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29 January 2019 | Story Xolisa Mnukwa | Photo Anja Aucamp
Prof Francis Petersen speech
“We can create an institution that operates and lives in the times of embracing and celebrating diversity, inclusivity, and academic excellence by ensuring that students own their time at university,” said Prof Francis Petersen.

25 January 2019 marked the official welcoming of the University of the Free State’s (UFS) first-year students, as they moved into their respective residences and were warmly welcomed on the UFS Bloemfontein Campus. This day also marked the start of the registration process for first-year students.

According to first-year Psychology student Keisha Claasen, who moved into her residence earlier on 25 January, her first experience of the UFS was daunting but exciting, as she had never been in a similar environment. According to Given Gwerera, who dropped his son off at the Karee residence earlier the day, “the UFS is an institution with great culture and an overall good academic record.” He further explained that he trusts his son to make full use of the opportunities presented to him, as he has a cool head on his shoulders.

On the evening of 25 January, an eager group of millennials, joined by their parents, took the first sip from their cup of varsity life as they assembled on the Red Square of the Bloemfontein Campus to meet the Rector and Vice-Chancellor, Prof Francis Petersen, members of Rectorate, the deans of all faculties, and the Student Representative Council (SRC) of the UFS.

“2019 will be a year of continued change; the UFS is thrilled about the prospect of bringing about opportunities for adaptation and realignment to the future,” said Prof Francis Petersen.

He further explained that the university prides itself in moulding its students into well-rounded individuals who will develop into globally competitive graduates as required in a diversity of landscapes. Prof Petersen urged first-years to remain open to the technological developments that go with globalisation, because of its permanent effects on society today.

First-years were further advised to take advantage of the rich pool of academic research and knowledge that is characteristic of the university and is piloted by UFS scholars, by engaging with and learning from them.

The inspiring night concluded on a colourful note, as the audience enjoyed an artistic laser show in front of the Main Building. Caption:

“UFS academics conduct research that forces the world to take note,” said Prof Francis Petersen at the official first-year welcoming ceremony on the UFS Bloemfontein Campus.

News Archive

Plant-strengthening agent a result of joint effort between UFS and German company
2015-07-27

Research over the past few years has showed that the agent applied mostly as a foliar spray subsequently leads to better seedlings as well as growth and yield enhancement of various crops.

The application of a plant-strengthening agent in the agricultural industry has, until recently, been largely ignored, says Dr Elmarie van der Watt of the Department of Soil, Crop, and Climate Sciences at the University of the Free State (UFS). The agent was co-developed by researchers at the UFS and a German company.

The product is moving into new markets, such as China, Vietnam, the USA, and Australia.

ComCat® was the result of extensive research by the German company Agraforum AG. Commercialisation was limited initially to Europe, while research was expanded to other parts of the world, with the University of the Free State as the main research centre.  ComCat® is a unique, non-toxic plant strengthening agent derived from wild plants. It enhances plant growth and yield, as well as resistance against abiotic and biotic stress factors.

Dr Van der Watt says that, in nature, plants communicate and interact by means of allelochemicals (the inherent silent tool of self-protection among plants) and other phytochemicals (chemical compounds that occur naturally in plants), as part of their resistance mechanisms towards biotic and abiotic stress conditions.

Most wild-plant varieties are usually well-adapted to resist these stress factors. However, monoculture crops have lost this ability to a large extent. “Active compounds contained in extracts from wild plants applied to monoculture crops can potentially supply the signal for the latter to activate their dormant resistance mechanisms.” 

Research over the past few years has showed that the agent applied mostly as a foliar spray subsequently leads to better seedlings as well as growth and yield enhancement of various crops.  A major advantage is that, despite its enhancing effects on root development and yield, it does not induce unwanted early vegetative growth that could jeopardise the final yield, as happened in the past for nitrogen application at an early growth stage. 

Dr Van der Watt says, “Physiological data on the effect of the natural bio-stimulant product on photosynthesis, respiration, and resistance towards biotic stress conditions indicate that it can be regarded as a useful tool to manipulate agricultural crops. Research also showed that the field of application for this natural product is never-ending, and new applications are being investigated every day.”

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