The 10th International Symposium on Irrigation of Horticultural Crops was convened in Stellenbosch in the Western Cape from 29 January to 2 February, co-hosted by the Western Cape Department of Agriculture, Stellenbosch University, and the University of Pretoria.
The Irrigation Symposium is held every three to four years under the auspices of the International Society for Horticultural Science (ISHS), a large global network of horticultural researchers, practitioners, and businesses.
Speaking at the opening address, Western Cape Minister of Agriculture, Dr Ivan Meyer, highlighted that South Africa was one of the driest regions in the world.
Meyer: “Water scarcity due to increasing and competing demands and climate change is one of the most pressing challenges globally and in South Africa, especially in the Western Cape Province.”
“It is for this reason that the Western Cape agricultural sector is embracing new technologies such as remote sensing, including satellite imagery, and unmanned aerial vehicles. However, more needs to be done to increase efficiencies and product quality through more precise and data-driven water application to crops and to better manage horticultural crops for water deficit, drought, and heat stress conditions, ” said Meyer.
This Symposium was the first to be held on African soil and was widely supported by local researchers, industry technical experts and companies in the irrigation of fruit, vine, vegetable, and flower crops.
Over four days, 156 delegates from 18 countries gathered to share the most recent scientific advances in various aspects of irrigation and the sustainable use of scarce water resources in horticulture.
According to Prof Stephanie Midgley, senior scientist in Climate Change at the Department and convenor of the event, the symposium provided an opportunity to showcase the excellent research conducted in South Africa in this field, together with the data-based and innovative orchard/vineyard and irrigation practices that are being implemented locally by producers.
Midgely:” This industry is highly export-oriented and a significant contributor to agricultural GDP, foreign revenue, and employment in South Africa and the Western Cape. Through continued knowledge sharing, learning, advanced research and improvement of on-farm practices, the future of these industries will be strengthened.”
Midgely continues: “Many countries and regions represented at the symposium have a Mediterranean climate, where winter rainfall must be collected and stored for use on the crops in the summer growing season. A common thread of the presentations was the need to improve water use efficiencies and to employ irrigation practices that reduce applied water quantities while increasing production and product quality, and thus farm income. Cutting-edge approaches such as next-generation drip irrigation technologies are being developed.”
“Horticulture worldwide has embraced the vision of a more sustainable future. In South Africa and the Western Cape, as well as other regions, this is coupled with growing rural economies, livelihoods, and food security”, concluded Midgely.