April McAlister wrote a very interesting and exciting article on the mediaclubsouthafrica.com site.
The South African National Energy Research Institute (Saneri) and the Department of Energy (DoE) have launched a pilot project aimed at turning Robben Island into a self-sufficient community that runs on green energy.
The project is expected to produce about 600KW from its various energy sources, which will replace the two diesel generators that currently power the island, resulting in an expected monthly saving of around R450 000 (US$64 500).
Click here to read the article....
The following are some excerpts from the article " Current range condition in southern Ethiopia in relation to traditional management strategies: The perceptions of Borana pastoralists." by AYANA ANGASSA AND FEKADU BEYENE, Department of Animal Production and Rangeland Management, Awassa College of Agriculture, Debub University, Awassa, Ethiopia
Visit this link to read the full article on the studies done.

Bush Encroachment, together with drought and overgrazing, has severe implications for the survival of the Borana pastoral system from Southern Ethiopia.

A survey was conducted in Dubluk, Medecho, Did-Hara, Did-Yabello, Web and Melbana grazing areas of Borana to analyse the pastoralists’ traditional practices and strategies for sustainable resource use.

The Borana pastoral system of southern Ethiopia, traditionally based on cattle husbandry for survival and income generation, has been effective over generations in producing animal products while maintaining rangeland resources. Borana pastoralists maintained genetically diverse stock and varied the composition of their herds to match local environmental characteristics. Herders moved livestock between the wara and fora herdmanagement systems depending upon the condition of the grazing lands and family milk needs. Large numbers of animals were sent to the fora herd during the dry season when forage resources became scarce in the wara herd’s grazing lands. Recent increases in human and livestock populations and decreases in the availability of grazing lands are putting the rangeland resource under increased pressure. In the last few decades, the development of water ponds has added further to grazing pressure on the rangelands. In the mid-1980s, about 19% of the area was affected by erosion, and about 40% of the grazing lands were covered by bush encroachment. Significant areas of the communal grazing lands have been converted to cultivation with even larger areas allocated to ranching. This has both restricted area available for communal grazing and increased grazing pressure on these areas.

Pastoralists indicated that bush encroachment became rampant more than 40 years ago, with most of the herbaceous vegetation composed of unpalatable species and valuable grasses are in a downward trend. The Borana pastoralists believed that, if this change continued unabated, the impact on sustainable resource use would be critical.
Currently, range condition has deteriorated with increasing bush encroachment by species such as Acacia drepanolobium and A. brevispica associated with unpalatable grass, mostly Pennisetum mezianum and P. stramineum.

The current situation has severe implications for the survival of the Borana pastoral system. In 1990, the total numbers of cattle and camels per household were 43 and 2, respectively, and in 1994, after the 1991–92 drought, corresponding numbers were 14 and 2 (Alemayehu 1998). The Borana pastoral system has been subsistenceoriented, based on milk production, not only to form the main stay of human nutrition, but also to rear the calves, which would ensure the long-term continuity of the system. With the current deteriorated condition of the rangeland, this system is under serious threat.

Read the full article.

Author: Sean Ranger (This is a summarized version of Sean Ranger's article. Visit http://myfundi.co.za/ for the full article.)

In Africa, soil degradation accelerated after colonisation by European nations, but was exacerbated by several factors, including the mechanisation and commercialisation of agriculture, social systems such as overgrazing by cattle and the use of fertile land for non-agricultural purposes. The consequences are appalling: in South Africa, for instance,  an estimated ten percent of the 1,2 million hectares under irrigation has already been lost as a result of salinisation alone.

Bush encroachment in South Africa, as elsewhere, is a good indicator of soil degradation. Research has shown that the rate of degradation has been less severe in developing areas than in white-owned commercial areas. In these rural areas the veld was regularly burned and stocked with a high population of goats, which kept the bush in check.

