Taking stock of ‘the worst of all bee diseases’

Did you know that nine in every ten honeybee hives found in the Western Cape are used to pollinate local agricultural crops and produce? And that this valuable function in the food production cycle is being threatened by American foulbrood disease (AFB), which some beekeepers call “the worst of all bee diseases”? Indeed, says commercial…

Maize science to make pig farming more profitable

A tip for pig farmers: use maize cobs as a source of feed if you want to limit your overheads and make your enterprise more profitable. Maize cobs can indeed be a valuable and readily available ingredient in pig feed. This is the message from Dr Arnold Kanengoni, a senior researcher in pig nutrition at the Agricultural…

Plantation fires: What to do with burnt trees?

It has been an exceptional fire season in the Cape, with many hectares of fynbos veld and plantations being burnt. The skeletons of many trees and protea bushes starkly stand within the burnt-out landscape. The question is: should the wood industry still use the trees that have survived such plantation fires? “From an economic and…

Biologists blunt the sting of a tree-killing alien wasp

The Sirex wasp and its deadly passenger have brought the prospect of ruin to the pine industry, but geneticists have a shrewd plan to fight back. Wasps – some black, others black and orange – are pinned to a board of blue rubber foam. One begins to twitch and you register that some of them…

Biltong research on a tropical island

Having to visit a tropical island to do research on biltong? It sounds almost too good to be true, but that’s the experience that Maxine Jones had when she visited Reunion Island as part of her PhD studies in food science. She visited this French territory close to Mauritius to use ultrasound equipment available at…

Bushmen cure-all offers locals a sustainable income

The commercial potential of intoxicating kougoed, or Sceletium tortuosum, is reinvigorating a Nourivier community in the Northern Cape. Oom Jap, a Nourivier resident and traditional healer, and I stand in the shadow of one of the new buildings at the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research’s (CSIR) kougoed project in the Northern Cape. Even though…

Climate change, farming and profits: It all depends

How will climate change affect the profit margins of farming endeavours throughout South Africa? It all depends on how rainfall, temperature and the subsequent need for irrigation will change the yield and quality of produce being farmed, region by region. So says agricultural economists Dr Hamman Oosthuizen, who used farms in Hoedspruit, Carolina, Moorreesburg and…