On 10 November the Macadamia Protection Programme (MPP) team along with Mary Ranketse from FMG attended the annual Macadamias South Africa NPC (SAMAC) grower symposium at the Nombolo Mdhuli conference centre in the Skukuza camp of the world famous Kruger National Park.

The day was organised around five different themes:

  1. Future-proofing macadamia production: Our changing environment and developing our arsenal of biological control options.
  2. Riding the “superfood” wave and building the future of macadamias, the healthiest choice.
  3. Raising the bar in the South African industry, benchmarking the South African industry: What is measured can be improved?
  4. Combatting theft in our industry.
  5. Maconomics.

These sessions were led by the Master of Ceremonies Nico Panagio, well-known charismatic presenter of Survivor South Africa. Dr Gerda Fourie, research leader of the MPP programme, opened the first session with her talk entitled “Pheromones, EPFs, and parasitoids”. She provided an overview of ongoing research projects conducted by her team on the integrated pest management towards stink bugs. In her talk she discussed Byron Sonnekus’ results and the value of genetics as a tool for identifying stink bug pests in orchards. She also provided an update of Dr Arista Fourie’s study on the identification of alternative hosts which could improve and help IPM on macadamia. In terms of pest control methods, she discussed about the progress which has been done by Elisa Pal on the characterization of the alarm pheromone on Bathycoelia distincta (two-spotted stink bug) as well as other information regarding the implementation of parasitoids or entomopathogenic fungi as biocontrol agents.

This SAMAC day was a success with 480 growers attending in-person and more than 120 more joining online. The day ended well with a night game drive and a braai in the bush organised by the industry and animated by some hyenas wandering around us.

We would like to express our gratitude to SAMAC for organising this event in the Kruger Park and inviting us to participate! We were very lucky to spot all the Big 5 (except for rhino) on our way to the conference - what a blast!