VOICES: Valuing Orchard and Integrated Crop Ecosystem Services

Lead Research Organisation: University of Leeds
Department Name: Sch of Biology

Abstract

Agriculture and horticulture depend in part on wild insects to pollinate crops and control pests. These wild insect populations in turn can be affected by the ways farms and orchards are managed, and by the presence of natural habitats nearby. Those natural habitats themselves may be affected by agricultural chemicals and other by products of nearby farm practices. The "ecosystem services" provided by these insects can affect crop value, rural livelihoods and ultimately export income, and the distribution of these values may be affected by farm ownership and other social structures. This project will explore these issues as they affect orchard crops in the Cape region of South Africa. These crops are both a major source of local farm employment and of export earning, but the quantity and (especially) quality of crops produced depends critically on insect pollinators and natural enemies of fruit pests. We will experiment with the use of floral resource plantings on orchards to encourage pollinators and biocontrol agents, further developing the approach to develop bespoke mixes providing temporal and nutritional complementarity to orchard crops. We will explore how the way orchards are managed and the proximity to natural fynbos habitats interact to affect the pollination success of the crops and attack rates by pests. The natural habitats of the Cape region are a world biodiversity hotspot, but the effect of this diversity on pollination and biological control services is unknown, as is the effect of the orchards on their surrounding habitats. We will measure how differences in farm practices and differences in the availability of wild beneficial insects affect fruit production and suitability for export, domestic or processed food (e.g. juice) markets, and thus how it affects crop value and farm economics. We will also look at how the income generated by fruit production is distributed through the local and national economy, and thus the effects of livelihoods and wellbeing. Distinctions in practices and outcomes between large long-established orchards, and those recently established through the BEE (Black Economic Empowerment) programme will be explored, as well as the distinction between resident and seasonal labour forces.

Technical Summary

Export income and rural livelihoods are important to development in LMICs. Agri-environmental management can reap substantial benefits for production, but the value of such interventions and its distribution amongst stakeholders may depend on socio-economic and environmental context. We will examine the interacting effects of management (conventional vs. Integrated Pest Management), ownership (established growers vs. Black Economic Empowerment holdings), landscape context (varying proportions of natural habitats in surrounding landscapes) and experimental agri-environmental plantings (control vs. 3 floral resource options) on pollinators, biocontrol agents and the ecosystem services they provide in pome fruit (apple and pear) orchards in the Western Cape region of South Africa. We will assess the impact of treatments on fruit production and quality, production economics, export income, and the distribution of value through rural employment and impacts on livelihoods and well-being. The project will apply and test well-studied approaches from north temperate agri-environmental management to a novel application in a global biodiversity hotspot, and will extend the approach by developing "bespoke" resource plantings designed to be temporally or nutritionally (in terms of Essential Amino Acids) complementary to crop flowers. If successful, comparable approaches could be developed for other crops elsewhere in Africa or beyond. We will model the potential impact of innovation and its take-up on environments, production values and their distribution in future scenarios developed in collaboration with stakeholders.

Planned Impact

The ultimate benefit of this research will be to increase exports, employment and [inclusive and sustainable] growth in South Africa. Lessons drawn from the research can be extended to the agricultural sectors of other LMICs in comparable contexts (i.e. climate and socio-economic conditions). This will be achieved by uncovering the complex synergies arising from organizational eco-innovations in agricultural management and ecosystem services from the biotic landscape.

The first set of beneficiaries would be the farmers in South Africa. The results of this research can be used to redirect farmer's behaviour towards tangible agricultural/economic solutions that enhance the quality of the product and/or the efficiency of production. We will engage orchard growers and other stakeholders at both local and national scales, through direct communication (mailings, conversations) with participating farms and a stakeholder workshop for the Elgin Valley orchard community. We will post information on industry websites and in newsletters to communicate with orchardists at a national scale as well. Besides disseminating technical information, we will explore the broader implications of their investment decisions in a rapidly changing international environment and to face the challenges related to exporting. This project will engage national public and private sector associations (e.g. Black Economic Empowerment programme; South African Apple and Pear Producers' Association) to act as change agents, translating the research insights into recommendations for operational change, which can benefit agro-industrial vibrancy.

The second set of beneficiaries of this research project is national public and private agencies (see above). The project will provide these agencies with an unprecedented level of detailed analysis of the combined effect of agricultural innovations, social structures (e.g. ownership patterns), environmental contexts and ecosystem services upon production and its implications for long-term productivity and sustainability of employment and export growth. These connections will be made both at national level workshops and through accessible policy briefs. With this information, these bodies will be better able to formulate and implement evidence-based policy.

