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Deciduous fruit industry addresses plight of bees

Deciduous fruit grower bodies falling under the Hortgro umbrella signed a Bee and Pollination Charter at the Hortgro Science Technical Symposium 2017. The charter seeks to address the plight of bees in South Africa.

The initiative comes amid a global concern about honey bee populations which have seen drastic declines and fears that the species might face extinction.

The scale of the problem is massive as between 50% and 80% of the world’s food supply – fruits, vegetables and seeds – is directly or indirectly dependent on honey bee pollination.

According to Hortgro science general manager, Hugh Campbell, bees are a key part of the industry supply chain and without bees’ production capacity the supply chain would be diminished.

“It’s strategically important that they are protected and the charter forms a framework around which we can ensure that we can have a sustainable bee population in the South African context,” he says.

The charter was signed by representatives on the South African Apple and Pear Producers Association (SAAPPA) and the South African Stonefruit Producers Association (SASPA).

The Bee and Pollination Charter was signed at this year’s Hortgro Science Technical Symposium.

The Western Cape Bee Industry Association representative, Nelson De La Querra, says that the agreement will prevent producers from spraying pesticides while bees are active and that chemical representatives will provide products with clear instructions to producers.

“This is a big breakthrough for the bee farmers…that the producers agree to honour the principles of the charter and undertake to stick to it,” he says.

The Hortgro Science Technical Symposium is an annual event which brings together industry players and provides exposure to latest international and local deciduous fruit industry research.

Game of Fruit 2017
The Game of Fruit kicked off with deciduous fruit industry players descending Alle Bleué wine estate in Franschoek despite the raging #capestorm.

“Is the deciduous fruit industry ready for generation Z consumers of the future?” Trade and Markets manager, Jacques Du Preez, asked delegates in an overview of the past, present and future of the industry.

According to Du Preez climate change is having serious impact as most fruit production areas will experience 20 to 80% less water, while packouts and fruit quality are being affected.

International industry champions spoke directly to these challenges using the latest research and experiences from their respective countries.

Dr Roger Harker from Plant and Food Research in New Zealand placed the main emphasis on the consumer with his findings on human flavour perception, detailing the complex physiological process from the first bite of a fruit up until the emotional associations the consumer is left with once the fruit reaches her stomach.

“Everybody lives in their own flavour world,” Harker said of his studies in the genetics of flavour perception.

In the face of global environmental and health challenges Dr Joan Bonany from IRTA in Spain managed to reconcile two seemingly contradictory fruit production concepts: ‘sustainable-intensification’.

“Growers need to produce more with less resources giving rise to the concept of sustainable intensification,” he said and suggested practical measures like increasing light interception with orchard design, optimising soil functions and biological control and looking at water use efficiency.

Another challenge brought on by extreme climate events are hailstorms and hail nets are entering the equation not only as a mitigation measure but also for other potential benefits like decreased sunburn on fruit and water savings.

Dr Michael Zoth from Bodensee in Germany gave growers practical knowledge on how to set up nets with the encouragement that it could be done by the grower themselves.


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