A 5-session training program incorporating theory and practical applications for profitable farming by developing farmers:

1.       Establish the potential mielie/maize yield of farming ground using soil profiling techniques. Assumptions about prior learning at Gr 12 level (NQF level 4) include:

o   These students should already have been taught NQF-recognised skills and will be able to

1.       Soil enrichment for plant nutrition (fertilizer use and fertigation)

2.       Assessment of viable farming premises before investment

3.       Basic economics applicable to crop costing and wholesale sales

4.       Techniques of marketing for profitability


·         Target group: Approximately 20 Grade 12 students who have had agricultural education at an agricultural high school or school of specialisation in agriculture

·         Aim: train students in practical applications for profitable farming without sophisticated equipment and tertiary education

·         Venue: Bekker High School farm

·         Date: 2 May 2023

·         Time: 2hrs between 14h00 and 16:00 to replace practical work session on Bekker School Farm

·         Medium of instruction: English/Afrikaans as the school offers dual medium instruction

·         Materials to be used for Session 1:

o   Earth Augur for drilling up to 6 x60cm holes in varying types of soil (protective gear to be worn by operator)

o   Sticks, measuring tapes, coloured tape for improvised measuring stick for tabulation of observations

o   Workbooks for learners that include outline of content; groupwork tasks and charts based on research by Grain SA and FERTASA

o   Various irrigation equipment and soil testing tools.



Rationale for this training

·         The first step in farming for profit as a business is to establish the potential yield of farming ground using soil profiling techniques.

·         Training in soil profiling has practical applications for

o   Farming as a business

o   Adapting crops to accommodate climate change

o   Water usage in farming


Factors for soil preparation for potential maize yield 

Potential maize yield per ton/hectare in relation to restricting layers in soil in combination with available rainfall (water availability).

·         Solid rock/hard plinthite

·         Broken rock/gravel

·         Soft plinthite

·         Soft plinthite /clay


Test hole to establish ground soil structure’s suitability for growing mealies

Research materials

·         Google maps

·         FERTASA Field Guide

Grain South Africa’s Guidelines includes assessment of

·         Soil types

·         Potential soil yield

·         Soil potential

·         Crop yield

o   Open land – natural rain supply

o   Under irrigation

Tool for the small farmer to create a test hole: earth augur

·         Look for soil of different colours

·         Look for different areas of vegetation

·         Make holes in different areas that have been identified as having variable characteristics

When the holes have been drilled:

·         Create a measuring stick marked at 10cm intervals from the base

·         Do not use the drilled soil as its structure will have been changed by the drilling

·         Roughen up the sides of the inside of the hole

·         Examine the different soil layers as measured against the measuring stick

o   Identify soil horizons (diagnostic horizons)

o   Identify soil structures and materials in different horizons

o   Identify soil texture

o   Complete table in workbook

·         Available moisture at the different levels

o   Training in the next section will clarify the water-holding capacity of different types of soil and the stages of soil moisture


Establish maize yield potential of a field using Chart 1 FSSA Publications N.61; Mielieproduksie en die rekenaar

·         Chart 1 in Workbook



Establish the amount of N,P and K required to achieve that yield

·         Charts 2-4 in workbook

How climate links to soil and crops

·         Clarify the following concepts:

o   Climate change and the Green Book

o   Effects of seasonal weather changes and variable rainfall

o   Water scarcity and conservation

·         Discuss types of watering and water loss in relation to their effects on a plant’s root system (potential yield and profitability)

o   Erosion

o   Evapotranspiration

o   Leaching

o   Flushing

·         Clarify the movement of plant nutrients within the soil solution found in the test hole soil profiles

Time permitting: Make an experiment circle to demonstrate water retention in the soil

Identify Soil Horizons 

Students Doing Practical Applications

12-Hectare Maize 

With a 10 t/h Yield 


Home Garden Starter Pack


On 2 May 2023, this training was offered free of charge at the invitation of Bekker High School. The school invoked the POPI Act which guarantees that the interests of the school and pupils are protected. This means that none of the photographs taken may be used for social media purposes, advertising or in any format that is not primarily intended to promote Bekker High School in a positive light as a premier school for the teaching of agriculture-related subjects up to Grade 12 level.

The training took place after school at the edge of a 12 hectare mealie field on Bekker School Farm in Magaliesburg. The trainee group consisted of approximately 30 people including a teacher, the farm manager and all of the school’s agricultural students from Grades 10 - 12.

Those students who arrived with the expectation of watching a man dig a hole and put a soil sample into a container left with an appreciation of the theory of soil science in relation to planting success and farming profits. Many were surprised by their first-hand experience of what a manual earth augur is and its’ potential use in pre-planting soil profiling. A range of small technical equipment and irrigation was incorporated in the training and used to respond to the many questions that were asked as pupils actively engaged with the training and wanted to learn more.

Because of the extent of learners’ interest in creating a link between subject matter taught in the classroom and the practical work they were experiencing, I exposed plant roots to illustrate how roots interact with the soil. Students used the charts in the workbook to establish that the type of soil and restrictive layer in that 12-hectare field could potentially yield 120 tonnes of mealies. I emphasised that the best and most profitable crop yield results are obtained from land that has been prepared and fertilized before planting. I then demonstrated to the group how to use other charts in the workbook in conjunction with their soil profiling results to identify the quantities of elements needed to grow a top-yielding crop. Students worked on those charts in groups to establish which elements were needed to grow a high-yield maize crop in that ground.

In the remaining time, I was able to demonstrate how to set up and execute a practical on-site experiment using the holes we had drilled to establish water movement in the soil as an aid to effective and water-wise irrigation of a crop.

To back up this training and show that it could be further developed, I provided copies of ‘The Small Scale Farming Solutions’ brochure from Laerveld Agrochem’s AgricultSURE which illustrates a Maize Starter Pack including ‘pre-plant treatment’ and fertiliser. This created a link between the soil profiling workshop and the next topic of the training programme on soil preparation, fertilisation and fertigation. At that workshop, learners will be able to interact with products in the Mealie Starter Pack that have been proven successful for1/2 hectare farmlands.


Nedbank Proud of My Town Ranyaka Community Activation Food Network funding currently exists for this training to be offered at the two agricultural High Schools in Magaliesburg Gauteng. MDI through Ranyaka Community Activation has the capacity to offer training to additional schools if funds/funders are available and sponsors are willing to accept POPI Act restrictions at schools. Please contact Ryan Marsden at 083 324 2651 for expressions of interest 

Nedbank Proud Of My Town Ranyaka Community Activation National Food Network