Research Report 2009/2010



General overview

Once again, the PRF can look back with satisfaction at what has been achieved during the past year over a wide variety of activities.

The PRF Board represents various disciplines and interest groups that are considered to be of critical importance in terms of current circum­stances. Every Board member is a specialist in his own right and could not be easily replaced. During the year, and only the second time in the history of the PRF, a Board member died during his term of office. We mourn the death of Mr Steve Malherbe, one of the most senior and most respected Board members. The PRF will miss him as a person, as an honoured colleague and friend, but also his experience, knowledge and wisdom.

In order to implement the vision and mission of the PRF the expertise from a large number of disciplines is essential. The list of disciplines includes, inter alia, the following:

  1. Agriculture
  2. Crop models
  3. Weed control
  4. Crop physiology
  5. Soil Science / Plant nutrients
  6. Botany
  7. Plant cultivation / genetics
  8. Biotechnology
  9. Biochemistry
  10. Plant pathology
  11. Microbiology
  12. Entomology
  13. Nematology
  14. Nutrition: Cattle and sheep
  15. Nutrition: Dairy cows
  16. Nutrition: Pigs and poultry
  17. Accounting
  18. Economics
  19. Agricultural economics
  20. Marine biology

Apart from the funded research projects summarised below the PRF finds it necessary to make use of contractors for a variety of tasks that the Trustees do not have time to perform, or where the research institutions like the ARC cannot provide the required manpower. The 2008/2009 research report referred to so-called Plans B and C to circumvent the limited research capacity in South Africa. These resulted in increased use of universities and other institutions that could assist (Plan B) and the utilisation of foreign expertise, made possible by inviting experts from other countries, mainly America, Brazil, Argentina and Australia (Plan C). Visits by South Africans to these countries were also used for information and training.

As mentioned in the 2008/2009 research report, paragraph 3 – "Policy Decisions" the PRF acquired the services of Dr Jan Dreyer who was co-opted as a member of the Technology Committee for a period of one year. However, during the year this appointment was upgraded to a permanent appointment because of his significant contribution to that Committee.

Negotiations with the University of Stellenbosch, particularly through Prof Mohammad Karaan, Dean of the Agricultural Sciences Faculty, were positive and an agreement was entered into, in terms of which Prof André Agenbag will co-ordinate all PRF canola activities in the Western Cape Province. This step rendered immediate positive results, to the benefit of the canola industry.

Co-operation with Embrapa, as well as the University of Viçosa in Brazil and INTA in Argentina, was mentioned in the 2008/2009 research report. The proposed co-operation materialised and during the October/November 2009 planting season a number of cultivars from these institutions were planted at various localities in South Africa. In some cases, planting was late due to logistical problems. The results of these trials and progress in respect of these agreements will be included in the 2010/2011 research report.

Last year we also referred to the need for a map to determine the surface area available for soybean production in South Africa, as well as a climatological map of regions where soybeans are currently grown. Prof C Blignaut of the University of Pretoria was contracted to handle the first aspect. This map, which will probably be available in 2010/2011, will be particularly useful in promoting soybean production. Two PRF contractors, Messrs Wessel van Wyk and Gawie de Beer, prepared a climatological map in co-operation with colleagues in the soybean industry. This map, which shows regions where soybeans are currently produced, will be refined once the study by Prof Blignaut has been completed.

The Bureau for Food and Agricultural Policies (BFAP) has been very helpful in assisting the PRF to establish a soybean scenario plan for the industry. Preliminary reports have been received and the final report will be available early in 2010/2011. This report is likely to provide information that will dispel many of the misconceptions in the soybean industry.

The PRF continues to maintain a policy of sustained technology transfer at all levels. Well-known experts were invited to some of the Board and work group meetings. Board meetings were addressed, inter alia, by Prof R Schulze of the University of KwaZulu-Natal and Prof M Karaan of the University of Stellenbosch. Other speakers at the different work group meetings are mentioned in the specific sub-sections of this report.

As a result of agreements with foreign institutions the PRF, for the first time in its history, invited foreign experts to assist with technology transfer. Dr JFV Silva of Embrapa was invited as a PRF guest to address the NSSA Symposium in South Africa. Similarly, two seed growers from INTA, Messrs Ignacio Vicentin and Luis Salines, as well as Prof F Rodrigues of the University of Viçosa, visited South Africa and met with various experts and work groups.

In an attempt to promote the canola industry, the PRF Board arranged for the chairman of the Australian Oil Seeds Federation (AOF), Mr T Potter, to visit South Africa in 2010/2011. Some PRF Trustees and contractors visited Australia, Argentina, Brazil and China during the year both for business visits and to attend congresses.

Although bio-fuel is not yet an important commodity in South Africa, the PRF considers the future of the bio-fuel industry and its resultant by-products to be of considerable importance. The Board and its work groups are kept up to date with the latest developments in this industry by Dr Lourens du Plessis, a contractor who submits quarterly reports to the PRF on this subject.

The PRF feels that the growth in the soybean industry is a highlight, in spite of the opposing opinion held by Grain South Africa. More particulars and facts about the soybean industry are provided in paragraph 6.5.2 of this report.

Another problem that enjoys continued attention is the reliability of laboratory results. Variation in the results obtained from various laboratories jeopardises the results of the respective research projects. Hopefully this matter will be finalised in 2010/2011.

Following a long period in which there has been a lack of specialist knowledge about soybeans in the ARC, the ARC President undertook to appoint one senior and two junior soybean researchers at the ARC GCI. The PRF and the soybean industry look forward to the implementation of these promises, because it will provide a much needed incentive to the soybean industry.