The University of the Free State (UFS) has established a crop farming research platform in an effort to help role players in the industry. The faculty of Natural and Agricultural Science at the university says its research will assist small-scale farmers with business management and self-sustainability. The platform will communicate research results to the wider sector, which includes industry partners as well as national and international collaborators.
“We trying to improve crops to the point where they will be able to handle the drought situation and then with biotic stress we working on improving crops to be able to be resistant against certain diseases because for every crop that’s out there, there’s a specific disease and for that, you have to understand the fungus of the bacteria that involved in this disease. And that’s what we are trying to do as the research is to improve the crops till you can have high enough yield and also a high-quality product,” says Dr Adre Minnaar-Ontong, UFS coordinator of the Crop Research Platform.
Crop farmers say they are faced with many challenges as a result of climate change. They say they have to cope with drought, floods, soil erosion and biodiversity loss. Molefi Moleme has been a farmer for almost 10 years and he says it is not easy.
“The challenges the farmers are facing now is too much, rain that we received, because sometimes after planting on that day the rain can be too much to 70%, and then we have to replant again. Now that thing wastes a lot of your money because maybe you’ve planted on that day 60 hectares, to plant is too much money. And another thing is, maybe you’ve planted last week and this week it rains when the plants are trying to germinate and the plants now don’t need too much water because the soil becomes stagnant and they will wield and die,” says Moleme.