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Workshop in South Africa helps nursery growers conserve irrigation water

Over 120 nursery growers came from around South Africa to attend an irrigation workshop in the Cape Vineland area this month. The two-day program included demonstration stations at leading blueberry propagator Fall Creek® South Africa and lectures at Stellenbosch University.

Hands-on workshop hosted at Fall Creek Farm & Nursery ®, South Africa

The event was hosted by the Seedling Growers Association of South Africa with sponsors Ellepot South Africa, Glencairns, Vegtech/Netafim, Shadowlands, and Nutrigro. Program organizer Shaun Biggs of Sutherland Seedlings explained, “Water quantity and quality are huge issues for SA growers, just like everywhere in the world. This was a great opportunity for growers in SGASA and other horticulture sectors to learn practical tips from international experts. These strategies will help us be more resilient to climate change and infrastructure challenges.”

The presenters and SGASA organizing team

Plant pathology professor Dr. Adele McLeod from Stellenbosch University demonstrated a practical leaf baiting system she has used to sample irrigation water for pathogens such as Phytophthora at South African macadamia nurseries. Dr. John Lea-Cox from the University of Maryland demonstrated how to use soil moisture sensors. Other researchers from the United States showed growers how to monitor and use substrate porosity, pH and electrical conductivity, stratified substrates, leaching fraction, and water quality to conserve water and increase crop quality.

(left) Dr. Adele McLeod of Stellenbosch University in South Africa demonstrating water sampling for plant pathogens, and (right) Dr. John Lea-Cox of the University of Maryland in the U.S. discussing soil moisture sensors for irrigation scheduling.

U.S. researchers were from the “NC1186” multi-state research program on water management and quality for specialty crop production and health. Team organizer Paul Fisher from the University of Florida IFAS Extension said, “It was a very positive experience all around – the research team and local growers had a chance to share knowledge with each other. If other regions are interested in hosting this type of event, get in touch!” (You can find information on water quality projects from the U.S. team on the website, and take online training courses at

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