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02 May 2018 Photo Charl Devenish
South Campus UAP celebrates 27 years of access to education
Mr Francois Marais, Prof Kalie Strydom, Prof Daniella Coetzee (South Campus Principal), Prof Francis Petersen, Dr Nthabeleng Rammile (Vice-Chairperson of the UFS Council), and Dr Khotso Mokhele (Chancellor of the UFS).

More than 27 years ago, international funding from the Human Sciences Research Council and Anglo American was put to an unusual use for that time. Prof Kalie Strydom’s research unit at the University of the Free State (UFS) was tasked with reviewing how institutional missions would change in the new South Africa. Prof Strydom worked closely with surrounding communities in Bloemfontein to develop a bridging course which would help students who showed potential to access tertiary education, although they did not meet the requirements. His vision brought to birth the University Access Programme (UAP), as it is known today, which is hosted on the UFS South Campus, and is still providing unique access to higher-education institutions in South Africa.

People with a passion for human development
March 2018 saw the 27th anniversary of this remarkable initiative, which has given a second chance to over 18 000 students. Special guests at the event included Prof Strydom, Mr Francois Marais, and representatives from the Department of Higher Education and Training and Investec’s corporate social investment office.

Dr Sonja Loots, researcher in the UFS Centre for Teaching and Learning (CTL), singled out two key individuals in the formation of the UAP: Prof Kalie Strydom, who initiated the programme, and Mr Marais, who has been Director of the UAP since its inception. Dr Loots highlighted one of the driving forces behind Prof Strydom’s perseverance, vision, and determination with the UAP by quoting from an interview with him for an upcoming book on student access and success. He said, “It was a decision based on principle … to be part of the solution to a better country.”

Access and success still an issue today
In his presentation on the “Importance of Access”, Prof Francis Petersen, Rector and Vice-Chancellor of the UFS, pointed out the vital role of access in South Africa, especially the value it offers for the betterment of the country’s people. However, he said that student success is also an issue, and institutions need to be accountable for it. Quoting Prof John Martin of the University of Cape Town’s Faculty of Engineering, “We must be flexible on access, but robust on success.” Only by “closing the loop” in this way, can the UFS and other higher-education institutions ensure a valuable contribution to the economy of the country.

News Archive

Sunflowers are satellite dishes for sunshine, or are they?
2016-07-20

Eighty-six percent of South Africa’s
sunflowers are produced in the
Free State and North West provinces.

Helen Mirren, the English actress, said “the sunflower is like a satellite dish for sunshine”. However, researchers at the University of the Free State (UFS) have found that too much of this sunshine could have a negative effect on the growth of sunflowers, which are a major source of oil in South Africa.

According to Dr Gert Ceronio from the Department of Soil, Crop, and Climate Sciences at the UFS, extremely high soil temperatures play a definite role in the sprouting of sunflower seedlings. Together with Lize Henning, professional officer in the department, and Dr André Nel from the Agricultural Research Council, he is doing research on biotic and abiotic factors that could have an impact on sunflowers.

Description: Sonneblom 2 Tags: Sonneblom 2

Various degrees of deformity (bad-left
to none-right) in seedlings of the same
cultivar at very high soil temperatures.
Photo: Dr Gert Ceronio

Impact of high temperatures on sunflower production

The Free State and North West provinces, which produce 86% of South Africa’s sunflowers, are afflicted especially by high summer temperatures that lead to extremely high soil temperatures.

Dr Ceronio says: “Although sunflower seeds are able to germinate at temperatures from as low as 4°C to as high as 41°C, soil temperatures of 35°C and higher could have a negative effect on the vegetative faculty of sunflower seedlings, and could have an adverse effect on the percentage of sunflowers that germinate. From the end of November until mid-January, this is a common phenomenon in the sandy soil of the Free State and North West provinces. Soil temperatures can easily exceed the critical temperature of 43°C, which can lead to poor germination and even the replanting of sunflowers.”

Since temperature have a huge impact not only on the germination of sunflower seeds, but also on the vegetative faculty and sprouting of sunflower seedlings, Dr Ceronio suggests that sunflowers should be planted in soil with soil temperatures of 22 to 30°C. Planting is usually done in October and early November. Unfortunately, this is not always possible, as soil moisture is not optimal for growth. Farmers are then compelled to plant sunflowers later.

Impact of herbicides on sunflower growth

“High soil temperatures, combined with the herbicide sensitivity of some cultivars, could lead to the poor development of seedlings," says Dr Ceronio.

The use of herbicides, such as ALACHLOR, for the control of weeds in sunflowers is common practice in sunflower production. It has already been determined that ALACHLOR could still have a damaging effect on the seedlings of some cultivars during germination and sprouting, even at recommended application dosages.

“The purpose of the continued research is to establish the sensitivity of sunflower cultivars to ALACHLOR when exposed to high soil temperatures,” says Dr Ceronio.

 

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