THE FARM AFRICA: TALBORNE ORGANIC FERTILIZERS by Jenny Slabber
Commercial Organic Farming in SA is young, but demand for organic produce by health conscious consumers has resulted in the incredible industry growth worldwide of 35% per year, and faster in South Africa. Talborne Organics (Pty) Ltd, specialize in manufacturing Certified Organic fertilizers to deliver superior quality organic crops while maintaining productivity, on a sustainable basis. Through Talborne Organics Franchisees we service organic farmers throughout Southern Africa, and we distribute a complete range of input products, such as organic pest and disease control products, and vermicompost for use by Certified Organic, biological and natural farmers wishing to persue natural and sustainable farming practises.
1. What are the basic principals of organics?
Organic farmers strive to build up soil life and health (soil life like beneficial micro-organisms such as bacteria and fungi which protect plants from diseases), increase compost content, improve the structure of the soil and balance nutrient levels in order to deliver quality plant, animal and human life though quality food. Inputs like poisons, synthetic fertilizers and herbicides used by conventional farmers, which damage the environment, pollute, kill soil life, or cause toxicity in food, soil and water sources are strictly forbidden in organic methods. When a product, food or process is Certified Organic the consumer is assured that a stringent inspection and control system, governed by worldwide standards through IFOAM (International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements) is applied.
2. What is Talborne Organics primary market?
Talborne Organics primary market is the environmentally aware farmer who produces for the high value and quality standards required by health conscious markets such as the certified organic local retail or produce destined for the export market. This is a market encompassing a very wide spread of growers from Avocado’s, Citrus, Grapes for table and wines, Vegetables, Culinary, Medicinal and Essential Oil Herbs to wheat for organic flour. Talborne’s other markets are wholesale nurseries and retail nurseries and landscapers. Talborne produces a range of specialist Turf fertilizers used on sports grounds such as Ellis Park and Newlands and leading golf courses; Royal Cape, Steenberg and Wanderers to name a few.
3. Give an indication of your organic fertilizer ranges.
Talborne Products are the manufacturers of two Organic Fertilizer ranges:
VITA FERTILIZERS (certified organic by OFF of UK) - is a high feed N, P, K range with minor and trace nutrients. The only organic Registered Group 1 Fertilizer in S.A.
ECO FERTILIZERS ECO-logical, ECO-nomical compost enriched with VITA fertilizer to deliver a medium range feed of N, P, K, minor and trace nutrients. These fertilizers are especially valuable where soil humus levels are depleted.
To cater for the growers needs Talborne distributes Biogrow Organic Pest and Disease Control, Fertilis Earthworm Castings and Seagro and KelPlus Liquid Fertilizers. All products are Certified Organic and registered through S.A. Department of Agriculture and are suitable for GlobalGap production.
4. Talborne Organics manufactures organic fertiliser. How does it compare with synthetic fertilizer in terms of efficiency and cost?
Direct comparisons are difficult, so an explanation to introduce a few concepts would be useful. In the past organic methods were viewed as low cost inputs (i.e. when animal manures or composts were the only source of nutrients) which often resulted in low productivity and was hardly commercially viable. Produce was stunted, diseased and nutritionally deficient when grown in the naturally poor soils found in many parts of South Africa. Talborne Organics responded to this challenge by developing scientifically formulated complete organic fertilizers which supply generous feeds of Nitrogen (N), Phosphate (P) and Potassium (K), plus minor and trace nutrients for optimum commercial production.
Standard synthetic fertilizers supply one, two or three nutrients only, with no minor or trace nutrients (e.g. LAN, Superphoshate or synthetic 2:3:2). This requires frequent applications of fertilizers to crops to ensure sufficient nutrients during their growing and fruiting phases, plus top ups of foliar trace nutrients which are costly. This requires labour and machinery to apply. Most synthetic fertilizers are treated to make them water soluble, by combining the nutrient with a salt, to make it readily available to the plant. This property increases the potential loss of nutrient through leaching of up to 50%. This is seldom factored into cost. By using natural nutrients from plant, animal and mineral sources Talborne Fertilizers nutrients are bound in complex forms which are not water soluble. These nutrients are released by microbial action in the soil (fungi, bacteria, algae, plant exudes and soil insects) resulting in longer term sustained release feeding of the crop. The bulk of synthetic fertilizers are fillers or carriers like salts, lime or gypsum, so plant nutrients are only 10-33% of actual weight purchased. Talborne Organic Fertilizers do not contain added carriers or fillers.
Many additional factors impact indirectly on eventual cost per kg or ton of fertilizer. When the sustainability of the farming enterprise is considered, S.A. farmers are being pressured by lifeless unproductive soils, pollution of rivers and the escalating cost of pest and disease control associated with years of overuse of synthetic fertilizers, herbicides and poisons. Feedback from farmers using Talborne Organic Fertilizers regularly, is that for a similar cost to synthetics, they are getting equivalent and increased production while soil and crops produced reflect the health gained from good quality nutrition. Over time the required fertilizer to be added is reduced in subsequent plantings as the soils nutrient levels increase.
5. What are the advantages of Organic Fertilizer?
In addition to the above, organic fertilizers stimulate microbial activity, replenish carbon sources (humus), build good soil structure which assists with water and nutrient retention of soils. As balance is regained, incidence of pest, disease and weed is reduced as these are all indicators of imbalance, deficiency or unsuitable growing conditions. Food grown in good soil is more nutritious and delicious and has a longer shelf life.
6. Can insect pests be controlled as effectively with organic products as with synthetic insecticides?
The organic grower will be guided by the saying “Prevention is easier and less costly than cure.” They strive to grow strong and healthy plants which resist pests and disease with natural immunity. High pest attack is nature’s quality control system removing the weak plant to prevent propagation of a poor specimen. In preference to using poisons, which kill the good with the bad, the organic grower uses products that disrupt the pests life cycles, comfort, feeding habits, or acts as a repellent. This allows for the preservation of predators and beneficial insects to flourish and contain pest outbreaks naturally. Only as a last resort are natural poisons like Pyrethrum used to regain control of pest attacks. Natural poisons breakdown rapidly so do not build poison residues in the environment.
7. Do you find that there is a growing interest in Organic farming in South Africa?
Before the year 2000 Organic farmers and their natural farming methods were regarded with suspicion and classified as emotional and eccentric. Today there is a focus on organic methods as the future of growing albeit under different labels. Biological, nature, sustainable, biodynamic and permaculture all subscribe to organic concept of nurturing the soil. Large commercial agricultural groups like Westfalia, ZZ2 and Valentin Boerdery have embraced and benefited from these methods. Many a farmer converted from conventional synthetic growing has remarked to me, that the organic approach to farming has rekindled a passion for farming that had been lost in a haze of toxins before.
Visit Talborne Organics website on www.talborne.co.za Tel (011)954-5763;