Ukulinga Research and Training Farm

World class facilities complement the Centre for Water Resources Research’s excellent research programmes. The Ukulinga Research and Training Farm houses a workshop, fields for research trials, tractors and agricultural equipments as well as a soil and water laboratory. Since its inception the Ukulinga Research and Training Farm, a 400 hectare farm situated near the campus, has been the site of unique and ground-breaking research in several agricultural disciplines and provides an invaluable resource at the University of KwaZulu-Natal. Apart from some of the oldest ecological experiments on the continent, Ukulinga also boasts internationally recognized research facilities. It is used extensively as an “outdoor laboratory” for research and the training of students and also includes a sustainable small-scale farming section. The farm features active facilities for agricultural research, including poultry, dairy, swine, grasslands, and field crop (irrigated and dryland) agriculture. The subtropical climate at the site makes it suitable for a broad range of crops in a variety of production levels, ranging from hand operated “community gardens” to fully mechanised production.

In the 2010/11 to 2013/14 seasons, field trials measuring the water use and yield of sugarbeet, sweet sorghum, grain sorghum and Jatropha curcas, linked to the biofuels project,  have been undertaken at the Ukulinga research farm. The Project Team planted its third sugarbeet trial in May 2013 at Ukulinga, which was harvested in December 2013. The data obtained from these field trials has facilitated the estimation of water productivity (i.e. more “crop” per “drop”) for these potential biofuel feedstocks.

Biofuel water use measurement

Grain sorghum with bagged grain heads to prevent yield loss due to feeding birds. A sonic anemometer was used to calibrate the surface renewal technique which measured total evaporation from the crop surface.

(Left) Spray rig (100 litre capacity) with two spray guns, powered by a tractor. (Right) Application of Imidacloprid drench to the base of each Jatropha tree at Ukulinga, before leaf formation (b).

Helicopter spray biofuel trials
Aerial spraying of sweet sorghum at Ukulinga to control pests (stem borer) and diseases (northern leaf blight).

Lattice Masts Buiofuel Trials
Two lattice masts (3 and 6 m in height) supporting various techniques to measure crop water use (total evaporation) for sugarbeet at Ukulinga.