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  1. #1
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    Default How long does it take for farm land to go bush.

    Hi all
    Not quite sure in which section this belongs.

    I guess this can be a very complex and loaded question, but in general terms, to those in the know, how long would you say will it take for deserted farm land used for planting and grass lands used for grazing, to recover to the point where it can be considered as natural velt again, being on par with the surrounding natural bushveld?

    Are we talking 5, 10, 20, 50 years assuming decent rains etc.

    Don't even know if I worded this correctly.
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    Default Re: How long does it take for farm land to go bush.

    Quote Originally Posted by bigboy529 View Post
    Hi all
    Not quite sure in which section this belongs.

    I guess this can be a very complex and loaded question, but in general terms, to those in the know, how long would you say will it take for deserted farm land used for planting and grass lands used for grazing, to recover to the point where it can be considered as natural velt again, being on par with the surrounding natural bushveld?

    Are we talking 5, 10, 20, 50 years assuming decent rains etc.

    Don't even know if I worded this correctly.
    You need to define "natural bush veld". Recovery of vegetation also differs between vegetation types. Fynbos and forests will take the longest to recover to 99% natural original vegetation composition.

    I am assuming you are referring to "bush veld" vegetation (Maybe Limpopo or MP, not KZN, Eastern Cape or Northern Cape). Then the way you manage the "rehabilitation" also plays a significant role, burning, grazing and disturbing. Generally the rule ito the CARA Act says that if an area has not been cultivated for more than 10 years one requires approval to cultivate it again as it can be considered as natural veld.

    Coming back to your "natural bush veld", generally certain tree plant species like sekelbos, umbrella thorn and the likes will first colonize the abandoned field and from what i have seen this can take anything from 10 to 20 years, hence your rehab management strategy.

    So if you are just looking for some shrub and trees to return (10-20 years), but if you want it to return to 99% pristine composition without any intense management strategy, it will most probably not happen in your life time.
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    Default Re: How long does it take for farm land to go bush.

    As Luka has said: it depends on the type of veld and the rehabilitation has to be managed. Previously cultivated bushveld often gets taken over completely by sekelbos, rendering it useless for anything. Grasslands like Freestate and North West are probably the easiest to re-instate.
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    Default Re: How long does it take for farm land to go bush.

    In which area is it and which natural occurring trees are in the area. As said the invader species will be there first and will cost a lot to rectify. The best is lending a hand.

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    Default Re: How long does it take for farm land to go bush.

    It also depends on the brittleness of the area. That is rainfall, frost, growing season length etc.

    In non brittle areas like Natal coastal it will be shorter than say the arid deep Karroo.

    It will go through many phases until it reached climax vegetation.

    In other words how long is a piece of string.....

    Very difficult without in depth info. As mentioned above what was done to it? Ploughed? Grazed lightly, Grazed heavily then the extreme total overstocking.

    I have seen areas in SA that will never recover to their climax state.
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    Default Re: How long does it take for farm land to go bush.

    Rehabilitation has to be managed. I any environment, be it fynbos or bushveld, you nave pioneer species establishing themselves first (sekelbos has been mentioned here). They are usually more vigorous than the original species and therefore make it difficult for those original species to establish themselves and flourish.
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    Default Re: How long does it take for farm land to go bush.

    Near the escarpment in the lowveld in the Hoedspruit area, pioneer / 1st generation trees in former tomato fields were sicklebush, the soetdoring tree (black bark gum weeping wattle type trees with small yellow pom-pom type flowers in Dec and which grow fast, very tall and randomly just decide to fall over) and the wild pear tree (more sturdy with broad leaves - but can also qukckly rot st root level and fall over - watch for mushrooms growing on the base - sign it is rotting. Suggest try not to let these trees take over. Worth it planting a variety of quality hard woods etc

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    Default Re: How long does it take for farm land to go bush.

    We Camped at Bonamanzi the one year
    The University was there studying the effects of Sekelbos growing and taking over grasslands,
    The Sekelbos being very Invasive,
    The only Solution seemed to be was cut them down..
    But
    There is now a whole new braai wood industry that has developed from this...
    As the saying goes
    Lemonade from lemons
    So while you wait for a recovery of bushveld to happen,a business opportunity could present itself with a industry out of invaders..
    Not your original question I under stand, just food for thought...

