Cape Town – What has been called groundbreaking research by the University of the Western Cape (UWC), in collaboration with the University of Missouri System, has found that crop resistance technology could address water scarcity and food insecurity challenges.
A replica of a plant growth robot the two institutions created in the US could help with crop production during periods of drought in South Africa.
PhD candidate in molecular genetics from University of Missouri System, Sam McInturf, said the plants they studied were similar to those consumed in South Africa.
“With the knowledge we acquire we can identify genetic information that translates to rice.
“For instance, we can greatly speed up rice varieties that can be resistant to drought, salt and heat. All of these factors are genetically driven and we can fast-track which of the genes are important for these traits,” McInturf said.
The UWC and University of Missouri System computer sciences departments had combined their efforts and created the replica.
Professor Tyrone Pretorius, UWC’s vice-chancellor and rector, said the partnership was borne out of the divestment movement encouraged by anti-apartheid student protests at various US campuses in 1986.
“The University of Missouri System decided to divest from apartheid South Africa, and took the bold move to invest in a partnership with a historically black university, the University of the Western Cape,” said Pretorius.
UWC’s Dean of the Faculty of Natural Sciences, Professor Mike Davies-Coleman, said his faculty had benefited hugely from the exchange over the past 33 years.
He described the project as a “wonderful sign of maturity and partnership” between the institutions.