Senior Researcher (Crop Development) at the ARC Infruitec-Nietvoorbij
"The purpose of honeybush (plant) breeding is to generate higher yields for the farmer and better-quality tea for the consumer."
Unlocking the honeybush value chain
I am involved in a broad spectrum of honeybush activities and research. The value chain of honeybush tea production consists of pre-processing, processing and post-processing steps. My research projects have a broad scope, with a focus on honeybush plant breeding and genetics, honeybush propagation and horticultural research. I am also strongly focused on the social responsibility side of research – especially community development and job creation – as well as the effect of commercial honeybush on the wild species and their conservation. Progress made in different areas of the value chain includes the establishment of commercial seed orchards for various honeybush species, training more than 100 farmers in honeybush propagation and establishing a honeybush gene bank.
Why this matters
The purpose of honeybush breeding is to generate higher yields for the farmer and better-quality tea for the consumer. Through breeding, seed orchards are established to make seeds available for commercial plantations. This diminishes the risk of depleting our natural resources and thus contributes to conservation. My research on the horticultural aspects of honeybush production optimises the best farming practices for honeybush, maximising outputs and income for farmers. Community development efforts also helps to empower people and create much needed jobs in rural areas. At the same time, it helps to endorse and preserve indigenous knowledge. Research and training provide us with a better understanding of our indigenous plants on a scientific and practical level.
About the researcher
Bester holds a PhD in genetics. She has more than 30 years' experience in plant breeding of several crops, including vegetables, forestry trees, deciduous fruit and fynbos. She uses her broad knowledge of fields such as quantitative genetics, molecular genetics, proteomics (the study of proteins), propagation and pathology to contribute to honeybush research. Bester's use of both classical and molecular breeding tools makes her a successful modern breeder and ensures compliance with today's strict requirements for responsible and sustainable breeding. She has contributed to various scientific outputs including almost 30 scientific papers on the topics of genetics, agricultural plant science and horticulture, and the supervision of 11 postgraduate students.
Dr Cecilia Bester works on the entire spectrum of honeybush-related activities across the value chain of this indigenous crop, including plant breeding and genetics, propagation, horticultural research, and social responsibility.