What pecan is this? Detective CenGen “Holmes” comes to Prieska

For research scientists, a “quick fix” is basically a foreign concept. Research and development takes time, and often a project runs over multiple years before an answer (and a scientific publication) is reached. Therefore, when we get to put our applied science coats on it is very satisfying when we are able to provide a client with a simple, quick answer – especially when we get to play “Detective Holmes” as we go about it.

A farmer from Prieska recently contacted us to confirm the identity of some pecan nut trees in his orchard. He wanted to use these trees for propagation and by having them fingerprinted he could be sure that he is establishing the correct cultivar. He sent us leaf samples from each of the trees – all of which were marked with a green painted ring around the stem of the tree, and were supposed to be of the same cultivar X.


With molecular fingerprint markers we saw that one of the trees had a different genetic profile. We contacted the client, who went back to the orchard. Pecan orchards typically contain more than one cultivar. This is to ensure good pollination of the trees. Upon investigation he saw that this particular tree also had a yellow ring painted around its stem that was obscured by frost cover, but indicating that it was indeed a different cultivar. What’s more, it was the cultivar that we suspected, based on our pecan nut fingerprint database!

This was once again a good example of how our genetics services can easily be applied to solve “everyday” questions in the agricultural sector.

Orchard photo credit: Chris de Villiers