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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

Odeion School of Music Camerata to perform in Russia
2013-07-31

 

31 July 2013

OSM CAMERATA "Die Spokewals" by Hendrik Hofmeyr under the baton of Jan Moritz Onken (YouTube)

After a successful audition, the Odeion School of Music Camerata (OSMC) received an invitation to participate in the 13th International Conservatory Festival which will take place in St Petersburg, Russia, from 1 to 9 November 2013. The festival is a yearly highlight on the concert calendar of the prestigious Rimsky Korsakov Conservatoire.

The artistic panel of the festival, under the leadership of Prof Lydia Volchek, annually selects ten international conservatories to gather in St Petersburg for the festival. Some of the participants include the Tchaikovsky Conservatoire: Moscow, Conservatoire de Paris, Eastman School of Music NY and the Sibelius Academy in Helsinki Finland. According to the Rector of the Rimsky Korsakov Conservatoire, Prof Mikhail Gantvarg, it will be the first ever school of music hailing from Africa to participate in the festival.

The OSMC was requested to give two recitals of 40 minutes each during the festival. Maestro Jan Moritz Onken (Chief Conductor of the OSMC for 2013) will lead the ensemble to St Petersburg. OSMC members will have the opportunity to attend all concerts presented by fellow participants as well as masters’ classes presented by the masters of St Petersburg Conservatoire.

The festival is usually opened and closed with a grand concert presented by the St Petersburg Conservatoire Symphony Orchestra (70 plus members). Last year the opening concert was conducted by the celebrated master, Valery Gergiev (artistic director of the Mariinsky Opera and Symphony Orchestra), while the closing ceremony was conducted by Semyon Bychkov – reciting the Leningrad Symphony by Shostakovich. Both Gergiev and Bychkov are alumni of the St Petersburg Conservatoire.

All recitals at the festival will be presented in the Opera and Theatre Hall of the Conservatoire, as well as in the acclaimed Glazunov Concert Hall located within the colossal conservatory building.

The OSMC will recite a programme of mainly South African composers, with two new works commissioned by the OSM New Music Initiative. These were written by the prolific South African composer, Hendrik Hofmeyr: laureate of the Queen Elizabeth International Composition Competition, entitled Spokewals / Phantom Waltz and Notturno Elegiaco. Spokewals / Phantom Waltz is a challenging work where musicians simultaneously play, sing and speak.

A reworked edition for chamber orchestra of the original string quartet for piano and soprano, Liedere op Boesman-verse, by revered South African composer, Stefans Grové, will also be performed. To commemorate the centenary of composer Benjamin Britten this year, Cantus in Memoriam of Benjamin Britten by Arvo Pärt is also included in the programme.

After participating at the festival in St Petersburg, the ensemble will depart for a two-day visit to Moscow where the OSMC will perform an ’All South African’ programme.

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