College of Agriculture, Engineering
and Science (CAES)

Horticultural Student Wins International Award

Award-winning senior PhD student in the Discipline of Horticultural Science, Mr Bonga Ngcobo is researching innovative and sustainable practices to enhance the quality and yield of solanaceous crops for a green South African economy.

The Solanaceae, or nightshades, are a family of flowering plants that range from annual and perennial herbs to vines, lianas, epiphytes, shrubs and trees.

Ngcobo, who is being supervised by Professor Isa Bertling and Dr Alistair Clulow, represented UKZN during the VIII International Symposium on Fruit and Vegetable Effects on Human Health, FAVHEALTH2021, winning an award from the International Society for Horticultural Science for his poster presentation.

The symposium was originally planned for Stuttgart, Germany, from 2-6 June, 2020 but was postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic and took place virtually from 9-11 March, 2021.

The symposium was combined with the IV International Symposium on Horticulture in Europe (SHE); the V International Humulus Symposium (IHS), and the Annual Convention of the German Society for Horticultural Science, under the combined symposia theme: Advancing Together: Enhancing Quality of Life through HortScience, reflecting the many exciting achievements in horticultural science for the benefit of societies of today and tomorrow that were realised through strong academic-industry research partnerships.

The conference included plenary presentations of leading international scientists, panel discussions with renowned companies, industry stakeholders and legislators, oral and poster presentations on fundamental and applied research as well as exhibitions of products and services.

The symposium provided a unique platform for moving forward together as horticulturists to progressive values and to build a brighter future for generations to come.

Said Ngcobo: ‘I really enjoyed the Congress experience, particularly being able to exchange and test new ideas, meet other scientists on an online platform, and stimulate new development and innovative research in the plant science arena. It is our duty as horticulturists to beautify the land through floriculture, and to secure safe, healthy and sustainably-produced food for everyone.’

Ngcobo’s poster presentation at FAVHEALTH2021 was titled: Effect of Irradiation with LED Light Combined with Heat Treatment on Colour Development and Fruit Quality of Cherry Tomato (Solanum lycopersicum). The study demonstrated that colour and health-related parameters can be enhanced by hot water treatment and illumination with LEDs.

The presentation won Ngcobo the International Society for Horticultural Science (ISHS) Professor Jens Wünsche Young Minds Award for the best poster presentation by a symposium participant younger than 30 years. The award was previously known as (ISHS) Young Minds Award, which Ngcobo won at the International Symposium on Moringa (ISM2019) in 2019.

Following the latest award, Ngcobo was invited to publish a full paper in the European Journal of Horticultural Science and to prepare a summary of his research project to be considered for publication in Chronica Horticulturae. He also received a one-year complimentary membership of the International Society for Horticultural Science (ISHS), and his poster presentation will be published in the journal Acta Horticulturae.

‘I am very proud of my research accomplishments over the past four years,’ said Ngcobo. ‘I have been fortunate to be able to present my findings at international, national, and institutional levels and to win awards. The presentations, oral or poster, helped me gain confidence and skills to interact with the audience. I am, therefore, well-equipped for any position that might be available after I complete my PhD.’

Words: Ntokozo Dladla

Photograph: Supplied