College of Agriculture, Engineering
and Science (CAES)

UKZN at the Southern African Plant Breeding Symposium

University of Pretoria’s Future Africa Campus in March, with PhD candidate, Ms Boluwatife OlaOlorun winning an award for the best poster presentation.

The symposium focused on the theme of Innovating Together – Plant Breeding in the Fourth Industrial Revolution. Professor Mark Laing, Director of the African Centre for Crop Improvement (ACCI) and Professor of Plant Pathology at UKZN, presented two keynote addresses, one on the global scale of the climate crisis and how plant breeders can respond, and another on managing the timeline of a thesis in order to graduate on time.

Also presenting a keynote address was Professor Tulio de Oliveira from UKZN’s KwaZulu-Natal Research and Innovation Sequencing Platform (KRISP), who spoke about Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR) technologies to advance research development and genetic engineering in Africa.

Professor Hussein Shimelis, South African Sugarcane Research Institute (SASRI) Chair of Crop Science and Deputy Director of the ACCI, delivered a presentation on market-led plant breeding education approaches through adapting best practices from the public and private sectors in maize.

Students Dr Isack Mathew, Mr Kwame Shamuyarira, Mr Dedeou Tchokponhoue, Mr Muhammad Yahaya, Mr Athenkosi Makebe, and Mr Carlos Houdegbe also gave presentations. There were more than 13 poster presenters from various agricultural disciplines at UKZN.

OlaOlorun’s winning poster dealt with her research on inducing genetic variation in wheat, where she is using mutation breeding to harness the traits of drought tolerance and carbon sequestration. She is working with chemical mutagenesis using Ethyl methanesulfonate to create genetic variability in wheat genotypes. This work forms part of the ACCI’s efforts to breed climate-smart wheat with bigger root mass that is able to mitigate the effects of climate change to ensure that current and future demand for wheat will be met.

Words: Christine Cuénod

Photograph: Supplied