ARC excels in plant breeding

South Africa’s premium research institute, the Agricultural Research Council (ARC), has once again developed technology on breeding, cultivation, protection and post-harvest technology of deciduous fruit, grape vines, alternative crops and indigenous herbal teas. 

“Research is done to provide growers with improved cultivars of pome-fruit, stone-fruit, fynbos, table and raisin grapes that are easy to grow and easy to sell – whether for the fresh market, for drying or canning” said it Crop Sciences Cluster campus based in the Western Cape. 

ARC holds a Plant Breeders Rights (PBR) for all its cultivators and precisely registered in its own name. These cultivators are licensed and commercialised through agents(s). 

The PBR in South Africa is governed by the Plant Breeders’ Rights Act, 15 of 1976 (as amended). South Africa is a signatory to the International Union for the Protection of New Varieties of Plants (UPOV) 1976. 

According to the South African National Seed Organization (SANSOR), a body representing seed producers, it was important for South Africa’s economy to obtain new and improved plant varieties “as there is a constant demand for better quality, higher yields, better processing properties, increased disease and pest and drought resistance.”

Cultivators developed by the ARC were adaptable to mild winters and hot summers, possess strong crop reliability with users able control pests and diseases using minimal pesticides. 

“During the last 12 years, more than 50 cultivars including 5 climate-smart apples, 1 pear, 15 peaches, 12 nectarines, 8 plums, 6 apricots, 6 table grapes, and the very first South African raisin grape cultivar were developed, granted PBRs and commercialised” said the ARC. 

For over 20 years, the varieties produced by the ARC has had significant impact on the South African Deciduous Fruit Industry. New cultivators produced have managed to earn the deciduous and horticulture industry massive foreign exchange through exports. 

Varieties such as Joybells, Cheeky pear, Cederberg peaches, Bella Nova and Donna Rosa nectarines, African Delight plum are some of the internationally recognised and in demand products.

Currently, the ARC has 23 cultivars protected with PBR available to the fynbos floricultural industry. It also led the drive for honeybush tea, permeating conditions for farmers to access the rights to process the tea, which today is exported to more than 25 countries. 

The ARC’s various research and development programmes has served as collective vehicle to propel the fruits industry. It is one of the reasons the country is the second largest exporter of citrus fruits in the world. 

According to PBR pundits, the seed industry was one of the most untapped opportunities by smallholder farmers. 

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