Commercialisation replaced wild ungulates with cattle and sheep. Their preference for grazing gave the bush a free hand and it encroached on grassland. Sheep in particular are responsible as they are short grazers, meaning that they crop the grass down very close to the ground.
After 1950 scientific agricultural planning caused bush encroachment in the rural areas. This was accomplished through injudicious cultivation of non-arable land, which later had to be abandoned, with resultant bush encroachment. Interestingly, however, it has subsequently been discovered that bush encroachment has improved the fertility status of some soils to near-pristine levels.
It is generally agreed that soil degradation has accelerated on a global scale since World War II, even though there are no acceptable hard facts available to quantify it. Even so, these guesstimates are telling: The UN's FAO (Food and Agriculture Organisation) estimates that between five and seven million hectares go out of production each year in Sub-Saharan Africa as a result of human-induced soil degradation.
The severity of this short summation of human-induced soil degradation is self-explanatory and obviously unsustainable and unacceptable. The large discrepancy between Burundi and the other countries is a result of the fact that this country's maize is produced on very steep slopes of 40 percent gradient, giving a clear indication of the effect slope has on accelerating the rate of topsoil loss from an area. The situation in South Africa is no different, with erosion rates twenty times as high as the world average. Estimates are that South Africa is losing 300 Mt or 2,5 t/ha/annum.

Consequences One of the first consequences of degraded soil is that the yield potential/carrying capacity of the soil is lowered, with a concomitant lowering in its capacity to produce aboveground biomass. Loss of aboveground biomass can have effects such as reduced harvests, diminished supplies of fuel wood and a reduced capacity to support stock.
Research indicates that a loss of 20-40 tons of topsoil per hectare can half crop yields on certain Alfisols that are a common soil type in much of Sub-Saharan Africa.
Consider, then, the extent of lost production against the loss of topsoil summarised in Table 1. This highlights the fact that yield losses are not only a symptom of nutrient loss in the soil. Nutrient losses, however, are astronomical.
In an FAO study conducted in Zimbabwe it was found that this country could be losing 1,6 million tons of nitrogen and 0,24 million tons of phosphorus per year through erosion. Replacement of nitrogen and phosphorus to these soils translates into US$1,5-billion at the 1985 price!
An inexpensive solution to this form of degradation is the application of agricultural fertilisers. This, however, should be weighed against the fact that these resources, too, are finite and that their incorrect application has caused, and is causing, environmental pollution on a global scale through the eutrification of fresh and saltwater resources.

Exposure of the surface soil to the elements has as its major effect a reduction in the capacity of the soil to store water. Four effects predominate with the removal of the vegetative cover:
Ø     Exposure of the soil to the beating action of rain, causing the physical dispersion of the surface soil layer, resulting in crusting and splash erosion.
Ø     Organic matter in the surface layer of topsoil is reduced to very low levels. This reduces cementing and stability of the soil structure. Reduced soil organic matter leaves the soil more prone to crusting and erosion.
Ø     Crusting causes poor water infiltration, with the effect of reduced replenishment to groundwater and increased run-off. Crusting reduces the germination of seedlings and thus revegetation of bare patches.
Ø     Degradation of vegetation on steep, rocky slopes leads to greatly increased run-off, flash floods and accelerated erosion on lower slopes.
Quite apparent from this is the fact that each of the above-mentioned results is mutually reinforcing in that the presence of one is an aggravating factor for the other.

