Dr. Paul Cronje
The primary aims of the CRI Citricultural research group are to (1) produce a large volume of quality fruit (ton/hectare) and (2) remain cost efficient during production and export (R/carton) - two fundamental principles of successful commercial citrus fruit production. By ensuring the above two key aims are achieved the global competitiveness of the South African citrus growers will be sustained.
In order to develop and maintain a long-term research strategy that will ensure grower competitiveness with the limited number of researchers available. To realise the two key principles of successful commercial citrus fruit production above, the CRI Citricultural research group will address research priorities in the following three categories.
This aspect includes basic citricultural research in areas such as irrigation, nutrition and crop manipulation as well as cultivar and rootstock selection. In an established industry, such as the SA citrus industry, an incrementally-growing body of knowledge is vital for growers to make long-term strategic decisions in an industry dependent on long-term investments. The CRI research portfolio is focussed to ensure that growers stay in the citrus game, viz. realising high yield of export quality fruit at a competitive production cost.
MAJOR TECHNICAL CHALLENGES
The solving of major production problems, such as various rind disorders and alternate bearing, is challenging due to major gaps in the fundamental knowledge of citrus physiology. Advancement in these types of projects is not easily measured in practical outputs. However, it is pertinent that adequate resources (funding and research time) be allocated to these projects, because it is the only avenue to find orchard-level solutions.
MAJOR FUTURE CHALLENGES
The lack of attention to issues that fall into this category could be potentially catastrophic for the SA citrus industry. One such challenge is the failure of, or problems associated with, the cold sterilisation protocol (-0.6°C for 24 days). In addition, the deterioration of fruit quality associated with container shipments of citrus could result in a loss of market share in this very important and growing part of the world economy.