By Kara van der Berg
Hortgro’s Dr Xolani Siboza’s first MScAgric student, Dian Craven, graduated from Stellenbosch University on 4 April. Dr Siboza is a Hortgro-seconded researcher in the Department of Horticultural Science at Stellenbosch University where Craven conducted his study. The title of Craven’s MSc thesis was “Managing lack of winter chilling in apple production”.
Apple trees require adequate winter chilling during endodormancy in winter to guarantee optimal bud break and flowering in spring. “Inadequate winter chilling prolongs bud break, delays foliation, results in poor fruit set and decreases fruit yield and quality,” explains Dr Sibosa.
Commercial apple growers in warm winter regions with insufficient winter chilling rely on chemical rest-breaking chemicals like hydrogen cyanamide. “There is an urgent need for safer, yet cost-effective, alternative rest-breaking agents to hydrogen cyanamide.”
A further aspect of this study was to evaluate the effect of defoliation treatments and the timing of these applications on the rate of leaf drop and leaf litter decomposition on the orchard floor, without negatively affecting subsequent reproductive and vegetative development.
“Working with an intelligent, hardworking, and motivated student like Mr Dian Craven, and watching him graduate and enter the industry means a lot,” says Dr Siboza, who says he never thought he would supervise students. “This signifies the mission has been completed. This is a tremendous accomplishment, and I am honoured to have been a part of his professional journey.”
Dr Siboza says this milestone moment would not have been possible without Hortgro’s support who fully funded the project as well as Craven’s bursary. “HORTGRO’s financial support and the technical support of various people, farms and companies are gratefully acknowledged”.
According to Hortgro Science General Manager, Prof Wiehann Steyn, “Dian is one in a pipeline of new technical advisors entering the industry after cutting their teeth on a Hortgro-funded industry project”. Steyn says our technically challenging industry is heavily reliant on a constant supply of enthusiastic young postgraduates turned out by researchers like Dr Siboza.
Dian has joined the technical team of the Fruitways group during his MSc studies as a pre-harvest horticulture advisor. Dr Siboza and Craven will continue to work together as a research team on chemical rest breaking agent projects.
“I am very confident that he will continue to make a great impact in the industry,” says Dr Siboza about his student.