The first pecan trees were planted 30 years ago on the farm Oskamp in Barkly-West. It is here that the vision of having pecan tree nurseries country-wide and producing the best trees in South Africa was birthed. Ten years ago the first trees for the market were grown in Jacobsdal. Five years later we expanded to Modder River, just outside Kimberley where experiments with bagged trees started. It is here that valuable lessons were learnt regarding the quality of the water and different ways of irrigating pecan trees.
The business has expanded and now consists of 3 nurseries. Our major operations are close to Kimberley and we have a partnership with a nursery in Paarl and an affiliation with a nursery in Douglas.
It is our aim to restore balance and improve the organic and biological components of our soils. As we know South Africa is largely a country with an arid climate and comprises of soils which have very low organic fractions. As growers of pecan nut trees, we have a vision of sustainability. Pecan plantations will generally outlive most of us and we feel it is our obligation to nurture the soils in which they grow. When considering commercial crops, pecans are of the most susceptible to increased salinity. To us it does not make sense to apply large amounts of commercially available fertilizers, especially considering the marginal qualities of most of our irrigation water. To achieve more fertile soils and healthier trees we produce and apply our own thermal compost, vermi-compost, compost teas and mulches. Consideration of our trees’ needs (C:N ratios, micro-element deficiencies, biological control, etc) determines the method of application.
To further enhance the biology of our soils, multi-species cover crops are grown. These produce exudates which stimulate the microbes and produce in situ organic mulches.
Due to the inability of pecan trees to take up zinc, extensive foliar spraying is done to enhance the vigour of our trees. Compost teas are also applied via foliar applications in order to enhance the microbe populations on the leaves.
Commercial laboratories are used for leaf and soil analyses. Brookside Laboratories in the USA is used extensively for our soil samples. Soil amendments, especially with regard to Ca, are based on the Albrecht Base Saturation methodology.
In-house monitoring of the health of the trees and soil consists of microscopic observations, leaf sap analyses (Brix, K, NO3, ph) and general observations.
The trees are budded and grafted at various times of the year onto Ukulinga rootstock which has reached the correct thickness. We use both dormant graftwood as well as freshly-cut budwood when embarking on the grafting and budding processes. The team of grafters have become specialists in their field and are regularly given short courses on how to improve the success rate of the budding and grafting. We also make use of peer-to-peer teaching and personal interaction to increase the knowledge base of our workforce.
We are constantly striving to produce the best nursery trees in the country. We have a state-of-the-art greenhouse where various propagation methods and different planting media as well as different combinations of foliar feeding are constantly being tested.
Harvesting of nursery trees is done with as little trauma to the roots as is possible. We are one of the only nurseries in South Africa employing a 21 ton excavator for extraction which minimises the damage to the trees considerably. We are proud of the way we package and size our trees and have yet to see any other packaging come up to our standard. We have loyal clients who have had very limited tree mortalities even when planting trees months after delivery.
No success story is complete without mention of our wonderful team. Our business model has a philosophy of inclusion and the betterment of the lives of all our employees. All our employees are brought from Ritchie on a daily basis and we are one of the biggest employers for the community of Ritchie where various socio-economic problems exist due to a lack of employment. We believe in improving the quality of the lives of our employees as our business grows and expands. Apart from the permanent employees, we provide ad hoc employment on a daily basis as the need arises. We mechanize only to improve the quality of our trees and not to minimize labour. We have a Code of Conduct which is underpinned by respect for each other and it instils loyalty to the business.
Rietpan Nursery assures you that no expense or effort is spared in supplying you with nurtured and healthy trees.