Drs David Nsibo and Mahlane Godfrey Kgatle in the Grain Research Program (GRP) planted the first maize cultivar trials and configured a weather station on 19 November at Rocky Park Farm in Ugie, Eastern Cape. The weather station will collect data for various research projects such as planting dates, sorghum cultivar trials and maize cultivar trials conducted in the GRP. The GRP identified the Eastern Cape as a region of strategic importance for maize production in South Africa, where farmers traditionally received little research and development support.

Farmers in the region report that pests and diseases limit production yields. The specific diseases, their incidence, seasonal occurrence, as well as their impact on production within the province are unknown. Therefore, disease diagnoses and correct identification of the potential causal organisms are critical for future projects.

The aim of the GRP is to generate baseline knowledge on pests and diseases affecting maize production in South Africa. Researchers in the GRP will screen and monitor for diseases on various maize genotypes planted in the Eastern Cape and the University of Pretoria’s Experimental Farm. Maize contributes 5.4% of global human calories and is the most important food crop in South Africa (FAOSTAT, 2020, Tebele et al., 2020). Managing pests and diseases therefore reduces yield losses and contributes to increased food production and global food security.