Day 6 of our South African adventure started with an irrigated citrus and mango farm along the Olifant River. They manage 100 hectares and harvest up to 60 tons of fruit per hectare. It was interesting to study the planting. The rows are planted north to south to maximize the sun rays but at the same time prevent sunburn on the fruit. The trees are spaced 2m apart in the row and the rows are 7m apart. The trees mature in three years but don’t recoup costs until after thirteen years.
To maximize productivity, farmers are trying to increase the population density and they are planting trees closer together. New tree spacing can be as little as 1m apart with rows only 5m apart. The farm sells whole fruit for export, cut and packaged fruit for the European market, green fruit for the Asian market, and overripe fruit to the juice market. Fruit is picked at peak ripeness and within 8 hrs put into the cold chain. If the cold chain is maintained, the fruit has a shelf life of up to 6 weeks. To check if your own mangoes are ripe, drop them in water. If they sink they are high in sugar and should be tasty. If they float, they are still high in starch and will probably not be as good.
Along the drive throughout the day we say plenty of orange and lemon orchards. Parts of the area experience heavy hail storms and so farmers have taken to covering acres and acres with mesh to protect the trees. Citrus is quickly increasing in production in South Africa and is becoming a major export crop.
We ended the day at Kapama Safari Lodge and a game drive. We saw elephants, lions, cahway birds, water monitor lizard, yellowbilled hornbills, zebras, hyenas, giraffes, wildebeest, greater kudu, nyala, and common duiker. The African wildlife is truly incredible.