Latest News Archive

Please select Category, Year, and then Month to display items
Years
2017 2018 2019 2020
Previous Archive
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

Meet Dr Aliza le Roux, Prestige Scholar
2013-07-10

 

Dr Aliza le Roux
Ground-breaking research on gelada ape made waves.

Photo: Sonia Small
10 July 2013


Dr Aliza le Roux is an NRF Y2-rated senior lecturer in the Department of Zoology and Entomology on the Qwaqwa Campus. She joined the Vice-Chancellor’s Prestige Scholars Programme (PSP) in 2013.

Dr le Roux has devoted the past decade to research on the cognitive and communicative skills of wild mammals in the arid regions of South Africa and the highlands of Ethiopia.

She spent four years as postdoctoral research fellow at the University of Michigan, leading to ground-breaking work on the cognitive and communicative underpinnings of gelada monkey behaviour. This was published in Nature Communications and created waves in the international scholarly community.

Most recently, Dr le Roux has focused on the paternal care of an eccentric canid– the bat-eared fox. She is convinced that we have much to learn about ourselves from animals outside the primate order. This unusual little fox eats mainly termites, and males – rather than females – take care of the offspring. The reason why, is still a mystery Dr le Roux hopes to unravel. Little is known about the physiological stress that foxes face, or how paternal care affects the father, the mother, and the pups. Even in humans, the true impact of paternal care is poorly understood.

With this ground-breaking project, Dr le Roux hopes not only to describe the ecology and physiology of fatherhood, but also how a father’s care can affect the cognitive development of his offspring.

We use cookies to make interactions with our websites and services easy and meaningful. To better understand how they are used, read more about the UFS cookie policy. By continuing to use this site you are giving us your consent to do this.

Accept