Researcher at the Cape Peninsula University of Technology (CPUT)



"Optimal irrigation influences the quality of the honeybush plant."

Understanding how honeybush interacts with water

Autecology refers to the study of how a living organism or species interacts with factors in its environment, both living and non-living. I will use my experience in this field to investigate how irrigation affects the quality of honeybush tea. I am focusing on how efficient the honeybush plant uses water. This information can inform best practices when it comes to irrigation of cultivated honeybush tea.

By studying the way that honeybush interacts with water, researchers gain valuable knowledge about the needs and life history of different species, as well as how they respond to watering. This work also enhances our understanding of possible chemical and morphological variability among cultivars.

Why this matters

Currently, appropriate irrigation protocols are practically unknown in the honeybush industry. Researchers are, therefore, interested in how much water should be given and when during irrigation. The amount of water needed is determined by the season, soil and perhaps cultivar differences among the different honeybush species.

FRANCIS_LEWU-small.jpgEstablishing best practice and irrigation guidelines can help ensure that cultivated honeybush plants make optimal use of water and fertilisers. Appropriate (optimal) irrigation will affect tea quality, reduce farming costs, conserve the environment and eliminate batch-to-batch variability. We don't know precisely how honeybush responds to watering under cultivation yet. The water intake and needs of the different species are, for instance, still largely unknown.

About the researcher

Lewu holds a BSc degree in plant breeding and seed technology, a master's degree in agronomy (soil science) and a PhD in plant genetic conservation. He started his career as a research assistant at the gene bank of the headquarters of the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) in Nigeria, where he was responsible for the conservation and exchange of genetic materials. In South Africa, he has worked as an academic and head of the Department of Agriculture at the University of Zululand in KwaZulu-Natal. Currently, he is a professor and head of the Department of Agriculture at Cape Peninsula University of Technology (CPUT) at its Wellington campus. Lewu has a special interest in and practical knowledge of the propagation of crop and medicinal species.

Professor Francis Lewu, a researcher at the Cape Peninsula University of Technology, is investigating how irrigation of cultivated honeybush plants can contribute to producing quality tea.