South African pome and stone fruit growers have to always chose the best cultivars for their location. This requires an understanding of ecophysiology: the interactions between trees and their environment. The many challenges that surround these decisions are compounded by climate change. Growers can no longer make assumptions about future tree behavior based on past tree behavior, as the effects of new climatic conditions are too unpredictable.
Understanding the drivers of tree phenology would support better predictions about, for example, the effects of later or milder winters. It could also make it easier to evaluate and select cultivars.
Luckily, in 2018, Hortgro launched the Pro-Hort programme in partnership with independent cultivar-evaluation company Provar. The aim was to assess new pome- and stone-fruit cultivars in different regions and provide growers unbiased results.
Under this programme, Hortgro funds a certain number of cultivar evaluations every year while Provar conducts the evaluations and manages the programme. Cultivar owners can screen and evaluate cultivars at the Pro-Hort sites on a user-pay basis.