School of Agricultural, Earth and Environmental Sciences

Professor Hussein Shimelis (second from left) at a book launch in Brisbane.

UKZN Academic Addresses International Tropical Agriculture Conference in Australia

The South African Sugarcane Research Institute (SASRI) Chair of Crop Science at UKZN, Professor Hussein Shimelis, presented a paper at the biennial International Tropical Agriculture Conference(TropAg2017) in Brisbane, Australia.

The event, which attracted 720 delegates, was aimed at enhancing international experience among leading scientific experts and facilitating collaboration, development of new projects and technology transfer. Various research papers were presented on advances in agricultural industries in the subtropics and tropics, including work on grain and pulse crops, sugarcane and horticultural crops, and livestock. Oral and poster papers were presented covering a diverse range of topics.

Shimelis presented a poster titled: Ethylmethanesulfonate Mutagenesis of Vernonia (Centrapalus pauciflorus var. ethiopica) to Enhance Seed Oil Content and Fatty Acid Composition, which was delivered under the theme of Future Field Crops.

The aim of his study – conducted in collaboration with the University of the Free State with financial support from the National Research Foundation – was to induce genetic variation and alter seed oil content and fatty acid composition in a novel industrial crop, vernonia, through ethylmethylsulfonate (EMS) mutagenesis.

Results of the study suggest that the effect of EMS mutagenesis on fatty acid composition in vernonia could be genotype-specific, and is influenced by the EMS dose.

‘There is potential to increase solely vernolic acid, while at the same time reducing the other fatty acids during vernonia improvement,’ said Shimelis.

While at the conference, he attended the launch of a book he co-authored titled The Business of Plant Breeding: Market-led Approaches to New Variety Design in Africa (edited by Dr Gabrielle J. Persley and Dr Vivienne M. Anthony). Shimelis contributed Chapter 4 of the book, headed: New Variety Design and Product Profiling.

‘The education module is based on current concepts and best-practices in demand-led breeding,’ said Shimelis.

The book was compiled by various experts and educators from public and private sectors across Africa and internationally, and is aimed at postgraduate educators and scholars in plant breeding, crop improvement and seed systems, and for continuing professional development of plant breeders.

Words: Christine Cuénod