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06 March 2020 | Story Igno van Niekerk | Photo Igno van Niekerk
 Gert Marais looking at pecan leave_
Dr Gert Marais says the UFS is helping to ensure that the pecan industry not only survives but thrives.

“When opportunity knocks, you must jump. The more opportunity knocks, the more you should jump.” 

Look closely, and you will notice the rise in pecan-nut plantations as you travel through South Africa. Do not be surprised if you find that the UFS’s pecan-nut project – steered by Dr Gert Marais, Senior Lecturer in the Department of Plant Sciences – is associated with those pecans.

Main exporter
In an ever expanding and interconnected global economy, South Africa has joined the USA as main exporters of pecan nuts to China. We have several advantages; our seasons differ from that of the USA, and we have the benefit that we are harvesting and exporting pecan nuts at the time when they are most popular at Chinese festivals and events.

Although it takes a long time to grow pecan trees (seven to eight years before they start producing), the long wait has extensive benefits. Dr Marias explains: “Unlike other crops, you do not have to prepare the soil and plant new crops annually. Rather than re-investing, you only need to do proper maintenance. Once planted, the pecan trees can produce for generations to come. And the UFS is involved in ensuring that the pecan industry not only survives but thrives.”

Empowering farmers
As the pecan industry in South Africa grows, new challenges are identified. Some trees suffer from a condition called overall decline, others from scab, and some others are infested by combinations of fungi not found in other countries. Dr Marais and his team have filed several ‘first reports’ of combinations between pecans and pathogens, leading to opportunities for MSc research projects and making a difference in the industry.

Dr Marais undertakes six field trips per year to visit all the production areas in South Africa, share information at farmer’s days, arrange courses to ensure best practices with regard to pecan cultivation; students also use these visits to collect samples for their research. Due to the systemic collaboration between the private sector and the university, farmers are empowered to manage their pecan crops better, the university benefits from cutting-edge research, and South Africa becomes a stronger player in the international economy.

Opportunity is knocking. And the UFS is jumping.

News Archive

The 70th Intervarsity between the UFS and North-West University approaches
2013-07-10

 

Intervarsity programme (pdf)

In what promises to be a spectacular event, the University of the Free State (UFS) will host the 70th Intervarsity between the UFS and North-West University (NWU) from 9–10 August 2013.

Students, staff and spectators from all three NWU campuses – Potchefstroom, Mafikeng and Vanderbijlpark – will flock to Bloemfontein to participate in one of the country’s oldest sport contests between universities. The rivalry between the two universities is one of the most reckoned events on the local and national sports and student calendars, and it is widely supported.

Rugby, soccer, hockey, netball, volleyball and basketball will satisfy sports fans’ appetite during the weekend. For a more cultural dose, choral singing and debating competitions, as well as dialogue between student leaders will take place. All campuses of the two universities will participate in the programmes.

Rudi Buys, Dean: Student Affairs at the UFS, said the celebration of the 70th Intervarsity between the two institutions will be an important milestone to commemorate decades of friendship, collaboration and healthy competition.

“At Intervarsity 2013 not only do we celebrate a 70-year-legacy of friendship, but also see the potential of another 70 years of shared growth in a new country. We're especially excited with new events that focus on students debating societal issues and celebrating the vibrant diversity of artistic and cultural genres of our society. These events will be remembered for long."

As a run-up to Intervarsity, the university will also host the second annual Intravarsity between the Bloemfontein and Qwaqwa Campuses with sport and cultural teams from the two campuses competing against each other. Intravarsity 2013will behosted on the Qwaqwa Campus and will take place from 26–27 July 2013.

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