The Pro-Hort programme is a collaborative effort between Provar, a private company specialising in new fruit cultivars and rootstock evaluation and Hortgro, the fruit industry management entity. The programme was launched in 2018 and Hortgro funded the development of eleven independent evaluation sites for the evaluation of new deciduous fruit cultivars.
The Pro-Hort site at the Boland Agricultural High School (BAHS), Windmeul, Paarl, is one of the eleven evaluation sites that are part of the extensive programme established to benefit South African fruit producers. Here Provar evaluates mainly stone fruit cultivars, such as nectarines, peaches, and Japanese plums. “This site was developed to investigate the adaptability of new stone fruit cultivars to this environment, which is also seen as a new opportunity to extend the existing fruit production in this area”, says Iwan Labuschagne, CEO of Provar.
In addition to the evaluation of new cultivars at BAHS, Provar offers four classes per term to Grade 10 pupils who were chosen to attend this module. The classes are theoretical and practical and cover a range of topics, including industry oversight, the value of research and development, planting, pruning, tree management practices, possible careers in the fruit sector and aspects associated with cultivar adaptability.
Portia Solomon from Provar explained the workings of fruit trees to learners at the Pro-Hort site.
“We expose the learners to knowledge and insights about fruit cultivation and the fruit industry in theoretical and practical ways,” Labuschagne said.
BAHS’s deputy principal, Johan Moolman, says that the evaluation site is a good way to teach their learners about fruit production. “The evaluation site was a good way to strike a balance between practical and theoretical knowledge and offering top-class training to our learners.”
Provar also selects one learner to be the recipient of a first-year bursary to study B.Sc. Agriculture in Horticulture at Stellenbosch University. The school had fruit orchards in the past, but due to the scale and costs thereof, they fell by the wayside. “The Pro-Hort site enables us to show our learners the best practices and exposes them to the knowledge of specialists,” said Moolman.
Though a lot of effort goes into offering these classes to the learners, the school helps Provar to ensure that the orchard is managed and well maintained.
“We are building a good relationship with the school. BAHS, Hortgro and Provar are forming a triangle of empowering the industry with regards to new cultivar choice, but also adds to the development of learners to become part of the larger fruit industry,” said Labuschagne.
The school is committed to making this relationship work. “We see a positive future with Provar and the Pro-Hort programme,” said Moolman. “We believe partnerships with the private sector are positive for agriculture as a whole.”