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    Default Re: How long does it take for farm land to go bush.

    I think some 'management' could assist in the recovery.
    Some colonisation will take place, but due to the influence of reduced number of grazers, the colonizers might just become invaders.
    Reducing their density by cutting could be beneficial for the grasses.
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    Default Re: How long does it take for farm land to go bush.

    My Uncles farm in Swaziland. This photo was taken in 2002 about 5 years after my uncle stopped farming due to ill health. He started subdividing and was selling off portion of the farm .

    The lands in the black border were active fields, primarily cotton, that had probably not been farmed for 5 years already. The pink line is the old road in. The yellow line is the new road to the upper right field (I helped clear the field). You can see how the road changed to the lazy line as the farm went to ruin.

    Click image for larger version. 

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    20 years later the reclaiming is very evident. So roughly 25 years from the cessasion of farming activities until the bushveld really takes over.
    Click image for larger version. 

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    As a side note.To see this happening was one of the saddest things I have been witness to. We basically had our formative years on this farm, fishing, hunting, exploring and being young boys. I miss the place to this day and I miss my uncle. He taught me the importance of reading and knowledge that was attained through reading.

    It was a beautiful farm with 2.5km's of river frontage on the Usutu River and as a result yields were high. I remember digging up baby potato's and having them on my plate withing 2 hours, salt, black pepper and butter ....... pudding. Let me stop else this post will never end. RIP Uncle Rudi, your legacy lives on.
    Last edited by Andrew Leigh; 2023/12/26 at 08:37 AM.

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    Default Re: How long does it take for farm land to go bush.

    I don't have any answers re the bushveld, but an inspiring example of what can be done in a single lifetime is the work of the late Ian Garland who rehabilitated a sugar cane farm at Twin Streams, Mtunzini in the Zululand district of KZN to what it is today, an excellent example of pristine subtropical coastal dune forest with clear streams entering the ocean where, previously, they had been reduced to arid irrigation canals by farming.

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    Default Re: How long does it take for farm land to go bush.

    Currently, the term "rewilding" is a hot topic in conservation and restoration circles. Google it and see if you can find an example to more or less match your area. Southern Africa has been at the forefront of this movement even before the academics gave it a name. Think of how much of previously farmed areas were transformed into game reserves and game farms over the past few decades.
    Last edited by DJR; 2024/01/01 at 08:44 AM.

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    Default Re: How long does it take for farm land to go bush.

    Ek sien jy is nie ver van Mabalingwe af nie - toe hulle begin het in ongeveer 1987 was daar n groot stuk ou lande (wat hulle Witland genoem het as ek reg onthou) - dit is sigbaar van die teerpad af - die stuk van die suidoostelike grens paal af tot so 200 300 meter voor die ingang na Mabalingwe aan jou regterkant oppad vanaf Warmbad af. Dit was vir my baie interessant om oor die jare waar te neem hoe die bosveld stadig maar seker die oorhand begin kry het oor die oorspronklike grasveld. Vandag ongeveer 35 jaar later kan mens amper nie meer n verskil sien tussen die Witland en aangrensende ou bosveld nie behalwe dat daar n baie kleiner verskeidenheid bosveld bome op die Witland is - meesal net haak-en-steekdoring bome.

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    Default Re: How long does it take for farm land to go bush.

    On my spot in northern Zululand in the last twenty years, the plain in front of my house has transformed from chilli fields to thick acacia karoo stands. It was open grassland for about ten years, then the sweet thorn and sickle bush started to take over, as one would expect of pioneer species. The trees are now about 2.5m high and densely packed.

    Iím expecting species such as marula and knobthorn to grow up between the sweet thorn to eventually become open woodland much like the rest of my property. But this will take another 20-30 years Iíd imagine.

    Swazi lowveld biome receiving an average of 600mm rainfall per year.

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    Default Re: How long does it take for farm land to go bush.

