Hortgro is in the final stages of securing funding for a new research project that will look at the ability of the fungus carried by the polyphagous shot hole borer beetle to infect deciduous fruit trees as well as common windbreak tree species.
The polyphagous shot hole borer (PSHB) with its deadly fungus (Fusarium euwallaceae) has already created widespread havoc among trees in Gauteng and was observed in the Western Cape earlier this year. A chemical, which proved to be effective against the beetle, was recently registered by Pan African Farms, but experts warned that objective, independent research is needed before it can be considered a solution.
Over the past few months, Hortgro has been approached by concerned producers about the infection risks associated with the PSHB, following the discovery of the beetle in Somerset West. Although there is currently no sign of the beetle in deciduous fruit orchards, the close presence of the beetle makes producers uncomfortable.
Matthew Addison, crop protection manager at Hortgro Science, the deciduous fruit industry’s research unit, sees the infection risk in a serious light. “The reality is that there are a lot of questions and we don’t have the answers; that alone necessitates research.”
Addison says there is a risk for the deciduous fruit industry linked to the beetle’s distribution. “The research we are going to do will be coordinated at a national level between provinces, with different universities, as well as the government.”