Research Report 2017/2018
  1. Disciplines represented on the Board

    1. Plant production


      This portfolio includes general plant production, but also the following subject areas:

      • Agronomy
      • Crop physiology / plant physiology
      • Plant growing / biotechnology
      • Soil science / plant nutrition
      • Weed science
      • Plant pathology
      • Entomology
      • Nematology

      Research and Technology Transfer

      The PRF promotes research and technology transfer by providing funding for projects at the Departments of Agriculture, Universities and other co-workers.

      • Agricultural Research Council (ARC)

        ARC-NIPP in Stellenbosch conducts work on soybeans and canola. The work is funded by the PRF. Reports about these projects are submitted annually and appear elsewhere in the Research Report.

      • Department of Agriculture

        The Department of Agriculture in the Western Cape (DAWC) conducts work on canola and the work is funded by the PRF.

        The canola elite trials and canola cultivar evaluation trials are of practical value. Reports relating to these appear elsewhere in the Research Report.

      • Universities

        The University of Stellenbosch (US) handles canola projects (see reports elsewhere in the Research Report). Funding is provided by the PRF.

        In addition, the US also provides an office for Prof André Agenbag. He co-ordinates canola programmes as contractor on behalf of the PRF.

        The University of Pretoria (UP) offers land at their Hatfield experimental farm. A contractor (Mr W van Wyk) of the PRF conducts some soybean trials at the farm.

      • Co-workers

        The PRF is further strengthened by co-operation with local and multidisciplinary companies such as seed companies and institutions like DOW / Du Pont / Pioneer, BAYER/BASF, SYNGENTA and others.

      • International co-operation

        Various institutions in South America participate in the soybean elite programme conducted at six localities, representing the most important soybean growing areas in South Africa.

        The evaluation sites in the cold areas include Bethlehem, Potchefstroom and Stoffberg. The warm areas are represented by Brits, Pretoria and Pietermaritzburg (Ukulinga).

        Forty-five (45) lines and five (5) local standards / controls were planted at the six (6) localities with three (3) replications to evaluate adaptability to local conditions. The maturity groups of the entries varied between MG 4,0 and MG 7,2.

        Two of the PRF contractors (Messrs W van Wyk and G De Beer) are responsible for conducting the trials.

        DAWC handles canola elite trials and entries were received from various companies, including Agricol, K2Agri, Du Pont/Pioneer and Bayer.

      Congresses / Symposia / Work Groups

      PRF representatives attended several of these events. During these, old and new focal points were highlighted.

      Conservation farming remains a recurrent focal point and much emphasis is placed on the concept and all its building blocks such as:

      • Minimal soil disruption.
      • Crop diversity.
      • Permanent organic top layers.
      • Living roots to stabilise soil.

      Rotation farming is one of the mechanisms to promote diverse crops and must be determined for each area. In the maize growing areas, soybeans are a particularly suitable rotation crop and contribute significantly to healthy soil in cases where soil organisms such as Trichoderma and Mycorrhizae reduce soilborne diseases significantly.

      Reduced tilling promotes beneficial predators that increase as organic material accumulates on and in the soil.

      Nitrogen fixation with soybeans remains an important aspect. South Africa boasts about 1 500 Rhizobia that may be tested. At the moment, WB74 is the most supported race.

      Nematodes (eelworms) are a particular problem for soybeans growing in the sandy soils of the Western Free State and the North West Province. In those areas, rotation farming makes a significant contribution. Some cultivars are tolerant and new nematicides are currently being tested.

      Cultivar trials in the said areas are being considered urgently to find mechanisms to combat nematodes and obtain information about disease resistance in other areas. Sclerotinia is a particularly serious problem in some areas.

      Bio-fertilisation, a relatively new aspect, is being addressed by fertilising companies. The term is misleading to a certain extent, because only nitrogen binding organisms produce fertilisation. The others increase fertiliser efficiency by making elements more accessible, or by stimulating plants to promote better growth. It is emphasised strongly that bio-products cannot replace inorganic fertilisers, but that they could contribute to improved utilisation or improved crop growth and thus increase yield in the process (bio-stimulants).

      Yield Competitions

      • Weigh and Win Competition

        The competition for maize and soybean farmers attracted 10% more farmers than last year. The results were very good and may be summarised as follows for soybeans:

        Division Producer Cultivar Yield (tonne/ha)
        Irrigation Koos Uys
        RA568R 6,2510
        Eastern area Michael Allen
        DM5953R 4,8580
        Western area Dryland Bernard Rabe
        DM6.8iR 4,4374
        KwaZulu-Natal Cobus Botha
        P64T39R 4,7326

        The climate and growing conditions were good, and the producers' practices were excellent.

        Although the highest yield of 6,25 tons/ha remains significantly less than the 11,47 tons/ha of the world record holder, Mr Randy Dowdy of Georgia, America, the results are excellent for South Africa.

      • Canola Yield Competition

        This competition was repeated for the Southern Cape and Swartland, in spite of less than favourable conditions, due to a particularly dry year in the Western Cape. The two winners showed good yields:

        Swartland -   Andries Louw =   2,215 tons/ha
        Southern Cape -   Pieter Beukes =   3,159 tons/ha


      A large number of articles were published in magazines such as Die Landbouweekblad, Farmer's Weekly, SAGrain, Oilseeds Focus, CanolaFocus and others, as well as on the PRF website.

      Agricultural Sciences: North West University, Potchef­stroom Campus.

      Two new four-year programmes were developed, focusing specifically on Agronomy, Soil Science and Agricultural Economics.

      • B.Sc (Agric) with Agricultural Economy and Agronomy.
      • B.Sc (Agric) with Soil Science and Agronomy.

      Students may register for these new courses from January 2019.