Vegetable production: Rye as a windbreak for your carrots

A farmer from Bothaville in South Africa’s Free State Province uses rye as a windbreak for his carrot fields.

Wind damage to their young carrots is a serious challenge for Toks Liebenberg from Greenpak and Attie Grobler, Farm Manager at Fraaiuitsig, which forms part of Greenpak. In an attempt to minimise wind damage, they installed permeable plastic netting just after planting.

Plastic netting to protect young carrots from wind is an expensive and labour intensive system. Photo: Johan van der Merwe

The netting, which lets through enough water and sunlight to ensure healthy growth during the early growth period, was removed it after about 3 weeks, when the carrots were, at least, at a 3-leaf stage. This is, however, an expensive and labour intensive exercise and now Liebenberg and Grobler are testing planting rye between rows of carrots to act as a windbreak.

Liebenberg fitted 4 fine seed planting trays to his Agricola vegetable seed planter and plants 4 rows of rye between every 9 rows of carrots. The idea is that the rye will germinate before the carrots, ensuring an effective shield against wind damage.

Liebenberg adapted his vegetable planter for the trial. Photo: Johan van der Merwe

The trial, which is in its first year, appears promising at this stage, although there are small adjustments to be made to spread the rye more evenly across all 4 rows. According to Liebenberg, the results are promising enough to merit more trials.

Getting the depth control for planting the rye perfect is 1 of the secrets to success, here. The intent is to ensure efficient germination and fast growth, resulting in efficient protection from the wind.

Roots left in, as well as organic material left on, the soil are an added advantage. Liebenberg is also currently determining when the ideal time to spray the rye with herbicide. “As soon as the carrots’ space above ground is hampered by the rye, or when overshadowing occurs, we kill the rye off, but we still have to establish the perfect timing for this.”

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