Best Paper Award for UKZN PhD Student
UKZN Doctoral student, Mr Bonga Ngcobo, has received an award for the best Horticultural Science PhD paper presented at a combined agricultural congress in Bloemfontein.
The event was the annual Combined Congress of the Soil Science Society of South Africa, the South African Weed Science Society, the South African Society of Crop Production and the Southern African Society for Horticultural Sciences (SASHS).
Ngcobo, together with UKZN staff and students from the Disciplines of Soil Science, Plant Pathology and Horticultural Science, was among 250 delegates at the Congress hosted by the Southern African Plant and Soil Sciences Committee. The theme was basic and applied sciences as the fundamentals of sustainable agriculture, with conversations around ensuring sustainable food production despite adverse conditions arising from climate and environmental change.
Ngcobo is conducting research on the use of innovative and sustainable practices to enhance quality and yield of Solanaceous (nightshade) crops for a green South African economy. His research, supervised by Professor Isa Bertling and Dr Alistair Clulow, focuses on improving quality and yield of selected vegetables and fruits in the Solanaceae family that form part of people’s diets in South Africa, using environmentally friendly practices to promote a green economy.
Ngcobo’s presentation at the Congress, one of 195 abstracts received for the event, examined the influence of foliar application of Moringa Oleifera Leaf Extract (MLE) on the growth, yield and nutritional quality of tomatoes. This formed part of his PhD research, with other aspects of his research having been presented previously at the 2nd International Symposium on Moringa, where he won the ISHS Young Minds Award.
At the congress, Ngcobo highlighted the need to find innovative and environmentally friendly horticultural practices to address issues related to the food and nutrition insecurity experienced by poor, rural households and smallholder subsistence farmers in South Africa, and meet world targets to eradicate hunger.
His Combined Congress presentation demonstrated that foliar application with a low concentration of MLE can accelerate growth, improve yield and has the potential to increase nutritional quality and colour of cherry tomatoes. Ngcobo noted the need to find environmentally friendly methods to extract moringa leaves to promote a green economy.
‘Moringa has the potential to partly replace inorganic fertilisers and be used as a biostimulant to improve quality and yield of crops, thereby providing food to feed our nation in a sustainable manner that conserves natural resources,’ said Ngcobo.
‘Various parts of the moringa tree are rich in natural antioxidants, vitamins and minerals, and parts of moringa, including leaves, seeds, and even roots, have a wide range of uses, from medicinal to horticultural and industrial applications,’ he said.
Ngcobo said the award he received at the Combined Congress would not have been possible without the support of Bertling, who provided him with academic experiences and research opportunities he had never imagined possible before he arrived at UKZN.
He enjoyed the Congress experience, particularly being able to exchange and test new ideas, meet other scientists, and stimulate new development and innovative research in the plant science arena.
Words: Christine Cuénod