Hortgro’s  Crop Production Programme is managed by Prof. Wiehann Steyn and the research strategy is directed and aligned with the requirements and key risks to the ‘Orchard of the Future’.  They report, “Hence, farming efficiency (of which rootstocks, plant quality and orchard efficiency are key components) as well as water- and climate-related research are the strategic priorities of this programme.

“Rootstocks that are more yield efficient and adapted to South African conditions is a key priority and necessity for achieving the objectives of the orchard of the future. It therefore comes as no surprise that most of our crop production projects are aimed at evaluating rootstocks. While we are awaiting the results of these trials, Dr Elmi Lötze’s project on rootstock adaptability to high temperatures questioned the belief that M9 apple rootstock is not adapted to South African conditions. Based on her findings, South African producers should reconsider their hesitancy to utilise dwarfing rootstocks.

“Allowing growers to harness the benefits of dwarfing rootstocks may be one of the potential benefits of installing hail/shade nets according Willie Kotze’s research. In addition to the proven benefit of reducing sunburn in Granny Smith, other potential benefits of netting (e.g. water saving and increased spray efficiency) that still need to be quantified under South African conditions should form part of the equation when deciding on whether to net or not.”