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Farmers warned against aggressive land invaders

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“The plant competes with grass for water and ultimately overtakes the existing grass domain and invades the area”

THE MEC for Agriculture, Land Reform, Rural Development, Environment and Nature Conservation, Nomandla Bloem, has called on farmers in the Province to use land responsibly, especially in areas where there is prevalence of Harpuisbos (Gnidia Buchellii).

Bloem explained that Harpuisbos was one of the most aggressive land invaders and was capable of penetrating and replacing indigenous vegetation.

“The plant competes with grass for water and ultimately overtakes the existing grass domain and invades the area,” she said.

“The existence of the plant can drastically affect an area because it threatens both the agricultural productivity and natural ecosystems. The plant has the potential to drastically decrease the carrying capacity of the grazing land,” Bloem added.

Alien

The negative consequences of such alien vegetation include excessive water consumption, displacement of natural indigenous species, decrease in fodder production, reduction of biodiversity, decrease in agricultural production, depletion of soil nutrients and general environmental retrogression.

According to Bloem, the absence of grazing camps has contributed to the degradation of veld and the increase in invasive species.

She warned further that intensive overgrazing could also lead to excessive removal of lasting grasses.

“This will ultimately reduce ground cover, opening the way for less palatable and faster establishing annual grasses, shrubs and alien species.”

According to Bloem, the introduction of too many animals (overstocking) in communal grazing areas has led to the establishment of these invasive species.

She added that South Africa’s soils were also generally sensitive, fragile, and predisposed to land degradation through soil erosion, which is a natural process until it is accelerated by human activities such as deforestation, overgrazing, fires and construction activities.

According to Bloem degradation continues to threaten the local resource base “upon which rural communal livelihoods depend and is caused by a combination of poverty and an absence or failure of land use regulations”.

Bloem meanwhile also welcomed the good rainfall in some parts of the Province.

“The rain comes at a time when the Province has been struggling with drought, which has killed much of the livestock and crops. However, there are still some parts of the Province, such as Namakwa, ZF Mgcawu and portions of Pixley ka Seme which are still hit hard by the drought. We are hoping and praying that these areas will also receive rain soon.”

Bloem indicated that the R30 million set aside for drought relief last year, had come in handy as most farmers managed to purchase fodder from the department as an intervention.