Water erosion has the following effects on hydrology:
Ø     Water erosion reduces the amount of soil that remains in situ and as such reduces its water storage capacity. Reduced storage of water within the soil profile dramatically reduces plants' capability to survive spells of drought between rain events.
Ø     Erosion gullies act as canals that are efficient at draining water away from a catchment area, achieving the same end of reduced water storage. Watersheds are like large sponges that slowly release water and as such regulate stream flow. With gully erosion comes a change in the dynamics of the hydrology of a catchment area: once steadily-flowing perennial rivers become characterised by frequent periodic flooding and/or periodic abnormally low flow. In its worst form, once perennial rivers become seasonal.
Ø     With the increased velocity of water flowing out of a watershed comes an increase in the sediment load carried by the river, which results in silting up of dams - to the detriment of all those dependent on water. The Welbedacht Dam is a good example. This dam was conducted in 1973 to serve as the main water reservoir for Bloemfontein. By 1993, however, it had silted up to such an extent that its storage capacity had shrunk from 114 million cubic metres to seventeen million cubic metres.
Alteration in the hydrology of an entire watershed such as this one has the effect of making the area prone to the effects of drought.
The building of the Aswan Dam in the Nile River valley is a particularly good example of chemical degradation that can be expected when a river's flow is interrupted by the construction of a dam such as this. The Nile valley is the only significant area of deep, fertile, level soil available in Africa. The construction of the Aswan Dam has drastically changed the hydrology of this river system, resulting in increased salinity and barren soil.
Here the changes in hydrology have reduced flooding that has interrupted the deposition of fertile soil and the flushing of salts from the system. The bulk of salts flushed from the Sudanese irrigation schemes now end up in the Aswan Dam, accelerating salinisation. The Nile delta is severely degraded, while the area below the dam is moderately so. Above the dam, in the Sudanese irrigation schemes such as Gezira, all is well.

In South Africa there are 1,2 million hectares under irrigation and an estimated ten percent of this area has been lost as a result of salinisation.

Authors:T. G. O'Connor; V. R. T. Crow
The rate and pattern of bush encroachment in the grasslands and savannas of the Kei Road-Komga region of the Eastern Cape were quantified by analysis of nine sets of aerial photographs taken between 1937 and 1986. Woody cover increased from 17% to 35% over this period. with most of the increase occurring after 1963 and possibly related to well above-average rainfall.
Bush encroachment involved the invasion of grassland and the thickening of savanna. Valleys were always two to three times more wooded than slopes or uplands respectively, although the extent of increase (55%) of woody cover of all three categories was similar.
The probability of change of sites from one category of woody cover to another indicate the system is tending toward a severely encroached state.
The levels of encroachment recorded in this study are expected to impact livestock production.
Below are a few main points from a presentation Dix presented to Komatiland (Wilgeboom Field Day) in October 2010. The presentation was about why Weed Control and Weed Control Programmes sometimes fail to produce the desired results.

Why do spraying, or other weed control methods, sometimes have poor results?
-  Weather conditions: Rain – Watch for rainfastness on the label.
                                    Low temperatures
                                    Wind drift
-  Inactive Weed growth. Weeds under stress.
-  Stage of Weed Growth: Insufficient foliage
                                          Weeds to large
                                          Insufficient germination
-  Wrong Product: Does not control specie
-  Product not used correctly: Failure to read the label
                                                Failure to follow recommendations /instructions
-  Incorrect Application Rates: Wrong Mixtures
                                                Incorrect Calibration
                                                Incorrect water volumes
-  Incorrect application method
-  Incorrect application equipment

Why do weed control programmes sometimes fail to produce the desired results?
-  Inadequate planning
-  Herbicide: Incorrect choice
                    Incorrect usage due to
                                 a. failure to read the label
                                 b. failure to follow recommendations
                                 c. insufficient product knowledge
-  Poor Timing
-  Poor Budgeting
-  Lack of Follow-up
-  Inadequate resources: Incorrect Equipment
                                         Equipment faulty or in poor condition
                                         Insufficient labour, equipment & transport
-  Incorrect Application
-  Poor selection of operators or contractor.
-  Untrained supervisors and operators.
-  Inadequate supervision
-  No Report back: On Results
                              On progress
                              On costs
                              On problems being experienced
-  Lack of commitment and/or lack of interest

Avoid weed resistance by following the label recommendations. Do not try “Cost Savings” by reducing product and/or water rates

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Contact us if you are interested in more information.

