State-of-the-art tissue culture facility to boost fruit industry

A new Tissue Culture Facility is set to enable SA’s table grape, raisin, topfruit and stonefruit industries to compete and penetrate discerning world markets

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Until recently, the South African deciduous industry has had to settle for pricey imported plant material. Now, with the launch of the new Tissue Culture Facility (TCF), local producers will enjoy easy access to world-class plant material at a lowered price tag.

Industry experts and role-players are counting on the facility to be central in addressing major shortages of available rootstocks in Mzansi. In addition, they hope it will boost quick multiplication of desired plant material for various sectors.

The facility will supply different industries with clonal rootstocks grown through rapid multiplication of in-vitro plant material. Plant cloning is the process of creating several, identical plants from one mother plant. Clonal technology is used to reproduce the best rootstocks.

Western Cape minister of agriculture, Dr Ivan Meyer, opened the Tissue Culture Facility by ceremoniously “toiling the soil.” Pictured from the left are Meyer, Anton Rabe (TCF chairman), Charmaine Stander (TCF manager), Dr Mogale Sebopetsa (head of agriculture in the Western Cape) and André Smit (TCF project manager). Photo: Supplied

Already, the facility has confirmed it will multiply new generation cultivars and rootstocks. According to TCF manager, Charmaine Stander, the multiplication of new genetics will enable the industry to compete and penetrate discerning world markets.

“This includes Africa as a key focus, within the Southern African Development Community context, with South Africa as a gateway to providing phytosanitary accredited plant material. In this regard, it will establish the Western Cape as a technology leader in the global industry,” Stander said.

TCF envisages to begin with commercial production in 2021.

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Dr Ivan Meyer, the Western Cape minister of agriculture. Photo: Supplied
Dr Ivan Meyer, the Western Cape minister of agriculture. Photo: Supplied

Opened by Western Cape minister of agriculture, Dr Ivan Meyer, at Bernheim farm, outside Paarl in the Western Cape, the state-of-the-art facility is believed to also add to South Africa’s efforts to keep up international trends.

According to Meyer, what makes the TCF initiative impressive is that it is not tied to one commodity. Instead, it will service the industry as a whole and benefit all producers.

“We have great potential, we have to think big. That is why farmer support, market access, increased exports and job creation, especially for women, are key focus areas.

“We need to ensure the safety and security of the farming industry and to bring wellbeing and dignity back to our people. One way of achieving this is by creating jobs for women, and I am happy to see that there are already many women working here at the TCF,” Meyer said.

Game-changer for grapevine industry

The facility will also supply virus free in-vitro plant material to the industry to mitigate phytosanitary risks which are often associated with infected plant material.

According to chairman of the TCF, Anton Rabe, the facility will seek to enhance the quality of plant material to the grapevine industry. And this will be executed in line with the table grape and raisin industry’s aspirations to regenerate high quality foundation and mother blocks.

Chairman of the Tissue Culture Facility, Anton Rabe. Photo: Supplied
Chairman of the Tissue Culture Facility, Anton Rabe. Photo: Supplied

Mother blocks are a certified group of plants used to extract propagation tissues.

“As industry we are following a global trend with the establishment of the latest technology, capacity and expertise for our stakeholders,” Rabe said.

“This is also a strategic investment that will result in making available a better offering to IP owners (intellectual property) and agents interested in licensing their material locally via industry structures.”

TCF will also break new ground in establishing an accredited quarantine capacity within the facility to assist with importing and exporting the latest cultivars and rootstock for its clients.

“With the support of the Western Cape department of agriculture we can realise this vision to the advantage of the fruit industry at large. We are extremely grateful for their contribution and support in this long-term project,” Rabe stated.

Apart from loan funding provided by the shareholder commodity groups, the initiative is supported with a R10 million investment injection by the department.

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