The establishment of diplomatic relationships between South Africa and eastern countries, such as China, has created exciting new scientific opportunities for the subtropical fruit industry. Recent information on litchi cultivation obtained from China revealed an opportunity to obtain cultivars previously unknown and unavailable to the South African litchi industry.
The litchi originated in China, which has a cultivation history of more than 2000 years. As the native home of litchis, China has the most abundant germplasm resources in the world. There are over 200 cultivars in Guangdong province alone, of which 40 are grown commercially. With the early, mid and late season cultivars combined together, the marketing season of fresh litchis can last more than 3 months in China.
Considering a history of inferior strains and misnamed cultivars imported from secondary sources, the litchi industry in South Africa now has the opportunity to obtain a variety of cultivars from its source of origin. Furthermore, new methods of propagation like grafting I budding onto seedling rootstocks, have the benefit that large quantities of budwood can be introduced for rapid establishment and evaluation in our local industry. The best cultivars available in China are discussed in this paper.