‚ÄčObjectives of the Horticulture Unit:

  • To develop practical and innovative horticultural technology in harmony with the environment, to provide South African commercial and resource-limited growers of deciduous and temperate fruit crops with a competitive advantage over other industries and countries.

  • To identify, import, propagate, evaluate and manage pome and stone fruit rootstocks in different planting systems.

  • To find alternatives to Methyl Bromide as a soil fumigant in orchard replant situations and to optimise production by the use of biological root stimulants.

  • To develop technology to alleviate the effects of insufficient winter chilling on pome and stone fruit.

  • To identify, evaluate, propagate, establish economic viability and optimise production of alternative crops such as olives, cherries, persimmons, almonds, figs, blueberries, raspberries, almonds, hazels, kiwifruit, cactus pears, and honeybush tea under South African conditions.

  • The successful development of new floriculture products, including germplasm material for breeding, development of quality cultivars through conventional and alternative breeding techniques for specific market and cultivation requirements, technology development with regards to cultivation, disease and pest management, harvesting, quality control, post harvest management and packaging.

Our purpose and function

It is of the utmost importance for all commercial as well as resource-limited farmers to plant deciduous fruit crops, other fruit crops and rootstocks that are adapted to their specific climatic and soil conditions. Furthermore, in order for the South African fruit producers to survive financially and maintain or expand their market share, it is necessary to use the newest technology management practices available in order to optimise the production of fruit that meets market requirements in terms of both price and quality.

Research that is currently conducted in the Horticulture Division is specifically aimed to address above-mentioned needs of producers as well as create superior, environmentally safe horticultural products. By developing close ties with commercial and resource-limited growers, local and international research institutes, as well as marketing organisations, the Horticulture Division focuses on research that is relevant to the industry and can be applied commercially.

In most of the deciduous fruit production areas of South Africa, climatic conditions and soils are at best marginal and cultivation and management practices have to be adjusted to ensure optimum production and fruit quality. Therefore, technology that was developed abroad also needs to be evaluated again under South African conditions before final recommendations can be made to producers. The success and respect that the South African deciduous fruit producers currently maintain in the world, despite the disadvantages of our limited natural resources, can mainly be attributed to the development of new and alternative technology in cultivation practices to overcome these disadvantages.

Since the markets for deciduous fruit, both locally and overseas, are becoming increasingly competitive, and because of the marginal climatic conditions for the production of high quality deciduous fruit, many local fruit producers are in search of alternative crops to reduce their risk. These crops include olives, persimmons, berry fruit, figs, dates, cactus pears and various nut crops. Some of these crops are more adaptable to marginal areas and require less water.  Many are suited to developing agriculture, since they do not require the same level of inputs as the main deciduous fruit crops and some require much labour, presenting job creation opportunities for less skilled people.

Research is aimed at providing integrated, plant orientated management tools to optimise profitability. It encompasses rootstock evaluation, techniques to improve the quality of nursery trees, planting and training systems, physical and chemical methods of crop manipulation, and various other methods of improving fruit size, colour and quality. Since climate plays an important role in the production of deciduous fruit, it is imperative to determine and understand these effects to adapt orchard practices accordingly.  The development of prediction models can further assist in the adaptation of such management practices. Research in this programme is also aimed at identifying crops with potential, evaluating the best cultivars and developing techniques to optimise their propagation and production.

Contact person: Antoinette Crous, E-mail: crousa@arc.agric.za, Tel: +27 (0)21 809 3380, Fax: +27 (0)21 809 3400

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