The South African Bee Industry Organisation roadshows in September and October have heightened discussions around integrated pest management, the importance of healthy populations of pollinators, and biological control in the country’s macadamia orchards.

Ramping up research and development is now more urgent than ever as experts agree technical knowledge, innovation, and development lag the rapid growth of macadamia plantings in SA.

For example, Ben Breedlove, who specialises in the optimal functioning of habitats at scale, is calling for an investigation as he contends the true pollinator of the macadamia is, in fact, a moth and not the honeybee.

Breedlove argues that as the honeybee is not native to Australia, where the macadamia is indigenous, and the fact that the plant is a member of the Proteaceae or protea plant family, which is associated with at least 47 moth species, this suggests there is more to the effective pollination in orchards than is currently known.

Early in October unprecedented rainfall in KwaZulu-Zulu Natal followed by a day-long 40° heatwave resulted in widespread green mould blossom blight, or Cladosporium cladosporioides, as a direct result of the wet and warm conditions.

And as long as predictive tools for determining the temporal dynamics of the disease inoculum remain elusive and farmers remain vulnerable to the vagaries of weather patterns as a direct result of climate change, incidents of infestation are expected to increase in the years to come.

On a brighter note, we share images of Mayo Macs Technical Manager Andrew Sheard’s recent visit to Zambia where the flat terrain, well-drained soils and plentiful water have seen exponential growth in plantings in that country.

With the growth of the industry in countries such as Mozambique, Zambia and Zimbabwe, the future looks bright for macadamia farming in the South African Development Country region.

Agricultural training company RecruitAgri and the South African Macadamia industry representative body SAMAC have launched their middle management agriculture course in KwaZulu-Natal and the Limpopo Province, with 26 graduates enrolled for 2022.

Jennifer More, who heads the course, said the partnership between RecruitAgri and SAMAC was key to providing opportunities for young black graduates to take up management positions on farms in the macadamia, avocado and citrus industries. With one in two youngsters under the age of 35 unemployed in the first quarter of 2021, the agricultural sector – which is one of the best performing in the economy – offers employment opportunities ranging from very low skilled work, to technical operators and managers in both processing and on-farm supervision.

In short, South Africa’s growing macadamia industry, which earned the country R4.8 billion in exports in 2020, has much to offer the national economy, its people and the agricultural sector at large through research, development and innovation that links effective production with best practice in environmental management and protection.