Cherry production in South Africa: status quo and new initiatives

F. Voigt
At present the main production area for cherries in South Africa is situated in the Western Cape Province, which represents about 50% of the total 262 ha that has been planted up to 2016. Previously, production centered around the Highveld region in the eastern Free State. The cherry production areas in the eastern Free State are situated at approximately 28°45’ latitude and 27°45’ longitude and 1650 m a.s.l. The Highveld region is part of the summer-rainfall area, with dry winters and below zero temperatures during winter nights. This decline in production in the Highveld region is mainly due to these adverse growing conditions. Production was also negatively affected by using the too dwarfing ‘Gisela 5’ rootstocks that were not suitable for the shallow and sandy soils. Older orchards on Mahaleb rootstock are still producing good average yields in harsh growing conditions. Current initiatives include the use of more yield efficient rootstocks like ‘Maxma 14’ and the low-chilling scion cultivars from the breeding programs in California, USA. The poor rootability of Mahaleb cuttings in the nursery and the shortages of in vitro propagated rootstocks like ‘Maxma 14’, also tempered the planting of new orchards. This problem was overcome by a mass importation of in vitro ‘Maxma 14’ from Italy, optimising the current availability of nursery trees to increase dramatically from 32,000 to 150,000 trees year-1. These new initiatives will have a positive effect increasing the number of ha in non-traditional cherry growing areas in South Africa, such as the Northern Province as well as in the warmer parts of the Western Cape Province.
Voigt, F. (2019). Cherry production in South Africa: status quo and new initiatives. Acta Hortic. 1235, 245-252
DOI: 10.17660/ActaHortic.2019.1235.33
in vitro rootstocks, yield efficiency, low-chill requiring cultivars

Acta Horticulturae