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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

UFS celebrates Madiba’s legacy with coin-laying ceremony on 18 July 2013
2013-07-15

 

Photo: Johann Roux
08 July 2013

The University of the Free State (UFS) will once again join South Africans as well as the broader international community on Thursday 18 July 2013 in celebration of the enduring legacy of beloved former statesman, Nelson Mandela.

The UFS aims to stay true to the spirit of giving and selflessness epitomised by Mandela Day, focusing on the university community as well as the city of Bloemfontein.

This year’s event will strive to eclipse the success achieved during the 2012 event which featured Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu as special guest.

The festivities on 18 July 2013 will kick off with university volunteers cleaning various areas of Bloemfontein. Departing from the Bloemfontein Campus at 09:00, the volunteers will clean areas in Heidedal and Mangaung with the help of the Mangaung Metropolitan Municipality.

In Heidedal, the volunteers will clean the crèche on the corner of Parish and Lackay roads as well as the old clinic on the corner of Parish and De Vries. In Mangaung, the volunteers will tackle the bustling Free Square on the Dewetsdorp road.

The larger celebration will take place on the Red Square of the Bloemfontein Campus at 12:00. Long-time Madiba confidant, Zelda la Grange, will deliver a message, followed by a R5 coin-laying ceremony.

La Grange will be joined by the motorcycle riders affiliated to the Bikers for Nelson Mandela Day, OFM presenter Johrné van Huysteen who will conduct proceedings, UFS Vice-Chancellor and Rector Prof Jonathan Jansen as well as UFS students, staff, other dignitaries and special guests.

The programme also includes a lucky draw with winners standing the chance to win restored bicycles. Tickets can be purchased through Annelize Visagie at 051 401 3258 or at visagiea@ufs.ac.za. The winners will be announced during the ceremony on the Red Square.

All proceeds of the coin-laying ceremony and lucky draw will be contributed towards the university’s No Student Hungry (NSH) Programme.

The NSH Programme was established in 2011 to help ensure needy students are supplied with a food bursary which provides them with the necessary nourishment to excel in their academic studies. The initiative has since become a university-wide endeavour and currently serves more than 100 students daily on the Bloemfontein and Qwaqwa Campuses.

Rag Community Service will also cater for the specific needs which the harsh Free State winter causes – especially to the poor. Close to 500 blankets will be donated on Mandela Day to five different charities, including Mosamaria Aids Ministry, Choc House and Freshly Young Minds.

For further information, please contact Marissa van Jaarsveld on 051 401 3834 or at nostudenthungry@ufs.ac.za.

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