Franschoek – Deciduous fruit grower bodies falling under the HORTGRO umbrella have signed a Bee & 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, 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 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 said.

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

Bee Charter signing

Sustainable agriculture: SASPA chair, Andre Smit, and Hortgro Science Advisory Council Chair and SAAPPA board member, Stephen Rabe, signed the Bee Charter. At the back Pieter Theron, Nelson de la Querra, Lynette Barnes, Hugh Campbell and Willem van der Pypekamp.

The Western Cape Bee Industry Association representative Nelson De La Querra said 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 said.

The HORTGRO Science Technical Symposium is an annual event which brings together industry players and provides exposure to the 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 generationZ consumers of the future?” Trade & 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 was having serious impacts as the majority of fruit production areas would experience 20-80% less water, while packouts and fruit quality were 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 till 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.

A further challenge brought on by extreme climate events is 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 him/herself.

The Symposium continues until Friday 9 June, follow @hortgroscience on Twitter for regular updates and check our Facebook page for the latest pictures.