A third set of beneficiaries includes distributers and consumers of the produce. South African apples and pears are an export-led sector, with the single largest market being in the UK. There is increasing market pressure, mediated through large retailers such as Sainsbury's and Marks & Spencer, to produce more biodiversity-friendly and insecticide free produce. Informational materials, circulated in the UK and more widely via project websites, information days and exhibits (including at the Royal Botanic Garden at Kew) will help educate the general public about the ecological, economic and social implications of production decisions, and of consumer choice.

Publications

10 25 50
 
Description We are finding strongly significant impacts of proximity to natural habitat on the density of biocontrol insects in orchards: parasitoids in particular are more abundant in natural habitats than in the orchards. We are also finding strong effects of using HIPV lures to better survey these insects. The provision of floral resources in orchards has been shown to affect pollinator densities (in particular, of non-honeybees) and fruitset. Further results are still being analysed.
Exploitation Route The landscape and floral resource findings corroborate the generality of trends tested so far in Europe and North America. The floral resources findings in particular show that the local growers' concerns of competition with crops for pollination are ill-founded. The utility of HIPV lures may be adopted more widely in assays of biocontrol organisms within agricultural landscapes.
Sectors Agriculture, Food and Drink

 
Description The interaction with orchard owners and managers, and with the pack-house industry, have led to fruitful interchanges about pollination and pest control issues in South Africa's apple and pear industry. These interchanges are on-going, but there has been marked progress in recent months. Now that field assays have progressed, there are strong (and interacting) impacts of landscape context and of HIPV lures in monitoring. Floral resource provision has been shown to have a positive effect on apple fruit set, contradicting local practice. Further results are still being analysed. Discussions with growers have also led to useful explorations of future scenarios for the industry in the face of climate change and political instability.
First Year Of Impact 2019
Sector Agriculture, Food and Drink
Impact Types Economic

 
Description Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation
Amount Bs.F.100,000 (VEF)
Funding ID OPP1212006 Broad-scale agricultural pest monitoring in Africa using dual-polarization weather radar 
Organisation Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation 
Sector Charity/Non Profit
Country United States
Start 06/2019 
End 12/2020
 
Description DRUID: Drivers and Repercussions of UK Insect Declines
Amount £1,995,297 (GBP)
Funding ID NE/V006916/1 
Organisation Natural Environment Research Council 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom
Start 01/2021 
End 12/2024
 
Description GCRF GCRF 'AFRICAP: Agricultural and Food-system Resilience, Increasing Capacity and Advising Policy'
Amount £8,022,000 (GBP)
Funding ID BB/P027784/1 
Organisation Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom
Start 10/2017 
End 12/2022
 
Title Online survey tool for measuring apple orchard Integrated Pest Management intensity 
Description Online survey tool for assessing orchard pest management by South African growers, co-produced with industry representatives (Matthew Addison, Hugh Campbell), private sector pest monitoring specialists (Lesley Brown) and informed by pilot interviews with farmer stakeholders. 
Type Of Material Improvements to research infrastructure 
Year Produced 2018 
Provided To Others? No  
Impact The tool has expedited the collection and comparison of pest control data in a manner allowing comparison across orchards. 
 
Title Semi-structured pilot survey 
Description Dr Serdal Ozusaglam (Socio-economic Post-doctoral fellow) have conducted a semi-structured pilot survey with 7 important apple producers and 3 pack-houses in order to understand their reactions to the survey questions and the research question. The survey questionnaire was modified and fine-tuned based on the knowledge exchange during the pilot survey. 
Type Of Material Improvements to research infrastructure 
Year Produced 2018 
Provided To Others? No  
Impact The semi-structured pilot survey was vital for setting up an appropriate and context specific questionnaire Survey. Based on this Survey Dr Ozusaglam interviewed and collected primary data with 50 producers comprising independent growers, Black Economic Empowerment (BEE) programme participants as well as growers working the major pack-houses in the Western Cape regions, more specifically in the Elgin, Grabouw, Villiersdorp and Vyeboom regions. 
 
