Rooibos planting season well underway

So far – touch wood – our 2012 season has been reasonably successful, and rooibos planting season is well underway! 

Here on our estate high in the northern Cederberg, we’ve had over 100mm rain in the past six to eight weeks. Most of this was received in the form of a large 50mm early winter rain, followed by a number of cold fronts which have produced reasonably good weekly rainfall since early winter.

Good tidings for rooibos planting season

To ensure our plants get the best chance at establishing themselves well, our rooibos is planted in the rain or immediately after good rainfall. At Klipopmekaar we generally try to start planting earlier than many farmers in the industry. We’ve managed to meet our 2012 target and have planted roughly 120 hectares of healthy organic rooibos seedlings to date.

In preparation for planting, our primary challenge is to produce healthy seedlings. For the 2012 rooibos planting season, we successfully produced roughly 1,2 million seedlings in our organic nursery. These were then transplanted into the fields using a mix of tractor-driven planting machines and by hand.

All planted fields have now received follow-up rainfall, and have firmly taken root, and the presentation looks pretty good but we’re not out of the woods yet!

Rooibos season cycles mean dry and wet

Generally speaking, the rooibos production region has been experiencing below average precipitation over the past two years. Some attribute lower rainfall and hotter temperatures to climate change.

However, drier periods are also part of a normal undulating wetter-dryer cycle which does negatively (and positively) impact rooibos planting success and overall farm & industry yields on a cyclical basis.

We’re eagerly hoping that we’re entering a wetter cycle … and ideally speaking, we’d really appreciate a further 100mm precipitation before winter draws to an end in late August.

(Klipopmekaar rooibos seedling nursery image courtesy of Simon O’Callaghan)