Research Report 2007/2008
In the past year, the PRF was able actively to pursue its most important objectives, despite a lack of support from Government and most of the provincial Departments of Agriculture.
The expectation of making use of biofuel production to rapidly advance the replacement of imported protein for animal consumption with locally produced protein did not materialize in the past year. The biofuel policy announced by the Government (see Government Policy) excludes maize as a raw material for biofuel production and therefore also the so-called Distillers Dried Grains Solubles (DDGS) as a source of protein. However, soybeans and canola were included as possible raw materials and the PRF Board once again confirmed its commitment to the advancement of these two protein sources. Unfortunately the licensing of prospective biofuel producers by Government was unnecessarily delayed and this might negatively impact on prospective investors. Although additional buyer(s) would stimulate a further increase in production of soybeans, it is not an overwhelming factor as protein is still being imported into South Africa on a large scale (see projects below).
In the Research report of 2006/2007 there was mention that Dr S Moephuli had been appointed as the new President of the ARC which was welcomed. After a term of total negativity by the previous President, we looked forward to a complete turnaround especially with regard to research capacity at the ARC. Unfortunately the exodus of specialist knowledge continues and very little was done about the creation of new capacity which is critically required. Hopefully the next year will bring more appointments than resignations.
It is especially in the area of soybean research that this decline in capacity is extremely worrying and the PRF has actively investigated alternatives to halt the total collapse of soybean research and technology transfer in South Africa.
As mentioned in previous Research reports the ARC-GCI again declined requests for new soybean research projects due to a lack of manpower. Conditions deteriorated to such an extent in the year under review that the ARC-GCI was forced to suspend existing projects, again due to the decline in manpower. Despite this, no effort was made by the ARC to improve the situation.
Much has been being written and said about the potential of soybeans especially in what was previously known as the homelands, but support from the provinces has been limited to lip-service. The Super Soya competition in KwaZulu-Natal is still being run successfully (see projects) with the assistance of the Department of Agriculture KwaZulu-Natal, but had the PRF not intervened with increased funding and contracted manpower, this project would also have come to a grinding halt.
Active soybean research and promotion in other Provinces barely exists. Repeated attempts in the Eastern Cape have delivered no positive results. Currently a liming and fencing program is underway, which is necessary before any other progress can be made.
Against this background the Technology Committee requested Dr J De Kock, research expert of the PRF Board and also a member of the Technology Committee, to compile a list of experts that fall into the categories of disciplines that are of importance to the PRF, who could possibly be of assistance with research and/or peer-evaluations. This is a massive task and will take some time to compile, but will be invaluable in terms of future planning.
The Technology Committee also convened a Soya Think Tank for the first time to which a small number of the country's leading soybean farmers, researchers and some Trustees were invited. A number of burning issues were identified which will be worked on to promote the soybean industry. Under the heading "Policy Decisions" we report more on this topic.
Another issue that was raised and which affects protein crops is a reliable estimate of the land available for the planting of soybeans and canola. This issue will receive the attention it deserves in the coming year.
Research funding invested by the PRF in the past year resulted in THRIP benefits specifically for three institutions, namely:
- University of KwaZulu-Natal (Prof RM Gous)
- Stellenbosch University (Prof A Agenbag)
- Department of Agriculture: Western Cape (Dr T Brand)
The PRF is grateful that these institutions received these additional funds as a result of their collaborative research projects, which will again contribute to the expansion of research activities.
A number of sponsorships were again awarded this year, the most important of which was the annual symposium on soilborne diseases, organised by the ARC-NIPP in Stellenbosch as well as an International Silicon conference which will take place during 2008 in South Africa.
Board members once again attended a variety of conferences, AGM's, symposia and meetings of importance to the PRF. The most important of these were: Animal Feed Manufacturers Association (AFMA), South Africa National Seed Organisation (SANSOR), Agricultural Economics Association of South Africa (AEASA), South African Poultry Association (SAPA), the joint conference of the South African Society of Crop Production, Soil Science Society of South Africa and South African Society for Horticultural Sciences, SA Pork Producers Organisation (SAPPO), SA Pelagic Fish Processors Association, International Fishmeal and Fish Oil Organisation Limited, USA, Transvaal Agricultural Union (TAU), Oil Presser's Association, Agri-SA, the Agricultural Outlook Conference, South African Biofuels Association (SABA), a Herbicide Resistance Symposium and PRF work groups. In addition, members also made presentations at a number of information days. The important information gathered at these events is disseminated bi-monthly at Board meetings and is discussed with regard to the greater good of the PRF.
As is the case every year, attention was paid to the needs of the PRF Board, its committees as well as policies. Not only was the Trust Deed carefully scrutinized to ensure that it fully complies with current requirements, but also the composition and functions of the Board and its committees were streamlined to ensure continuity. Financial policies and control were also reviewed and adjusted where necessary.
In the Research report of last year it was mentioned that the PRF Board had decided to add a fifth category to its achievement awards the aim being to give recognition to a PRF Board member who has played a significant role in PRF activities. The first of these awards, the highest of its kind, was awarded to Mr SJ (Steve) Malherbe who has contributed significantly over the past 25 years, firstly as a member of the Protein Advisory Committee (PAC) and then also of the PRF. It is a great privilege for the PRF that Mr Malherbe could spend so much of his time on the PRF and its activities. The Board once again would like to extend heartfelt thanks to him for his unselfish service to the advantage of the PRF and for all it stands.
The PRF would also like to congratulate Dr Mark Hardy on his nomination as Agriculturalist of the Year for the Province of the Western Cape, and, together with Dr Driekie Fourie as Researcher of the Year for the Provinces North West and Western Cape respectively.
Congratulations also to Dr JM (Kobus) Laubscher with his appointment as Chief Executive of Grain South Africa. The PRF believes and trusts that the cooperation with him will be as good as, and better than, with his predecessors.