PO BOX 136, Koelenhof, 7605

TEL: +27(0)21 865 2531

FAX: +27(0)21 865 2734


Westcape Biotech offers a variety of plant tissue culture services for mainly, but not limited to, deciduous fruit cultivars and vegetables. These services are in support of breeding programmes, the production of top quality pathogen-free planting material, as well as the import and initiation for export of high value material.

Seed germination

Once dormancy is broken the seeds are germinated under optimal conditions and grown to the desired stage for delivery to the customer. Seed germination in tissue culture can also be done to ensure optimal germination conditions and to improve the ease of introduction into tissue culture if required.

Advantages: Increased germination frequency.

Embryo rescue

Embryos are excised for seed batches with a low chance of survival (e.g. low seed number, very small seeds, or low survival rates) to improve the frequency of viable seeds. This is specifically relevant to breeders for crosses between distantly related cultivars, seedless parents as in the case of table grapes, or early ripening stone fruit where the embryos would naturally abort unless rescued.

Advantages: Increased plant numbers from seed with a low chance of survival.

Doubled haploid production

Doubled haloid production is done for the establishment of elite homozygous lines for breeding programmes. Haploid cells are obtained from the gametophyte (such as egg or pollen cells) of donor plants and exposed to specific conditions and/or chemicals to induce the doubling of the chromosomes in one generation.

Advantages: Faster production of homozygous lines (and thus reduced breeding times for new varieties) with increased growth vigour when compared to conventional inbreeding to achieve homozygosity.


Micro-propagation is offered for the rapid multiplication of plant material to produce a large number of genetically identical plants.

Advantages: Rapid pathogen-free multiplication of genetically identical plants without going through the lengthy seed phase / the propagation of sterile plants.


Micro-grafting is a process by which a shoot or scion of a plant is inserted into the stem or stock of another plant in vitro and continues to grow as one plant.

Advantages: Improved graft union and low chance of reintroduction of viruses during the grafting process as well as reduced plant development time. Micro-grafting can also be used for disease indexing (detection) to reveal virus symptoms.

Quarantine imports

The company can handle and harden off seeds or compliant in vitro plant material imported through Plant Quarantine Services (Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries).

Advantages: Import of material in tissue culture reduces potential to transmit and introduce diseases by its built-in pest and pathogen detection capability. All insects, mites, nematodes and most fungi and bacteria can be easily detected and therefore only a limited number of pathogens have to be tested for by Plant Quarantine Services, shortening the quarantine period.

Tissue culture exports

Plant material is introduced into tissue culture in appropriate containers for export. The material is inspected and certified by Plant Quarantine Services and then exported on behalf of the Customer.

Advantages: The growth of plants in sterile containers allows them to be exported with greatly reduced chances of transmitting diseases, pests, and pathogens.


The company uses polymerase chain reaction (PCR) as the preferred method of diagnostic testing due to the speed and sensitivity of this molecular technique. PCR tests are utilized to amplify a single or a few copies of DNA across several orders of magnitude in order to detect its presence. In this manner, Westcape Biotech can accurately identify the presence of specific pathogens in agricultural crops or determine the optimal harvest maturity date of a specific orchard. The accurate and sensitive diagnostic tests offered by Westcape Biotech allows faster and more appropriate corrective action to be taken.

Pathogen detection tests

Westcape Biotech has expanded its expertise in molecular diagnostics into the field of pathogen diagnostics to provide the most accurate and sensitive routine tests available. This type of testing is necessary to guarantee that planting, imported or cleaned-up material is indeed pathogen-free. Only small amounts of plant tissue material are required for the tests, which mean that in vitro plant material can easily be tested. Currently diagnostic tests are available for the following diseases:

Grapevine leaf-roll associated virus 3, Grapevine leaf-roll associated virus 2, Grapevine fanleaf virus, Grapevine virus A, Grapevine virus E, Rupestris stem pitting virus, Bacterial blight (also known as Vlamsiek), Apple Chlorotic Leaf Spot Virus (ACLSV) and Apricot Pseudo-Cholorotic Leaf Spot Virus (APCLSV). Westcape Biotech can also develop custom diagnostics tests to serve a client's specific needs.


  • Early identification and faster treatment of crops leads to reduced losses.
  • Improved corrective action due to more accurate identification of pathogens.
  • High throughput system allows for rapid screening of an entire vineyard, orchard or greenhouse.
  • New tests could be developed for more pathogens in a relatively short time.

