Estimated reading time: 2 minutes
With the increase in population and the decrease in agricultural land, it is important to provide good quality crops with enhanced nutritional content to meet consumer demands. However, crop production is facing many challenges, including biotic and abiotic stress.
The Crop Research Platform (CRP), which was established in the Faculty of Natural and Agricultural Sciences at the University of the Free State (UFS), has a role to play – not only in South Africa (SA), but also in agriculture in the broader Africa – in improving crops while simultaneously addressing these challenges and fostering opportunities for research.
Following requests from tertiary institutions, organised agriculture and industry role-players for the promotion of all crop-related research, the CRP was established.
Dr Adré Minnaar-Ontong, senior lecturer in the UFS Department of Plant Sciences and head of plant breeding, has been appointed as the co-ordinator of the platform. Managing the flow of research and research outputs between the UFS and role-players nationally and internationally is one of her key goals.
Dr Minnaar-Ontong says she is excited about the possibilities the platform is offering to bring all research related to crops together to invest in a better tomorrow.
“In addressing crop production challenges, I am of the opinion that the research platform will not only help role-players in the industry, but also small-scale producers and their associated communities that need agriculture to sustain them.
“Hosted within the platform will be an academy responsible for the training of small-scale producers on, among others, business management and becoming self-sustainable. This will boost them and have the potential to expand their production area,” she explains.
According to Dr Minnaar-Ontong, small-scale producers can also impact their surrounding communities by ploughing back, for instance, by planting vegetable gardens at schools to help with feeding schemes. “I envision that the CRP will provide capacity, resources and training to schools with, for instance, teachers educating learners on planting and maintaining the gardens.”
Dr Minnaar-Ontong says in the next two years, she would also like to see how experienced industry partners act as mentors for young and upcoming crop researchers. “This will be an investment in the development of small-scale producers and will certainly enhance collaborative projects that will serve both sides well.”
The platform will communicate research results to the wider sector, which includes industry partners as well as national and international collaborators. Moreover, it is also tasked with providing research support and co-ordinating crucial linkages with the different parties.
Dr Minnaar-Ontong believes that this will improve the relationship between scientists, producers and the agriculture sector. – Press release, the University of the Free State