Research Report 2016/2017

2.   General overview

The highlight of the previous research report was the celebration of the Protein Research Foundation's 25th Anniversary. The highlight of this year, certainly a milestone in the PRF history, was definitely the coffee table commemorative publication entitled "The development of the Protein Research Foundation".

The Board decided that the official presentation of the first copies of the commemorative book would be at a special function. In the north, the first official copy was presented to the previous PRF Chairman, Dr R Bigalke, at a function held on 4 October. At a similar function held in the south, the first official copy for that region was presented to Ms J Isaacs, CEO of the Department of Agriculture in the Western Cape (DAWC). Every person that attended the original functions was earmarked as recipients of the publication. The commemorative book is also available on the PRF website.

Just about every organisation can report on annual events that require mentioning. Mr Joe Diekmann decided to resign as a Board Member on 5 May 2016, after 21 years of service. The PRF said goodbye to Mr and Mrs Diekmann at a gala function where he was also honoured for his contribution, particularly in terms of the poultry industry during his term of office over a period of 21 years.

The PRF policy is to nominate Board Members for respective board committees every three years. That required nomination for office for those terms that expired at the end of 2016. Dr Jos de Kock, Chairman of the Technology Committee indicated that he was available for re-nomination as a member of that committee for another term of office (three years), but not in capacity as chairman. The Board unanimously nominated Dr E Briedenhann to replace him as Chairman of the Technology Committee. The PRF appreciated the valuable contribution of Dr De Kock as Chairman of the committee over the many years, but also for his work as a member of the Technology Committee. The Board also wished Dr Briedenhann all the very best with his new duties and responsibilities.

Another highlight of the year, especially in the canola industry, was the Canola Symposia presented (respectively) on 19 and 20 July 2016 at Bredasdorp and Paarl. The theme of the symposium was: "Growing canola with a 5-tonne yield". The particulars of this symposium are discussed in detail in this report.

Several international events left industries without words. The takeover of Monsanto by Bayer was probably the biggest of those events. That and other takeovers largely rearranged the chemical and seed industries. This will require adjustment over a few years and it will affect all that are part of these industries. The PRF will also have to adapt, because it had built good relationships with many of the role players. In some cases the events may hamper the technology flow to South Africa, but there will definitely be some positive outcomes for South Africa.

There has been a general need for a royalty system in South Africa to allow seed companies to receive compensation for specific characteristics of their cultivars. The Roundup Ready genes of the Monsanto soybeans gave rise to negative action in South Africa, even to the extent that almost no international seed company wished to register seed with new genes in South Africa.

The wheat industry took the lead and established a Section 21 company in South Africa, under the banner "South African Cultivar and Technology Agency" (SACTA). Hopefully this paved the way for other industries, including the soya and canola industries to gain access to the latest international technology that becomes available. The success of such actions is an important element for the PRF to achieve its goals for both soybeans and canola by 2020.

Like every other year, the website development was maintained and the site was adapted (where necessary) and upgraded (see projects). The same applied to brochures and other information documents. Board and meeting documents were made available to members in electronic format.

Videos enjoyed more attention and are available on the website.

In an attempt to complement brochures, articles and website information, researchers, bursary recipients and others were invited to workshops to address others on relevant subjects. We are particularly grateful to the members of the National Harvest Estimate Committee, namely Mrs Rona Beukes and Ms Marda Scheepers, as well as SAGIS' Mr Nico Hawkins who made numbers seem far more interesting during meetings.

Two foreign visits during the year included stops in several countries. Dr E Briedenhann and Prof F Meyer visited the USA, Brazil and Argentina between 2 April 2016 and 16 April 2016. They attended 14 respective appointments varying from follow-up visits to some institutions or individuals, but also new contacts that will facilitate easier future cooperation.

The Technical Committee is the link between soybean elite trial participants. Dr Jos de Kock and Mr G Scholtemeijer, as well as Mr G Keun, visited South America from 20 September 2016 to 30 September 2016. The main objective was to communicate Board policy resolutions relating to the completion of the soybean elite trials (see Board Policy Resolutions) to all involved and to address issues relating to future co-operation. All appointments showed positive results. The new INTA President, Dr A Nicora, also attended a part of the meeting with INTA and indicated that INTA wished to co-operate with the PRF over a broader front. That was very good news indeed, especially as cooperation just about came to a stand-still under the guidance of the previous INTA President.

It was also agreed with INTA that its participation in the canola elite trials should be terminated as its cultivars did not achieve good results under South African conditions.