From 27 February to 2 March, Prof. Wilhelm de Beer, PhD candidate Elisa Pal as well as the Macadamia Protection Programme’s field extension officer, Phozisa Dlokweni, visited various pecan orchards near Jan Kempdorp in the Northern Cape province. The main purpose of this visit was to monitor PSHB infestations as part of an on-going research project funded by the South African Pecan Nut Producers Association NPC (SAPPA).

PSHB was first detected on pecan trees in Jan Kempdorp orchards in 2017. Initial surveys conducted as part of the MSc research of Shawn Fell suggested that PSHB is not able to reproduce in pecans and that the fungal symbiont was not able to cause any visible disease symptoms. It was therefore hypothesized that the outbreak is caused by beetles that breed in reproducing trees near orchards. However, in October 2022, reproduction of the beetle in 18-year-old pecan trees were observed for the first time. The impact of mass breeding and mass attacks of PSHB on pecan is therefore currently being monitored.

The FABI team was accompanied by Hardus du Toit from SAPPA which allowed for various discussions regarding future research priorities with the long term aim to control beetle populations and limit economic damage. On the last day, agricultural inspectors from the Department of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development (DALRRD) also joined for a training session with Prof. Wilhelm de Beer on how to identify reproductive and non-reproductive beetle entry holes and how to collect samples that can be submitted to the FABI disease diagnostic clinic for identification. The team will be back in May to further access the situation.