The aim of the Grain Research Programme (GRP) extension is to aid in creating baseline knowledge needed for addressing and refining management strategies for grain crop diseases. This will be done through objectives like determining the distribution of common grain crop diseases; monitoring for potential emerging diseases; building a culture collection of grain-related strains and capturing a catalogue of disease images for various downstream applications. This baseline knowledge will assist producers, via the GRP diagnostic clinic, and to service various projects within the GRP.

The last GRP extension team field trips included farms in the Free State and the Eastern Cape Provinces. The Free State field trip took place from 20-24 February where Attie de Beer, Chanel Thomas, Langanani Matodzi and Dr Mahlane Godfrey Kgatle visited farms in Bothaville, Ficksburg, Kestell, Reitz, Senekal, Wesselsbron and Sasolburg.

The Eastern Cape field trip took place from 27 February to 4 March. The two GRP teams were Prof. Dave Berger and Alde Berger, Ine Botha and Marco Nuno de Canha who focused on Greyia collections (that will be used for Ine’s research) during the first part of the week and later joined up with the second team (Prof. Cobus Visagie, Jenna-Lee Price, Dr Mahlane Godfrey Kgatle and Flora Asibe) who focused on maize foliar disease scoring and sample collection. Flora Asibe is a PhD student at the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) - CGIAR, Nigeria. During the field trip, Flora mentioned that she learnt much from the disease scoring and sample collection experience and also enjoyed the landscapes of the Eastern Cape. Farms and other collections sites visited were located in  Cedarville, Cofimvaba (Mthingwevu and Qombolo), Kei river, Komgha, Kokstad, Matatiele, Mveso, Qunu, Qokolweni, Ugie and Upper Tabase. One of the highlights of the trip was when the team visited a soybean farm in Cedarville and collected bollworms, which are very well camouflaged in the plant. These bollworm collections will be used for an MSc student’s research project.

During the current season, the GRP has managed to make good collections of pests and diseases. Three more trips are scheduled to visit the KwaZulu-Natal, Mpumalanga and Eastern Cape provinces. The purpose of these trips is to collect pests and diseases on the visited farms important for various research projects. During these trips, we will continue to test and update the Biosecurity Africa App for surveillance and logging samples in the clinic.

We would like to thank all the co-ordinators that assisted the GRP team both from the Free State (Mr Albert Kriek from VKB) and Eastern Cape provinces (Mr Luke Collier - GSA and UFD coordinators Ms Yondela Diko, Ms Zandile Cewu and Ms Sisipho) and connecting us with the farmers. We are also grateful for the support given by farmers who provided us access onto their fields.