Research Report 2008/2009



General overview

The support structure of the PRF remains under pressure due to political and economic circumstances. This has resulted in the PRF investigating first a 'Plan B' and then a 'Plan C', at great expense, in order to minimise the potential damage to certain industries. In certain instances the policy of the PRF has had to be amended drastically. This is discussed in greater detail later in this report (paragraph 3).

When the trend setters in agriculture do not have all the facts, many conflicting reports and views are expressed in discussions and in the press. The PRF therefore believes that it is extremely important to enter into discussions with these influential groups in order to avoid these problems. One such influential body is the Bureau for Food and Agricultural Policy (BFAP) at the University of Pretoria (UP), which does outstanding research and is highly respected both locally and internationally (for more information see paragraph 5.26 in this report). With their help, different scenarios are to be used for predicting the protein market for animal consumption, and finality will be reached on this issue in 2009/10.

Additional co-operation with UP is also running smoothly with continued trial work on their experimental farm by Mr W van Wyk, a PRF contractor (see paragraph 5.2 below). An information day on soybeans is hosted there annually.

The Agricultural Research Council (ARC) has again made very little effort in the past year to support the soybean industry. The position left vacant eight years ago by the resignation of the plant physiologist/soybean expert has not yet been filled. Consequently, the PRF made the decision to send Mr W van Wyk, a soybean expert contracted by the PRF, Mr Gerhard Keun, chief executive officer of the PRF and Mr Frans Potgieter, Board member of the PRF and chairman of the soybean work group of Grain South Africa, none of whom had ever had any international exposure with regard to soybeans, on a study tour to the USA under the leadership of the PRF Chairman, Mr GJH Scholtemeijer. Similar exposure with regard to canola production was given, during a study tour to Australia, to a canola researcher of the Department of Agriculture Western Cape (DAWC), Mr P Lombard, as well as to a canola researcher of the Central South Cooperative (CSC), Mr J Bruwer, under the leadership of Dr Jos de Kock, Board Member of the PRF. Both study tours were extremely beneficial and are deemed to be a good investment in guaranteeing the successful production of these two protein sources in South Africa in the future.

In the same vein the policy of continued technology transfer is still regarded as being of extreme importance. Industry experts are repeatedly invited to attend Board Meetings and Work Group Meetings in order to give Board members and co-workers the benefit of their knowledge and expertise. Speakers during the year included Mr Dave Foord of Foord Asset Management, one of the most highly recognised investment specialists in South Africa, and also Mr Guy Thibaud, well known in agricultural circles and especially well known as a specialist in rotational crop farming methods. In addition, continuous efforts are made on several fronts to further the cause of the PRF through articles, interviews, speeches, lectures, demonstration-plantings etc. The PRF would like to acknowledge the outstanding contributions made by all the journalists, writers, researchers and speakers who have been involved in this way with the PRF in the past year.

Various sponsorships were again awarded this year. One of these was of the annual symposium on Soil Health and Soil-borne Plant Diseases which makes a unique contribution to a greater understanding of soil-borne diseases.

Prof Fabricio Rodrigues of the University of Viçosa, Brazil, was sponsored by the PRF to attend, as a speaker, the international 'Silicone in Agri­culture conference' in South Africa. Good relations have subsequently been maintained with him as well as with another sponsored speaker, from China, Prof Liang. Similarly, Dr Sandra Lamprecht received sponsorship to attend various plant pathology presentations in Europe, specifically, the Fourth International Rhizoctonia Symposium; the Ninth International Congress on Plant pathology; and the Tenth International Fusarium Work­shop.

International pressure with regard to the health aspects of oils from protein seeds persuaded the PRF to utilise various sources of information to become more acquainted with these critical issues. Within a short space of time, thanks to the efforts of Mrs E Harmse, a PRF contractor, other PRF co-workers, and reports from the study tour to Australia, the Board became well informed of the facts. This issue continues to be monitored so as to prevent international pressure on food standards catching our interest groups in the different oilseed industries in South Africa unawares.

The PRF website plays an increasingly important role in supporting current attempts to enhance technology transfer (for more information, see paragraph 5.2.7). All documented activities since the inception of the PRF are being placed on the website, but this will not be completed before the end of 2010. This exceptional and important action is being executed under the leadership of the Vice Chairman of the PRF, Mr JSG Joubert, and Mrs M Du Preez, and the PRF would like to acknowledge their determination and perseverance.

A recurring problem in the agricultural industry has been the inability of the office of the Registrar, Act 36 (Fertilizers, Farm Feeds, Agricultural Remedies and Stock Remedies) to complete applications and registrations within a reasonable time frame. Many industries are suffering severe losses as a result of this inefficiency and the PRF would like to express the belief that this problem will receive the necessary attention from authorities very soon.

In our Research Report last year we reported on the Government policy regarding Biofuels. Initially, the PRF had high expectations that this would provide a potential boost to protein production, but unfortunately nothing substantial has since materialised. Behind the scenes, however, there are interesting developments and all is not lost. In the mean time, the PRF has contracted Dr L du Plessis to keep the Board and work groups abreast of developments in this area, both locally and internationally. All the reports by Dr du Plessis appear on the PRF website and these make for interesting reading.

Several Board members received special awards in the past year and we would like to congratulate them on the following:

  1. Prof R Gous
    • Special award by the South African Poultry Association (SAPA) – recognition for his contribution to the Poultry Industry.
    • Prof Gous was elected as senior vice-president of the World's Poultry Science Association and also delivered two keynote addresses at the World Conference on Animal Production in Cape Town.
  2. Dr Munro Giessel, lifelong honorary membership of SAPA, and also a special honorary award from the PRF.
  3. Mr JSG Joubert, special honorary award from the PRF.