UFS strip research

Maryke Labuschagne
Prof Maryke Labuschagne
Plant Sciences

Chair: Disease Resistance and Quality in Field Crops 2021-2025

Prof Maryke Labuschagne is currently Professor of Plant Breeding in the Department of Plant Sciences and is also leading the NRF SARChI Chair in Diseases and Quality of Field Crops. She has been involved in the training of PhD and MSc students from all over Africa and South Africa for the past 30 years. She has supervised or co-supervised 78 PhD students from as far as Cameroon, Benin, Ethiopia, Ghana, Nigeria, and Sudan – to the SADC countries, including Angola, Kenya, Malawi, Mauritius, Namibia, South Africa, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia, and Zimbabwe, as well as 74 MSc students. She and her students have authored 269 scientific papers in mainly ISI-listed journals. Her former students have released a large number of new crop cultivars all over Africa, which has contributed to food security in a number of countries. Her own research interest is focused on the genetic improvement of the nutritional quality of staple crops in Africa.

She was the winner of the 2015 Continental Lifetime Achiever Award from Africa’s Most Influential Women in Business and Government programme, in the category Education and Training. In January 2012, she received the African Union Kwame Nkrumah Award for Life and Earth Sciences on the continent.  She was named Grain Scientist of the Year for 2012 by Grain South Africa. Prof Labuschagne was elected as National Agriculturalist of South Africa for 2008 by the Agricultural Writers’ Association of South Africa and was in 2008 also the winner of the National Science and Technology Forum award in the category for research capacity development in the past 5-10 years. She is on the editorial board of Cereal Chemistry and the Journal of Cereal Science and is a Speciality Chief Editor for Frontiers in Sustainable Food Systems.

In 2020, the Department of Science and Technology extended the National Research Foundation’s SARChI research chairs in Diseases and Quality of Field Crops for another five years.

Prof Labuschagne says despite recent advances, the headlines regarding hunger and food security remain alarming: one in nine people on earth will go to bed hungry every night. Globally, 800 million people do not have enough to eat to be healthy, and a third of all deaths among children under five in developing countries are linked to undernourishment. She believes the uniqueness and strength of the research chair lies in a two-pronged approach, namely the breeding of cereal crops for resistance to fungal diseases and the improvement of the quality of crops for processing and consumption, thus making an impact on food security in South Africa and the rest of Africa through this collaborative effort.

She is confident that the extension of the research chair will allow them to continue and expand their research, “which has built up a lot of momentum”.

Besides the 12 PhD and 8 MSc degrees they delivered in the first five years, they also contributed significant research outputs and cultivar releases. She adds that they would like to expand on the significant international collaboration they have established.

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