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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 eco-physiologist finds effective solutions for crop optimisation
2016-07-24

Description: Orange trees Tags: Orange trees

The bio-stimulant was tested on
this citrus. This is the first time
that the product has been tested
on a crop.

In a time characterised by society facing increasing population growth, food crises, and extreme climatic conditions such as drought, it is essential for farmers to integrate science with their work practices in order to optimise crops.

Role of photosynthesis and plant sap data

By knowing how to use photosynthesis and plant sap data for determining plant health, fast and effective solutions could be established for the optimisation of crops. This technique, which could help farmers utilise every bit of usable land effectively, is the focus of Marguerite Westcott’s PhD study. She is a junior lecturer and plant eco-physiologist in die Department of Plant Sciences at the University of the Free State.

Westcott uses this technique in her studies to prove that a newly-developed bio-stimulant stimulates plants in order to metabolise water and other nutrients better, yielding increased crops as a result.

Agricultural and mining sectors benefit from research

The greatest part of these projects focuses on the agricultural sector. Westcott and a colleague, Dr Gert Marais, are researching the physiology of pecan and citrus trees in order to optimise the growth of these crops, thus minimising disease through biological methods. Field trials are being conducted in actively-producing orchards in the Hartswater and Patensie areas in conjunction with the South African Pecan Nut Producers Association (SAPPA) amongst others.
 
The principles that Westcott applies in her research are also used in combination with the bio-stimulant in other studies on disturbed soil, such as mine-dump material, for establishing plants in areas where they would not grow normally. This is an economical way for both the agricultural and mining sectors to improve nutrient absorption, stimulate growth, and contribute to the sustainable utilisation of the soil.

Description: Pecan nut orchards  Tags: Pecan nut orchards

The bio-stimulant contributes to the immunity of the plants.
It was tested in these pecan nut orchards (Hartswater).

Soil rehabilitation key aspect in research projects

“One of two things is happening in my research projects. Either the soil is rehabilitated to bring about the optimal growth of a plant, or the plants are used to rehabilitate the soil,” says Westcott.

Data surveys for her PhD studies began in 2015. “This will be a long-term project in which seasonal data will be collected continuously. The first set of complete field data, together with pot trial data, will be completed after the current crop harvest,” says Westcott.

 

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