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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

Meet Dr Mpho Jama, Prestige Scholar
2013-07-26

 

Prof Jonathan Jansen, Vice-Chancellor and Rector (right), visited Dr Jama at UCLA on his recent trip to the USA where this photograph was taken with Prof Bill Worger of UCLA’s History Department. Dr Jama will return to the UFS in December 2013.
26 July 2013

Dr Mpho Jama, Fulbright scholar, is a lecturer in Health Sciences Education and a member of the Vice-Chancellor's Prestige Scholars Programme since 2011. She is currently hosted by the Graduate School of Education at the University of California Los Angeles (UCLA), funded by Fulbright.

At UCLA, Dr Jama is collaborating with the David Geffen School of Medicine on a research paper focusing on stress among medical students.

She also works in collaboration with the Higher Education Research Institute on psycho-social and spiritual support for students in higher education with specific emphasis on medical students. Dr Jama has joined the Research Apprenticeship Committee of the Institute and participates in its activities.

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