wian says. “In conjunction with a good monitoring system that is in place, we achieve great success in timeously controlling and thus preventing pests and diseases during the course of the season.”
There are presently 45 000 apple and pear trees on Cortina Farms, covering an area of 40 ha. Cortina Farms’ returns amount to 6 500 bins per annum from the fully bearing trees, with another 10 ha that is covered with young tree plantings. The apple cultivars are the most popular ones, including Golden Delicious with a great demand from Africa, Granny Smith, Royal Gala, Fuji, Pink Lady and the two most profitable cultivars, Sundowner (Cripps Red) and Early Goldens. Packham Triumph pear trees have also been planted.
A product of importance to Ricard is plant growth regulators, which help with the reduction of excessive shoot growth. They also help to let the sunshine in, which significantly improves colour, as well as the limitation of unnecessary withdrawal of calcium and nutrients from the soil to give the fruit a better opportunity of absorbing the nutrients. Of course, it also helps with return bloom, which is already important for the next season’s bearing season.
In view of the fact that Cortina Farms handles and packs many other producers’ 2nd-grade apples, Ricard says there is a clear difference in colour between his green apples and those other farms after they are released up to 11 months from the CA (controlled atmosphere) cold storage rooms. “My apples are much greener and the pressure still very good and this gives me a great head start with marketing to Africa. I ascribe this to the foliar nutrition we spray regularly at the right time,” according to Ricard.
“Our apples are popular and buyers want our apples; there is a great demand for our fruit quality. I monitor our orchards myself, pluck my own samples and I am always aware of what is happening on the farm. We are also very lucky with our yield, which is 30% higher than the industry average, with a pack-out above 80%. We are grateful for this.
Our water comes from the Theewaterskloof Dam and with the good rain and the past two years’ rise in the water level of the dam, removed a lot of worry after the recent stringent drought.”
“My trust is in InteliGro’s assistance and expertise. There is definitely something we do differently than other farmers, and this is what makes the difference. It all revolves around the little extra one puts in. As the production increases, input costs decrease.”
Upon the question, whether it is more difficult to be successful on larger hectares, he responds with a frown: “You do exactly the same. The same principles are valid for large and small farms. How else does one become a ‘mega farmer’?”
InteliGro wishes Ricard and Cortina Farms all the best and we are looking forward to the shared road ahead.