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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

Old Mutual Investment Group invests in our students
2013-07-22

 

Old Mutual Investment Group’s Imfundo Trust scholars with Mr Muhammad Brey (far left) and Prof Jonathan Jansen, Vice-Chancellor and Rector of the UFS (far right).
Photo: Hannes Pieterse
22 July 2013

“I am one step closer to entering the corporate world as a young woman. My dream is to work for a large firm and now it is possible,” said Melody Motaung, a B Accounting first-year student. She is one of the first recipients of the Old Mutual Investment Group’s Imfundo Trust scholarship, which was launched at the university recently.

Melody is one of seven Kovsies and 91 students countrywide to benefit from the R20 million trust, aimed at empowering black professional people in the financial sector. Kovsies is now one of eight universities whose students benefit from the trust. It already empowers students from the University of Johannesburg, UNISA, Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University, University of the Western Cape, University of Fort Hare, Stellenbosch University and Rhodes University.

”The UFS embodies the excellence and innovation we are looking for in tertiary institutions,“ Mr Muhammad Brey, trustee of the trust, said during the launch. He conveyed that the main aim of the trust is to address the shortage of black professional investors in South Africa and to expand the source of suitably qualified individuals in the asset management industry.

The seven recipients, all of them female first-year students, were encouraged by the speakers to do their part in addressing South Africa’s skills shortage in the financial sector.

Prof Hendri Kroukamp, Dean of the Faculty of Economic and Management Sciences, said with the assistance of the Old Mutual Investment Group, the students – four of them B Accounting students – will help to address the shortage of chartered accountants in the country. “As qualified financial experts, they can make a big contribution.”

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