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‘Revolutionary’ breakthrough for agriculture

There is new technology causing a stir among international fruit growers.

This groundbreaking innovation monitors a fruit tree’s carbohydrate status, allowing for timely corrective action, if needed, to ensure an optimal harvest.

This is good news, especially for the local apple growing industry. Apples are one of the primary crops in Ireland’s fruit industry.

The new technology – frontier global agricultural company Agri Technovation from South Africa developed and branded as ITEST™ CARBOHYDRATES – is especially effective in addressing alternate bearing by helping to establish a greater equilibrium between crops. This, in turn, leads to increased yields over time.

Alternate bearing – the tendency of trees to produce a heavy crop (“on-crop”) one year and a light crop or no crop (“off-crop”) the following year – is a common problem in the growth of many types of fruit and nuts.

Fruit growers 

Erik de Vries, Agri Technovation’s joint chief executive, said: “This new tool has already proven very successful among citrus growers.”

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“We recently extended it to the avocado industry. We will soon launch it for apples, macadamias, almonds, pecan nuts, vineyards and mangoes.”

“Furthermore, we are looking at almost 20 different crops and have made good progress on about 14 of them.”

“Over the last two years, the technology has been successfully implemented in the South African citrus industry. The analysis programme has already been developed up to cultivar level.”

Erik said the citrus programme is also being refined to become area-specific, which takes into consideration different climates.

Countries that have already come on board by sending citrus and avocado samples to Agri Technovation’s analytical facility in Wellington, South Africa. These include the United States, Australia, New Zealand, Argentina, Peru, Morocco, Zambia and Zimbabwe.

Besides, Mexico, Chile and Spain have also shown interest and planning to receive their samples has started.

For the development of new crops, multiple samples for each growing area are analysed. Norms are developed and are tested before being rolled out commercially – first on a crop level and eventually on a cultivar level.

Timely application of management practices

Effectively, the ITEST™ CARBOHYDRATES analysis programme monitors sugars and starch concentration in leaves and roots at critical phenological stages throughout the season.

This involves the routine analysis of tree roots and leaves, which is compared to a norm for sugar, starch and the total carbohydrate levels for the different phenological stages of the plant.

The early detection of any variance from the norm allows for the timely development of management practices. These include pruning, orchard manipulation and nutrition programmes. This will eventually help producers ensure optimal plant growth and annual produce.

Carbohydrates play an important role in the development of flowers, the growth of tree organs, the completion of fruit set and increased fruit growth.

This is important for annuals and perennials like citrus, avocados, nuts, and deciduous fruit. These include apples, pears, grapes, cherries, nectarines, apricots, peaches and plums.

Service for apples

According to Wilmé van Zyl, a plant physiologist at the Agri Technovation Plant Physiology Research Centre, the ITEST™ CARBOHYDRATES service will roll out commercially on apples from November 2021.

“Trials were conducted on a variety of apple cultivars to develop a commercial crop carbohydrate norm.”

“Leaf samples can be collected at specific phenological stages set out by Agri Technovation. Based on the results, you can make adjustments to improve potential yield and quality.”

Risk-mitigating for producers

“I am convinced that this is a revolutionary breakthrough for agriculture.”

“In essence, the energy status information gained from the analysis programme allows us to get a picture of what will happen in the plant over the next month or two, which, in turn, enables us to be proactive in applying corrective management practices, if need be.”

“Over time, it will ensure a more constant supply of produce to the market. This is not only good for the consumer but has massive risk-mitigating advantages, especially for producers.”

“This includes better income streams and stronger balance sheets for farmers,” added De Vries.

A ‘world-first’

Corné Liebenberg, marketing director at partner firm, Laeveld Agrochem, said:

“The proprietary methodology ITEST™ CARBOHYDRATES uses is a world-first and is now sought after by many fruit-growing countries.”

“This is a game-changer for the agricultural industry. Up to now, there was no way of really addressing on-and-off seasons.”

“Instead of responding reactively to what has happened in the past, Agri Technovation’s IP allows fruit producers to look into the future to how their fruit and nut trees will produce and then respond proactively to ensure a productive harvest in the next season.”

“Finally, the end results are greater harvests and better and more profitable farmers,” Liebenberg concluded.

Article: Dirk De Vynck 

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