On 3 September, Dr Gerda Fourie, research leader of the Macadamia Protection Programme (MPP) and Prof. Zander Myburg, research leader of the Forest Molecular Genetics (FMG) Programme participated in a live webinar. The webinar was part of the annual Macadamias South Africa NPC (SAMAC) grower symposium that consisted of three short morning sessions from 1-3 September. The symposium featured specific themes including: “The choice to change: Sustainable macadamia farming in the future”; “The future of macadamias: Connecting today with tomorrow” and “Research in motion: Towards practical solutions for the industry”. This year’s keynote address - Politics, ideology, economy - how to survive COVID-19 was presented by Mr Dawie Roodt, Chief Economist of Efficient Group Limited.

Dr Gerda Fourie provided an overview of ongoing research projects of the MPP. In her talk she discussed the value of the disease diagnostic clinic in terms of monitoring the impact of pests and diseases in orchards and the development of diagnostic tools for quick identification. She also provided an update of student projects such as the polyphagous shothole borer (PSHB) and its fungal symbiont Fusarium euwallaceae, the importance of Botryosphaeria dieback as well as information regarding the epidemiology of husk rot pathogens. In terms of pests she discussed the diversity of stink bug species in orchards, the progress towards the characterisation of stink bug pheromones, development of a detection assay for alternative stink bug host plants as well as the population structure of Thaumatotibia batrachopa, the most dominant Lepidoptera species causing damage to macadamia nuts in the main growing regions.

Prof. Zander Myburg, in his presentation entitled “Pushing the envelope in tree genetics” provided an overview of recent step changes in tree genetics and genomics. He highlighted practical tree biotechnology applications such as DNA fingerprinting and molecular breeding towards enhanced growth, development and resilience towards pests and diseases and the importance thereof in forestry and agriculture. He also provided an update of the PhD project of Mary Ranketse who is developing genomic resources for macadamia cultivars planted in South Africa, including whole-genome sequences for Macadamia tetraphylla and a hybrid cultivar Beaumont. 

Although it was incredible to connect with macadamia growers online, we look forward to again meet in-person and for students to also join and provide updates of their research projects.