Dr Miekie Human and Stefan Links are employed by Grain SA, but have been seconded to the University of Pretoria with effect from 1 February for part of their time. The secondments strengthen FABI’s growing relationships with the grain and oilseed industry and aims to increase the research, development and innovation support FABI can lend to the agricultural industry.

Miekie graduated with a PhD in Biotechnology from FABI in 2019 under the supervision of Dr Bridget Crampton and Prof. Dave Berger. Her PhD study investigated the pathogenicity mechanisms utilized by the Northern corn leaf blight pathogen, Exserohilum turcicum, in overcoming maize defenses with a specific focus on identifying the pathogen’s effector complement. In 2018, she joined the Grain SA Research & Policy Centre which facilitates and coordinates research and policy matters for grain and oilseed producers in South Africa. Within this team, she is specifically focused on driving plant health research for grains and oilseeds.

Stefan completed his MSc in Plant Pathology at Stellenbosch University in 2019 under the supervision of Dr Lindy Rose and Prof. Altus Viljoen. His MSc investigated the phenotypic, physiochemical and genetic characteristics associated with resistance to Fusarium ear rot in maize.  Stefan joined the Grain SA Research & Policy Centre in 2019 and plays a crucial role in the co-ordination of climate resilience research as well as human capital development.

The secondment of Miekie and Stefan to the University of Pretoria was done to grow, expand and strengthen the newly established Grain Research Programme. In particular,

  • to strengthen the impact of R&D outcomes from the GRP for the local grain and oilseed industry and
  • to facilitate increased engagement and communication between the research community and industry (specifically, local grain and oilseed producers).

Miekie and Stefan will support the GRP research community to:

  • Determine strategic research priorities to address the needs of industry.
  • Facilitate project conceptualization and initiation.
  • Identify funding opportunities from industry and provide guidance to align proposals with industry needs.
  • Prevent duplication and promote collaboration within the South African research community.
  • Identify opportunities for the research community to engage with grain and oilseed producers.