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Her contributions to dormancy research will continue to help pome- and stone-fruit growers

Hortgro researcher Laura Allderman retires

Western Cape winters are getting warmer and the application of rest-breaking agents to mitigate insufficient winter chill is becoming increasingly important. South Africa has been very involved in dormancy and rest-breaking research for many years — not least thanks to the meticulous efforts of Laura Allderman.

Allderman is part of the Hortgro Science team but is seconded to the Department of Horticultural Science at Stellenbosch University.

She studied horticulture at Stellenbosch University and obtained her MSc in 1989 on micropropagation of BP1 and BP3 pear rootstocks under legendary horticulturist Prof. Gerard Jacobs.

“He gave me a book — it was an introduction to tissue culture — and bought some equipment. And then I had to figure it out,” recalls Allderman. She remembers Jacobs as very encouraging. “We had some amazing discussions. The Department in those years was the most incredible place — it was so dynamic.”

After graduation, Allderman worked briefly at the Agricultural Research Council before returning to the University as a contract researcher. “Then we moved to Ceres for two years and that came to an end.”

When Allderman returned to Stellenbosch she had small children and no interest in a full-time job, but the Department was quick to contact her. “Whenever there was a bit of a crisis and they needed someone to do something, they’d call me,” she remembers.

Among other projects, Allderman continued physiologist Dr Nigel Cook’s dormancy research when he left Stellenbosch University for Belgium. This enabled him to complete the project while abroad and led to an ongoing collaboration between Cook and Allderman.

Fifteen years of dormancy  research
In 2004, Cook started a five-year project to model dormancy progression in different cultivars, regions, and weather conditions, and Allderman began working half-days as a dormancy researcher. “From then I worked almost entirely on dormancy projects,” she says.

They initially modelled dormancy in Granny Smith and Royal Gala, which showed that different cultivars behave differently, leading them to look at other cultivars and fruit types, as well as rootstocks. More recently, they have investigated the effects of different scion-rootstock combinations on dormancy.

Allderman has nothing but positive things to say about her research career, but she is looking forward to moving on, not least because she has a brand-new vegetable garden, and her first grandchild is due soon. “And,” she adds, “there are lots of mountains calling me to do some hiking.”

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