Climate and Farming in South Africa

© Leonie Joubert
Crops grow best where temperature, rainfall and climate are optimal for that specific crop.
Farming is not only about choosing a crop or an animal to farm. To farm successfully and to understand nature you will need to understand the climate, weather, rainfall and temperature of an area. This range of short articles will explain some basic natural phenomena that can influence farming and the crops we choose.

Content is sourced from training material for extension advisors developed by a team of consultants lead by the University of Pretoria. Researchers include Dr Joe Stevens, Pieter van Heerden and Prof MC Laker. The project was funded by the Water Research Commission (WRC).

Crop Heat Units and Chill Units

A plant needs periods of heat and cold for certain processes in its growth cycle. These periods of heat and cold are expressed in heat units and chill units....more

Frost and Crops

In farming areas where frost can damage crops, good management of planting times can limit frost damage during the growth period of crops....more

Hail in South Africa

Similar to rain, hail is a form of precipitation and can contribute to the availability of water in a farming area, but can also cause extensive damage to growing crops, especially in the hail belts of South Africa....more

Rainfall in South Africa

Most of South Africa is a summer rainfall area, November to March, while the Western Cape Province receives most of its rain during winter, May to August....more

Snow, Mist and Dew

Snow, mist and dew are forms of precipitation that contribute to the available moisture in a farming area. Mist is common along the cool areas of South Africa, especially during summer and in the mid-altitude areas below the eastern escarpment...more

Temperature and Farming

South Africa falls in a temperate zone, south of the equator, with summers from November to March and winters from May to August. Its temperatures are influenced by factors such as height above sea level and ocean currents....more

What is Climate?

The climate of a farming area determines the suitability of a crop as each crop has specific climatic requirements. South Africa is a hot, dry country, with the average annual precipitation over 65% of its surface area being less than 500 mm....more

What is Evaporation?

Water can be present in three forms - in solid form as ice, as a liquid, or in the form of gas as water vapour. Evaporation is the process whereby liquid water is converted to water vapour....more

What is Frost?

Frost is the white layer of frozen water when minimum temperatures at ground level are below 0ÂșC. Frost can be seen on the ground or on plants close to the ground....more

What is Rain?

Rain is the precipitation of water drops with diameters greater than 0.5 mm. When the drops are smaller, it is usually called drizzle....more

What is Transpiration?

Transpiration is when a plant loses water in the form of water vapour. In the process, water from the plant tissues is lost to the atmosphere....more

Which Crop to Plant?

Since irrigated agriculture is expensive and we have a limited water supply in South Africa, it is essential to use water efficiently....more