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14 May 2019 | Story Thabo Kessah | Photo Tsepo Moeketsi
Prof Ashafa
Prof Ashafa’s research documents plants used by the Basotho in the management of different ailments.

The Phytomedicine and Phytopharmacology Research Programme (PPRP) in the Department of Plant Sciences on the Qwaqwa Campus researches the biological effects of medicinal plants used in the folkloric medicine of the Eastern Free State, particularly to explore the values and contribution of indigenous knowledge systems (IKS) towards broader scientific research. This is according to the programme’s principal investigator and researcher, NRF C2-rated researcher, Professor Anofi Ashafa. 

 “Our research is mainly aimed at documenting plants used by the Basotho in the management of different ailments and to further discover, isolate, and purify active phytoconstituents that are responsible for disease curation or amelioration, thereby assisting in the global promotion of accessible and affordable medication in developing countries,” said Prof Ashafa. 

Since 2012, the PPRP has worked extensively on Basotho medicinal plants (BMP) used as antimicrobials, antioxidants, antidiabetics, antitubercular, anticancer, anthelmintic, and antidiarrheal agents, starting from biological activities up to the  evaluation of the toxicity of these plants for the kidney, liver, and heart functions in order to establish safe dosage parameters. These activities have led to the discovery of four potent antidiabetic biomolecules that are awaiting the processes of patency and commercialisation. Additional outputs include 104 published peer-reviewed articles , 7 postdoctoral fellows, 6 PhDs, 9 master’s, and 16 honours graduates. 

“Our research informs teaching and the development of expertise in ethnobotany, 
phytomedicine, and phytopharmacology in order to contribute to the National Development Plan (NDP) through human capacity development, skills, and knowledge transfer.

The group is also investigating some medicinal plants on the endangered red list of the South African National Biodiversity Institute (SANBI), through micropropagation and field trials as well as proposing conservation strategies to preserve these valuable species.

The PPRP consists of postdoctoral fellows, PhD, master’s, and honours students and research is done in collaboration with several local and international universities as well as the Agricultural Research Council of South Africa. 


News Archive

UFS academics serve high in ranks of Cereal Science institutions
2017-10-10

Description: Cereal Science Tags: Cereal Science

Dr Angie van Biljon, Senior Lecturer in the Department of Plant Sciences at the University of the Free State (UFS), was elected as president of Cereal Science and Technology South Africa (CST-SA) at their bi-annual general meeting, in Pretoria.

Prof Maryke Labuschagne, Professor in Plant Breeding at the UFS and official representative of South Africa in the American Association for Cereal Chemists International from 2007, was re-elected as the South African representative to the American Association for Cereal Chemists. She attends the annual conference in the US as well as the International Association for Cereal Science and Technology (the European counterpart of AACC) regularly. “I use these conferences to report on the research done by the research team at the UFS on gluten protein, baking quality and nutritional value of cereals,” she said.

Prof. Labuschagne was also involved in a training course for the baking industry. 

Both Dr Van Biljon and Prof Labuschagne are involved in research on wheat gluten proteins, which is critical to the baking industry. CST-SA is a platform to disseminate this and other research, not only locally but also internationally. The aim of this society is to advance cereal science and technology both in the public sector and in the industry of Southern Africa.

CST-SA creates an opportunity for staff and
students working on cereals to interact
with the industry. This prevents research
from being just academic and creates
an opportunity to bring the research and the
industry together.

Wheat research not just academic
According to Prof Labuschagne CST-SA creates an opportunity for staff and students working on cereals to interact with the industry. This prevents research from being just academic and creates an opportunity to bring the research and the industry together. This has been very useful for students at the university working on cereals, as they have made presentations at the “New Voices” symposium, a forum for postgraduate students to present their research.

“Through CST-SA we have also, through the years, presented our research on an international level at the annual meetings of the American Association for Cereal Chemists and the International Association for Cereal Science and Technology,,” said Prof Labuschagne.

The science of cereals
CST-SA is an association of organisations and individuals, from both the private and public sectors, who are actively involved in the science and technology of cereals. Its aim is to promote the dissemination of knowledge and information on cereal science and technology through meetings, publications, workshops and other means. CST-SA also organises training courses for the industry. In the past years there was a course for the baking industry and one for the milling industry and also the “New Voices” symposium”.

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