The summer fight for first-grade

May 5, 2023 | General

Checking the results and quality of one of the trials of a new broccoli variety are from the left Attie de Klerk, Tikketai Agronomist, Regard Du Toit van Blue Mountain Berries, one of the producers and Jan Oosthuizen from Sakata, one of the seed suppliers.

Traditionally broccoli and cauliflower are winter crops, but due to consumer demand, Tikketai did not fear to tread and wholesales first-grade broccoli and cauliflower right through the year – including the hot summer months.  

Dance with the weather

Weather is a farmer’s best friend, without it crops cannot be produced. But the warmer months of the year challenge our producers in their task to supply the demand for first-grade broccoli and cauliflower.  

George, in the Southern Cape, has unpredictable weather patterns. The hot and dry “berg winds” or misty, humid, and rainy days could affect disease control which again can lead to damaged crops. This could result in decreased amounts of first-grade broccoli and cauliflower available to local markets.

Agronomist Attie de Klerk explains that Tikketai producers need to monitor the weather closely to push forward harvesting the heads in the case of berg winds. “Consumers have indicated over years that they prefer a certain size broccoli and cauliflower head. This resulted in Tikketai having a standardised size that we try to supply. 

Hot weather super boosts the development of heads, and they can grow too large within half a day. On the other hand, rainy weather, heavy mist, and humid conditions create an ideal breeding ground especially for fungal diseases, commonly found in broccoli and cauliflower,” he explains. 

Leave coverage around the head can also assist in limiting exposure to direct sunlight as this could colour the cauliflower heads to appear more yellowish during the summer months of the year. 

De Klerk says, “Consumers need to be educated that this has no impact on the quality or the taste but merely a slight colour change. Tikketai does however constantly look at new varieties that addressed this issue.”

Tikketai CEO, Burger Gericke states, “Tikketai prides itself in supplying a first-grade product to its customers. Our quality control standards are in line with this commitment. The broccoli and cauliflower heads with marks or visible effects due to diseases cannot be packaged as is. We do however strive not to waste and cut out the non-affected parts and package it as florets.”

Dodge diseases and beat the bugs

Agronomist Attie de Klerk explains that despite very tight and well-planned disease control programmes that are practiced by the producers, diseases on our broccoli and cauliflower crops will always be a reality.  

“Typical fungal diseases are Altenaria, creating black spots on the broccoli heads that then start to rot, and White blister, that leads to some of the broccoli flower buds that change in appearance. Clubroot, forms swollen, thick roots that restrict the flow of water and nutrients into the plant. We have not seen Black rot for a long time, but this bacterial disease that also impacts the quality of the heads, is now visible on the fields and can reduce the yield on the field”, he clarifies. 

De Klerk states that Diamondback moths, snails, and aphids could also impact the quality of broccoli and cauliflower heads.

Gericke says that Tikketai and all its stakeholders continuously direct all their energy and efforts towards meeting the market demands with first-grade produce all year round. “This includes investigating new varieties with improved qualities related to production, weather, and diseases. We constantly explore potential better practices in our strive to supply broccoli and cauliflower in line with our commitment to retailers and other customers”, he concludes.