The recent 10th International Symposium on Irrigation of Horticultural Crops held in Stellenbosch, South Africa, brought together researchers, practitioners, and businesses from around the world to share the latest scientific advances in irrigation and sustainable water use in horticulture.
The symposium was co-hosted by the Western Cape department of agriculture, Stellenbosch University, and the University of Pretoria and was the first to be held on African soil.
One of the main issues discussed at the symposium was the pressing challenge of water scarcity due to increasing and competing demands, as well as climate change.
Speaking at the opening address, Western Cape MEC of Agriculture, Dr Ivan Meyer, highlighted that South Africa was one of the driest regions in the world and that 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.
The symposium provided an opportunity for local researchers, industry technical experts, and companies to showcase the innovative orchard/vineyard and irrigation practices being implemented in South Africa to improve water use efficiencies and increase production and product quality.
According to Professor Stephanie Midgley, senior scientist in Climate Change at the department and convenor of the event, the International Symposium on Irrigation of Horticultural Crops provided an excellent opportunity to showcase the outstanding research conducted in South Africa in this field, along with innovative orchard/vineyard and irrigation practices being implemented by local producers.
“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,” said Midgley.
“The presentations at the symposium highlighted the need to improve water use efficiencies and 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, and in South Africa and the Western Cape, this is coupled with growing rural economies, livelihoods, and food security.”
The horticultural industry is highly export-oriented and a significant contributor to agricultural GDP, foreign revenue, and employment in South Africa and the Western Cape.
The presentations at the symposium emphasised the need 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 to achieve this goal. Horticulture worldwide has embraced the vision of a more sustainable future, which is coupled with growing rural economies, livelihoods, and food security.
The symposium’s outcomes provide valuable insights for policymakers, researchers, and industry stakeholders on how to address the pressing issue of water scarcity in horticulture and how to develop more sustainable irrigation practices. The continued knowledge sharing, learning, and improvement of on-farm practices will strengthen the future of the horticultural industries in South Africa and beyond.