Throughout 2017, the Faculty of Natural and Agricultural Sciences at the University of Pretoria (UP) celebrated their 100th birthday. The centenary celebration of Agricultural Sciences at UP embrace the three founding departments in the former Faculty of Agricultural Sciences, namely Phytopathology, Soil Science and Livestock Breeding. The celebration recently reached its high point with a prestigious function held in Pretoria.

Prof Cheryl de la Rey, Vice-Chancellor and Principal of the Faculty of Natural and Agricultural Sciences, University of Pretoria

“This year marks one hundred years of agricultural science at the University of Pretoria. The faculty was one of the first two in the then Transvaal University College. A centenary celebration should not bring complacency; it gives us an opportunity to reflect on the past, take stock of the present and consider the future. We should formulate a vision for the future to reach our desired destination and set the foundation for the next 100 years of agriculture science at the university,” said prof Cheryl de la Rey, Vice-Chancellor and Principal of the Faculty of Natural and Agricultural Sciences  at the  recent centenary celebrations of the faculty.

Giving an overview of the history of the faculty, prof Lise Korsten, of the Department of Microbiology and Plant Pathology, Faculty of Natural and Agricultural Sciences, UP, said that the faculty has a colourful history with several name changes, ground-breaking research and many achievements on a global level. “Over the course of the last century, the name of the departments changed many times as the departments evolved but. They truly became the custodians of these essential sciences, which played a leading role on the African continent to ensure ethical and sustainable food production, food security and livelihoods with minimal environmental impact.

Agriculturalist of the century

Dr Johan van Zyl

Speaking during the event, dr Johan van Zyl, CEO of African Rainbow Capital, UP alumni and previous dean of the faculty, placed emphasis on the crucial role academic institutions will play in the future of food production. “There are a few megatrends that will shape and influence society in general, and the role of agriculture specifically. These include the formation of megacities, advances in biotechnology and the fourth industrial revolution, which will result in drastic change and a new norm and many challenges. In agriculture, the challenges are centered on training and research. I believe the Faculty of Natural and Agricultural Sciences, University of Pretoria is well placed to continue playing a leading role in this regard.”

During the celebrations, dr Van Zyl was announced as the University of Pretoria agriculturalist of the century. He is honoured for his influence in both the faculty and the agricultural sector as a whole. Van Zyl was one of the masterminds behind the Postgraduate School of Agricultural and Rural Development in the Faculty and played a major role in establishing the Forest and Agricultural Biotechnology Institute (FABI) at UP. During the past few decades, Van Zyl had a significantly positive impact on his alma mater, the University of Pretoria. -Marike Brits, AgriOrbit

From the left is prof Anton Ströh (former dean of the faculty and current vice Principal: Institutional Planning, UP; prof Edward Webb , deputy dean, research and Post-graduate Studies in the faculty, dr Johan van Zyl , prof Cheryl de la Rey, and prof Jean Lubuma

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