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Pioneering students plant new ideas in farmers' heads

Farmers faced with water scarcity, loss of soil and deteriorating seed quality have a new weapon - five students who are the first in the country to hold a Master's degree in sustainable agriculture.

Pioneering students plant new ideas in farmers' heads
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The students graduated from Stellenbosch University, where as part of their course they worked with wine company Distell on biodiversity loss and soil degradation. The university said: "They investigated the potential use of indigenous plants as cover crops in vineyards and they interviewed a number of farmers about what they would ideally want from a cover crop.

"This was followed by an intense literature search, visits to indigenous plant botanic gardens and key informant interviews with conservationists and viticulture researchers. A number of indigenous plants were in the process selected that can be used as cover crops to increase vineyard biodiversity while also reducing soil degradation."

Course leader Professor Kennedy Dzama said the programme was aimed at solving the complex problems facing farming. He said: "Current practices are not sustainable. Not only is the quality [of seeds] deteriorating, we are also losing soil. All the farmers are crying about input costs going up all the time but the prices that they are getting are not."

The study programme was launched by the agriscience faculty at Stellenbosch with the support of Wageningen University in the Netherlands and Conservation South Africa.

Source: The Times


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