On Tuesday, September 17, the African Centre for Gene Technologies (ACGT), Forestry and Agricultural Biotechnology Institute (FABI) and Future Africa co-hosted a Plant Phenotyping and Precision Agriculture workshop at Future Africa on the University of Pretoria’s Hillcrest Campus. The event, which was themed “Opportunities and Needs in Research and Infrastructure” was attended by 66 delegates from a variety of national research, governmental and industry institutions.
The workshop was opened by Dr Marinda Visser (Manager: Grain Research and Policy Centre at Grain SA) who emphasised the importance of research and development in the agricultural sector, as well as the need for better coordination and collaboration.
The morning session was dedicated to introducing various aspects of phenotyping and precision agriculture to the delegates. This involved phenotyping at several different scales and applied to a variety of plant species. The programme and the national and international speakers who delivered the presentations are listed below:
|Prof Carlos Poblete-Echeverria, Stellenbosch University||Precision viticulture: digital technologies for monitoring and management of the vineyards|
|Prof Dave Berger, FABI, University of Pretoria||Deep learning for automated classification of maize diseases|
|Dr Abraham Singels and Natalie Hoffman, SASRI, KZN||Remote sensing of canopy cover and crop water status with drones to assist sugarcane breeding: Preliminary results|
|Dr Nicky Taylor, University of Pretoria
|Assessing relatively simple tools for estimating canopy size in orchards|
|Dr Moses Cho, CSIR||Evolution in remote sensing of foliar nutrient and chlorophyll content as indicators of vegetation health|
|Dr Nadia Shakoor, Donald Danforth Plant Science Centre, Missouri, USA
|Phenomics at scale: Driving advances in crop breeding with insights from diverse sensor platform technologies|
|Dr Rosita Yocgo, African Institute of Mathematical Sciences, Rwanda
|A phenomics approach to the analysis of the influence of glutathione on leaf area and abiotic stress tolerance in Arabidopsis thaliana|
|Dr Dirk Swanevelder, ARC Biotechnology Platform
|Plant phenotyping and remote sensing at the ARC|
|Mr Maurits Voogt, eLEAF, Wageningen, Netherlands||Making research work: how FruitLook evolved to generate impact at scale|
Adding to the diversity of speakers, delegates also represented institutions and initiatives that included: the University of Johannesburg, Tshwane University of Technology, the Royal Science and Technology Park: eSwatini, the Department of Science and Innovation, Corteva Agrisciences, Sensako Seed Company and Link Seed. ACGT and FABI post-graduates and researchers were very well represented.
In the afternoon session, facilitated by Prof Bernard Slippers (Director: FABI, UP), delegates were tasked to discuss issues around opportunities to meet needs for infrastructure and facilities, academic – government – industry alignment, and opportunities for South Africa, Africa and international communities. These crowd-sourced inputs will now provide a foundation for developing a network of interested parties and contain numerous ideas for projects and further development.
A more formal report on the feedback emanating from the groupwork is in preparation. There was strong agreement that a follow-up event is required and planning will commence shortly.
In closure, Prof Bernard Slippers thanked all the speakers and delegates, as well as the organizing committee.
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