Flow Cytometry Tests

Flow cytometry testing is a technique used to measure the chemical and physical characteristics of fluorescently labelled cells or cell components within suspension. Free flowing, each of the labelled cells or components passes a light source and detector in order to obtain the desired information. Flow cytometry technology is utilised, amongst other purposes, to determine the volume of DNA present within a cell. Agricultural applications in include true-to-type testing of propagated plant material and the screening of ploidy levels within plant breeding programs. Westcape Biotech's Flow Cytometry platform offers high quality, cost-effective ploidy, and DNA content testing services to customers.


  • Accurate measurement of ploidy level and cellular DNA content.
  • Rapid testing method with results within 48 hours.
  • Increased efficacy of plant propagation and plant breeding programmes.

Fruit Quality Tests

Westcape Biotech offers reliable gene diagnostic tests for pome fruit quality prediction and storage potential. The tests are based on molecular markers and provide objective and reliable information to the farmers and exporters for harvest maturity and prediction of storage potential. They include harvest window prediction, prediction of storage potential, as well as fruit quality prediction after storage. Currently the service is only available for pome fruit, but can be expanded to other crops.


  • Allow farmers and packhouses to do cost effective planning and to adjust post-harvest handling and storage regimes,
  • Improve overall fruit quality of export consignments;
  • Allow selection of specific fruit consignments with desired quality and or different storage potentials to cater for specific market needs;
  • Prevent export of fruit with inadequate storage potential, thereby reducing the cost of waste;
  • Identify consignments suitable for specific treatments thus improving marketing potential i.e. CA storage, DPA treatment, etc;
  • Identify fruit suitable for export under the harsh protocols required for certain markets;
  • Allow feedback to farmers on the likely cause of quality problems and enable remedial action;
  • Allow testing of new cultivars at an early stage for genetic characteristics associated with good quality and storage potential.


Contract research services are conducted confidentially and the client has sole ownership of the information gathered. Westcape Biotech is able to offer various services towards the identification of genetic elements which increase the efficiency speed of breeding, high-value agri-chemical discovery and development, and the development of a wide range of diagnostic tests for better management agricultural production.

Gene expression profiling

Gene profiles can be set up to determine why a specific crop, or cultivar, performs better than another; why a specific compound promotes/ inhibits plant growth or identify environmental or others factors which has an effect on the performance of a crop.

Advantages: Elucidation of biochemical pathways associated with a specific process and identification of genes which can be used for breeding or diagnostic purposes.

Metabolite profiling

Similar to gene expression profiling, metabolite profiling can be done to measure the presence and quantity of a single metabolite or multiple metabolites simultaneously, providing a global picture of how a crop is functioning. This information, in combination with gene expression profiling in particular, allows for improvements in crops and crop production practices.

Advantages: Elucidation of biochemical pathways associated with a specific process, and confirmatory evidence of the involvement of genes in a specific process if used in combination with expression profiling.

Cultivar comparisons

Westcape Biotech offer several techniques, based on genetic differences, enabling the client to differentiate between species or cultivars, determine whether individual plants were derived from the same origin plant or to elucidate the relationship between plants. The genetic differences can be analysed through ploidy determination or DNA fingerprinting.

Ploidy Determination

Many successful crop species were bred from ancestral varieties by changing the number of copies of each chromosome (ploidy number) leading to superior varieties. This means that closely related varieties can be distinguished based on the number of chromosomes. The benefits of this technique are that no extensive database on genetic differences is required and the test can be done on any plant within a very short timeframe.

DNA Fingerprinting

Cultivars have unique DNA fragment profiles (fingerprints) and fingerprint comparisons enable differentiation between species or cultivars and can be used to determine whether individual plants were derived from the same origin plant or to elucidate the relationship between plants, including the determination of parentage. These tests can also be used to determine the genetic diversity within a breeding population. In addition, it can determine whether desired genetic elements were transferred from the parent to the offspring in breeding programmes.

Advantages: Unbiased differentiation between plant cultivars even if they are visually similar, and confirm transfer of desired genes from parents to offspring in breeding programmes

Plant transformation

Although mostly used as a research tool to confirm the relevance of a biomarker, plant transformation could also be used to develop commercial products. The benefits of producing commercial products directly through transformation are that new varieties can be created faster than with conventional breeding and also allow the production of varieties which cannot be achieved through conventional breeding.

Advantages: Proof of concept that targeted genes are involved in a specific process in a relatively short time and/or the possible development of a commercial product.