    Quote Originally Posted by RobH View Post
    On my spot in northern Zululand in the last twenty years, the plain in front of my house has transformed from chilli fields to thick acacia karoo stands. It was open grassland for about ten years, then the sweet thorn and sickle bush started to take over, as one would expect of pioneer species. The trees are now about 2.5m high and densely packed.

    Iím expecting species such as marula and knobthorn to grow up between the sweet thorn to eventually become open woodland much like the rest of my property. But this will take another 20-30 years Iíd imagine.

    Swazi lowveld biome receiving an average of 600mm rainfall per year.
    To thin out the sweet thorn, introduce a herd of goats.
    The absense of all the natural browsing animals causes an inbalance in vegetation.
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    Default Re: How long does it take for farm land to go bush.

    Quote Originally Posted by 4ePajero View Post
    To thin out the sweet thorn, introduce a herd of goats.
    The absense of all the natural browsing animals causes an inbalance in vegetation.
    The lions will love them 🤣

    I should have been clearer, it is on a game reserve so I will have to let nature take its course. Itís currently utilised by kudu, impala, giraffe and elephant amongst the browsers.

    Im hoping the thickets will allow the marulas and knobthorns to gain traction.

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    Default Re: How long does it take for farm land to go bush.

    Quote Originally Posted by RobH View Post
    The lions will love them 🤣

    I should have been clearer, it is on a game reserve so I will have to let nature take its course. Itís currently utilised by kudu, impala, giraffe and elephant amongst the browsers.

    Im hoping the thickets will allow the marulas and knobthorns to gain traction.
    You seem to have the appropropriate browsers.
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    Default Re: How long does it take for farm land to go bush.

    I have noted that in the U.S. that small dams and small hydro plants are being removed from rivers as they try get the fish species moving and breeding again. Its wonderful to see as well.
    Last edited by Andrew Leigh; 2024/01/01 at 02:38 PM.

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  28. #19
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    Default Re: How long does it take for farm land to go bush.

    There is a spot next to Groenvlei at Sedgefield that most of RSA have driven past. It is visible from the N2.
    This has been lying dormant for more than 50 years and very little of the indigenous plants have taken over.
    It all depends on how intensively the land had been utilized. How has the soil structure been changed chemically and structurally.
    Get seed from the LNR and sow liberally. Plant combretums and hardwoods and anything local allover. Diligently remove all invaders (this may take many years.) Once the bigger plants are hip/ shoulder height. Get all the neighbours goats and cattle in and overgraze the area until the unpalatable plants are also grazed and browzed. If there is no intervention to establish the original plants, it may take years to return to original.
    For it to go bush? Depends on what bush you want.
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    Default Re: How long does it take for farm land to go bush.

    Quote Originally Posted by bigboy529 View Post
    Hi all
    Not quite sure in which section this belongs.

    I guess this can be a very complex and loaded question, but in general terms, to those in the know, how long would you say will it take for deserted farm land used for planting and grass lands used for grazing, to recover to the point where it can be considered as natural velt again, being on par with the surrounding natural bushveld?

    Are we talking 5, 10, 20, 50 years assuming decent rains etc.

    Don't even know if I worded this correctly.
    More info on the area would help, I have done lots of this work on our family farm (120 years in the family) in the middle of the EC, altitude 1400 m above sea level and 450/500 mm of rain. Grass veld with thorn trees.
    My experience, unaided, ie just left alone, probably 15 to 20 years.
    Now, if you help, putting in a "happloeg", (ripper type implement that opens up a furrow to hold the rain water back) and seed with sub climax grass, or put in a dozer and make small dams 30cm deep and the size of a car, and seed during the winter, about 5 to 8 years, in those 5 years you need a few good rainfall years. Its very expensive but rewarding work. In my opinion, not an option to just leave alone. (my biggest success is with a dozer, its not heavy work, the main aim is to break the surface, create a dam to hold back the rain water and to create a environment that the seed does not get blown away by the wind, seed to use, Eragrostice, Panacum, Digiteria and Cynoden mix is cheapish and available and creates a cover quickly)
    Good Luck.
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