The Department of Horticultural Science has grown in leaps and bounds since its inception in 1918. During the early years, teaching and research were mainly focused on production methods of suitable deciduous fruit cultivars for the fledgling South African fruit industry. From the start, interaction with and support for the industry were emphasized, remaining to this day a cornerstone of the Department's activities.
Following a period of gradual growth and increasing emphasis on the science of fruit production (as the Department of Pomology), the Department experienced a new phase of rapid expansion and focus on research and post-graduate education from the early 1980's. During this period, expertise was also developed for the cut-flower industry (mainly indigenous fynbos cultivars) as well as the citrus industry in the Western Cape . To reflect this increasing diversity, a name-change to the Department of Horticultural Science was implemented in 1974.
During the last 15 years, research facilities in the laboratories as well as the field have been vastly improved. Starting with the development of carbohydrate and plant growth regulator laboratories, and leading to the acquisition of modern equipment for post-harvest and eco-physiological research, the Department is now well positioned for world-class research and training.
Not forgetting the continuing research into orchard practices such as pruning and training, and the need for hands-on training of students, the Welgevallen Experimental Farm in Stellenbosch was newly developed with modern apple, pear, plum and citrus cultivars during the mid-1990's. These orchards are now also used for research into climate ameliorating technologies such as overhead cooling. In addition, ongoing trials of new and improved thinning and rest-breaking chemicals are conducted on commercial farms for the benefit of the fruit industry.
To educate and train undergraduate and post-graduate students in plant biology (growth and development, eco-physiology, post-harvest physiology) for deciduous and evergreen tree systems in commercial horticulture, to enable students to be competitive in the labour market.
To conduct dynamic research in the deciduous fruit and citrus industries, providing value adding technology for industry partners aimed at increasing their global competitiveness and profitability.