We had a request to add simplified information on this site about the mixing and application ratios for herbicides? Unfortunately is this a very difficult subject to generalise.

There are many factors to consider when deciding on a mixture and application rate. Some of the factors are the plant species to be sprayed or treated, variety of plants in the same area, the stages of growth, the density of the targeted species, and the water/mixture per ha sprayed (calibration).

As an example: Bugweed needs a very low mixture at medium volumes. Bramble needs a high mixture at high volumes (very wet). If you spray bugweed with a "too strong" mixture, the leaves will burn and fall off. The plant will look dead for a while, but soon it will re sprout and form new shoots. It will look as if you gave it fertilizer. So you can see the complexity of mixtures if you have an area with Bugweed and Bramble.

So unfortunately it is not so easy to make general suggestions. We normally suggest to anyone spraying that label recommendations must be followed. However, should a difficult or unclear situation occur, is Dix available to evaluate any requirements/situations and make appropriate recommendations.

Share your thoughts and experiences on this subject.
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We had an interesting discussion with the people of a Nature Reserve nearby about the Bramble threat.  

Brambles are thorny plants of the genus Rubus, with about 250 species. There are 17 species recorded from southern Africa, some indigenous and others naturalised. The Bramble fruit include the blackberry and rasberry.  

Bramble bushes have a distinctive growth form. They send up long, arching canes that do not flower or set fruit until the second year of growth. Many types of brambles bear edible fruit, and many have recurved thorns that dig into clothing and flesh when the victim tries to pull away from them. Some types also have hair-like thorns.

Species are pioneers of open and disturbed habitats. Berries are eaten by birds which enables seeds to be dispersed widely. Plants are able to spread vegetatively by sending out sucker shoots, and rooting where branches (canes) contact the ground. Thorns along the branches make movement through these bushes very difficult. With these sorts of properties it is no wonder that some Rubus species have become weeds. They are a big problem in many areas now. It is the opinion of many that Brambles will become a threat of major proportions if we do not take the control thereof very seriously.
Contact us  for more information on how to control Bramble.
Bush encroachment is the suppression of palatable grasses and herbs by encroaching woody species often unpalatable to domestic livestock. Therefore, bush encroachment reduces the carrying capacity for livestock. The reduction in carrying capacity is of great significance because savannas in southern and central Africa contain a large and rapidly growing proportion of the world’s human population, including many pastoralists whose livelihood is threatened by this process. (D Ward, University of Stellenbosch)
Bush encroachment thus affects the agricultural productivity and biodiversity

A study was done in Uganda to determine the affects of bush encroachment on livestock farming.
Results indicated that cleared farms had higher herbage dry matter, Heifers on these cleared farms reached puberty earlier, had a higher calving rate, yield higher milk, and had better body conditions. The annual cross income per cow on cleared farms was higher then those on bushy farms. Cleared farms were thus more profitable then bushy farms.
To read more about this study, visit Economic Implications of Bush Encroachment.

Mechanical control
The most popular methods of controlling bush encroachment mechanically, are chopping, slashing, ring barking and felling.
The stumps are then treated immediately with a chemical weed killer.

Chemical control

Herbicides can be used effectively to control a range of problem plants. When using an herbicide, it is vital to follow the instructions on the label strictly regarding the application, correct methods of application, safe and proper use and storage of the product.

Using the services of a specialist
Often landowners try to save money by using their limited knowledge to work out their own weed control programs and bush encroachment controls methods. Only to find out later that there are more appropriate programs which would have saved them plenty of money in the long term. 
When working out a proper weed control program, one must remember that weed control is not a once off, quick fix situation. You have to find the methods which will give you the best results over a longer period, with the least financial cost
Weed control and bush encroachment programs can be very expensive and very labour intensive, especially when done incorrectly. It is therefore crucial to use the knowledge and experience of a specialist weed controller. Doing this can save you plenty of labour, time and money over a longer period.
To find out more about our specialised services, visit   Specialised Services