Ms Ingrid Marais, an MSc Biotechnology student in the Molecular Plant Pathogen Interactions research group in the Forestry and Agricultural Biotechnology Institute (FABI) and the Department of Plant and Soil Sciences at the University of Pretoria, was recently selected to attend the National Association of Plant Breeders (NAPB) annual meeting.
The meeting was hosted by the University of Nebraska, Lincoln, USA (https://napb2020.unl.edu/). She was selected for full attendance sponsorship by the South African Plant Breeders Association (SAPBA).
According to Ms Marais, she found this conference very informative and enriching. “As a student from a biotech background, this meeting broadened my knowledge on the current and future trends within the plant breeding field. I could take away from the stories and experiences some of the speakers shared on their career paths. I am very thankful to have been given this opportunity and I would like to sincerely thank SAPBA.”
Highlights of the meeting were discussions on ethics within breeding and commercialisation of products, gene editing regulations in the USA, and the potential that gene editing has for African orphan crops, such as cassava. Breeding programmes on lesser known plants such as hops, hemp and ryegrass were also covered, as well as breeding for quality traits such as popcorn and wheat nutritional quality.
Ms Marais’ research involves development of an RNA-based fungicide against a maize pathogen. In March 2020 she took the lead of a FABI/Department of Plant and Soil Sciences postgraduate student committee in coordinating a Corteva AgriScience-sponsored mini-symposium at the 13th Southern African Plant Breeding Symposium. This was held at UP’s Future Africa campus, and was one of the last in-person events before the COVID‑19 lockdown.