UKZN Supports 50th Annual GSSA Congress
The University of KwaZulu-Natal (UKZN) showed its support for the Grassland Society of Southern Africa (GSSA) on the occasion of the Society’s 50th annual Congress, held in Pietermaritzburg from19th to 23rd July at the Royal Agricultural Showgrounds.
The GSSA, founded in 1966, held its first Congress in that year in Pietermaritzburg, with a Congress being held every year since then, with the exception of one year when two Congresses were held.
On the opening morning of the Congress, Professor Albert Modi, Dean and Head of UKZN’s School of Agricultural, Earth and Environmental Sciences (SAEES) addressed delegates, some of whom had come from as far afield as the United States of America and the United Kingdom, with many flocking to the auspicious occasion from countries all over the African continent.
Modi, who is also Chairman of the South African Agricultural and Life Sciences’ Deans’ Association (SAALSDA) and a Senior Fellow of GreenMatter, congratulated the Society on reaching this milestone and applauded those who founded the Congress. He also touched on the feelings of leadership and community shared by the Society and the University, especially given that the first Congress was conceived in and hosted in Pietermaritzburg by GSSA members who were part of or linked to the then-University of Natal.
Many current and past members and students of the School of Life Sciences and SAEES at UKZN attended the Congress, with some presenting their research and posters. Professor Emeritus Roland Schulze gave a plenary presentation on the opening day of the Congress on the topic of climate change, considering the effect human activities have had on the climate and, in turn, the consequences of these effects on humans and on important systems like grasslands.
Professor Scott Collins of the University of New Mexico and Professor Heather Throop of Arizona State University were two of the special international guests at the Congress, giving presentations on topics concerning the use of trends in grassland science to predict its future and carbon cycling in dryland grasslands of the future.
The Congress included tours to various examples of grasslands, one of which was to the University’s Ukulinga Research Farm, where visitors were given an overview of the renowned long-running mowing and burning trials and veld fertilisation trials which were initiated in 1950 and are still being maintained.
The University also lent support by way of contributing the services of its Friends of UKZN Agriculture alumnus association to the organising committee of the Congress, which was headed by College of Agriculture, Engineering and Science Director of Professional Services, Professor Kevin Kirkman and included GSSA members from UKZN, the provincial Department of Agriculture and Rural Development and KZN Ezemvelo Wildlife.
‘It is an honour and a privilege for the University to host the Congress in this province,’ said Modi, ‘and it continues in the tradition of the love and wisdom of those who first conceived the Congress; long live the GSSA!’