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20 July 2018 Photo Leonie Bolleurs
Research informs about sustainable use of fresh water for food production
Conducting research on the topic of water-footprint assessment, are from the left: Dr Enoch Owusu-Sekyere, Dr Henry Jordaan, study leader and Senior Lecturer in the UFS Department of Agricultural Economics, Dr Frikkie Maré (Head of the Department of Agricultural Economics), and Adetoso Adetoro.

The fact that South Africa is a water-scarce country has been highlighted during the past couple of years, and even city dwellers were suddenly very aware of the drought due to the strict water restrictions. These are the words of Dr Frikkie Maré, Head of the Department of Agricultural Economics at the University of the Free State (UFS) and one of the graduates who received his PhD on water-footprint assessment studies at the recent June 2018 graduations.

The department is currently involved in various water-footprint and water-management research projects which assist in providing solutions for better water management in the future. “As department, we want to be at the forefront of research that will assist all agricultural producers with sustainable production practices to ensure economic, environmental, and social sustainable food and fibre products for the society at large,” said Dr Maré.

Research funded by Water Research Commission

The UFS recently conferred two PhD degrees (Drs Enoch Owusu-Sekyere and Frikkie Maré) and one master’s degree (Adetoso Adetoro) in the Department of Agricultural Economics. All three have been working in the field of water-footprint assessment. The research formed part of two different projects that were initiated and funded by the Water Research Commission.

According to Dr Henry Jordaan, Senior Lecturer in this department, four of his students already received their master’s degrees on the topic of water-footprint assessment, while two students are busy with PhDs and three more are working on their master’s degrees.

Topic gains momentum in research community
The water-footprint concept serves as a useful indicator to sensitise society about the impact of the food we eat on scarce freshwater resources – from agricultural producers using water to produce primary food crops and products on the farm, to the end consumer buying the food products in the retail store in town.

“Water-footprint assessment is a relatively new field aimed at informing the sustainable use of fresh water for food production. This topic is gaining momentum in the research community, given the substantial increase in the global population in the context of freshwater resources that is getting increasingly scarce. The challenge is to feed the growing population while still using the scarce freshwater resources sustainably.

Volume of water used to produce food

“In order to inform water users on how to use the resource sustainably, it is important to know the volume of water that was used to produce the required food products. Through our research, we are contributing to this knowledge by assessing the volume of water that was used to produce selected products, and to interpret the water use in the context of water availability to gain insight into the degree of sustainability with which the resource is used. The results are expected to inform water users, water managers, and policy makers regarding the sustainable use of fresh water for food production,” said Dr Jordaan.

News Archive

Plant researcher receives prestigious Grain SA award
2016-10-21

Description: Plant researcher receives prestigious Grain SA award Tags: Plant researcher receives prestigious Grain SA award

Prof Zakkie Pretorius from the UFS Department
of Plant Sciences with Andries Theron,
vice-chairman of Grain SA. Theron presented
the award to Prof Pretorius at Grain SA’s a
nnual gala event, which was held in Midrand
this year.
Photo (read more): Supplied
Photo (spotlight): Charl Devenish

A researcher in the Department of Plant Sciences at the University of the Free State (UFS), Prof Zakkie Pretorius, received the prestigious Grain Producer of the Year Inspiration Award during the annual gala event of Grain SA. Grain SA provides strategic commodity support and services to South African grain producers to assist in the sustainability of the sector.

This award is presented to individuals or organisations in appreciation of excellent contributions to the grain industry. These individuals have also achieved extraordinary results in their respective fields.

Research in the interest of food security
Prof Pretorius has been involved in research on plant diseases and food crops for the past 38 years. His research focus, rust diseases in crops, is especially important for food security.  

According to Prof Pretorius, who collaborates with an extensive network of specialist colleagues, his research covers a variety of topics including rust race identification, the discovery of new resistance genes, characterisation of resistance expression in plants, and the mapping of genes. His focus is not only on wheat, but he also researches rust diseases in oats, barley, maize, dry beans, lentils, sunflowers, and soybeans.

Breeding of rust-resistant varieties gains scientific basis
Locally, he has been contracted for several years by the Winter Grain Trust to annually evaluate commercial wheat cultivars and elite germplasm. This information is regularly passed on to the relevant seed companies and breeders, and is also included in the production guidelines of the Agricultural Research Council for disease risk assessment. His research places the breeding and selection of rust-resistant varieties on a solid scientific foundation. A living collection of rust fungus cultures and a large germplasm collection are maintained at the UFS under his supervision.

 

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