Title Use of HIPV lures in pollinator and parasitoid monitoring 
Description We have developed and tested the use of plant volatiles (HIPV lures) in improving the monitoring of parasitoids and other biocontrol agents in apple orchards. Using these volatiles in association with pantraps and/or coddling moth egg sheets substantially increased catches. Intriguingly, it also increased the catch of pollinators in the pantraps, suggesting it may have a role in pollinator monitoring as well. 
Type Of Material Physiological assessment or outcome measure 
Year Produced 2019 
Provided To Others? No  
Impact Ultimately, the approach may allow more efficient monitoring of the density of biocontrol agents in agricultural landscapes. 
 
Title Database of pantrap specimens: pollinators and parasitoids 
Description Specimens trapped using standardised pantrap arrays in orchards and neighbouring semi-natural habitats. Sorted to morphospecies, and subjected to metabarcoding. 
Type Of Material Database/Collection of data 
Year Produced 2020 
Provided To Others? No  
Impact Database will be the basis of at least two planned publications: one on apple pollination, and one on orchard pest biocontrol. 
 
Title Orchard grower management survey 
Description A wide range of apple growers in the Western Cape region of South Africa were questioned about management practices and orchard practices and outcomes. 
Type Of Material Database/Collection of data 
Year Produced 2019 
Provided To Others? No  
Impact The results will be the subject of at least one paper on the impact of agricultural innovations on orchard socio-economics, and will likely figure in a second cross-cutting paper linking field based and questionnaire-based assessments of orchard practices and outcomes. 
 
Description Links to Stellenbosch University 
Organisation University of Stellenbosch
Country South Africa 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution We have invited additional members of the University of Stellenbosch faculty to participate in project planning and decision-making.
Collaborator Contribution The new partners have greatly enhanced our links to apple growers and their growers' organisation: Hortgro. They have facilitated the process of overcoming administrative and political hurtles, thus expediting progress on the project.
Impact Hortgro research certification.
Start Year 2017
 
Description Apple farmer and pack-house engagement activities 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an open day or visit at my research institution
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Supporters
Results and Impact One-on-one engagement with orchard owners and with their staff on 36 farms, as well as with 3 of the largest pack-houses.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018,2019
 
Description Interview with the managing director of HORTGRO 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Industry/Business
Results and Impact Dr Serdal Ozusaglam interviewed the managing director of HORTGRO . The debate focused on the following issues:
• The current trends in R&D in agricultural production, specifically focusing on agro-eco-innovations in orchard crops in the Cape region of South Africa.
• The role of climate change in investing in R&D projects and how does the climate changes the prioritisation of R&D projects within HORTGRO.
• Knowledge dissemination and collaboration process between the HORTGRO and its members.
• Funding sources for the R&D projects.
• How these R&D projects affect the competitiveness, efficiency, productivity and quality of the industry.
• What are the impacts of private industry labels and other environmental labels on the industry i.e., their impacts on sustainability, productivity, efficiency and environmental protection.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
 
Description Meetings with packhouse representatives 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Industry/Business
Results and Impact Meeting of project staff (from SA partner) with representatives of the 4 largest fruit packing companies operating in the apple & pear industry sector, to explain project goals and solicit information/ideas.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
 
Description Project writeup in stakeholder magazine 
Form Of Engagement Activity A magazine, newsletter or online publication
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Undergraduate students
Results and Impact Description of the project in South African fruit industry internal magazine: "Fruit Journal"
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
 
Description Seminar presentation Department of Economics of Nanyang University of Technology in Singapore 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Postgraduate students
Results and Impact I gave a presentation on the 20th of February 2019 at the Department of Economics, Nanyang University of Technology in Singapore.
The presentation titled 'Assessing complementarities between environmental technologies and environmental management systems' discussed the theoretical underpinning of complementarity analysis and preliminary results of the application of this methodology on agro-eco-innovations in orchard crops in the Cape region of South Africa.
The presentation stimulated a discussion amongst young researchers, PhD students, and visiting research fellows regarding the replication of this research framework in other low and middle income countries in Asia such as China and Malaysia.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
 
Description Stakeholder engagement and scenarios workshop, Grabouw South Africa 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Industry/Business
Results and Impact The workshop consisted of two parts. The first section provided an opportunity for us to present the results of the research (on pollination and biocontrol of pests in apple orchards, and on yield, innovation and socio-economics) to orchard growers and to industry representatives. The second section involved exploring important drivers and alternative scenarios for the future of the deciduous fruit industry in the region. This latter exercise will be written up for publication in the industry's Fruit Journal.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019