The National Grain Research Programme (NGRP) has the vision to 1) increase collaboration between government, industry and local universities; 2) increase engagements between grain and oilseed stakeholders and 3) to promote industry-relevant, outcomes-based research. To support this, the 3rd Annual Research Day was hosted by the University of the Free State in Bloemfontein from 3-5 April. The meeting provided an opportunity to present and discuss the grain research being conducted by the partner research institutes (which currently include FABI at the University of Pretoria, Stellenbosch University (SU), University of the Free-State (UFS) and the Agricultural Research Council) and to have open discussions with industry and government on research directions and priorities to help solve grand challenges related to grains in the country. A group of 14 students and staff members represented FABI-UP.

The evening meet-and-greet cocktail event began with a presentation by Prof. Cobus Oberholster (Financial Services, BKB Ltd), who outlined the future of plant breeding in South Africa from an industry perspective. The following day, Jannie de Villiers (NGRP Chair) and Prof. Paul Oberholster (Dean of the Faculty of Natural and Agricultural Sciences, UFS) opened the event and gave an overview of the role of the NGRP in grains research. Prof. Cobus Oberholster then gave the keynote address in which he spoke about the multi-stakeholder engagement process. Sessions included presentations from industry and academia, followed by a panel discussion. The topics of the sessions were: 1) Clinical diagnostics and identifications, 2) Profits and practises, and 3) Data-driven decisions/solutions. The programme also included a session with students giving short five-minute presentations on their research projects. The group visited the Kenilworth and Paradys experimental farms at UFS to view and discuss the planting trials and other activities taking place.

Among the FABIans who gave presentations were Prof. Cobus Visagie (Fungal detection and identification in the modern era), Prof. Juan Vorster (Herbicide resistance: Monitoring and management), Dr. Nicky Creux (Re-evaluating planting windows in a changing environment for climate resilience), Ms. Phrasia Mapfumo (Infield climatic factors driving Sclerotinia head rot progression across different sunflower planting dates) and Mr Matt Jackson (Population genetics of the Fall armyworm, Spodoptera frugiperda (Lepidoptera: Noctuidae) in South Africa). Prof. Bernard Slippers served as panel member in the session ‘Data-driven decisions/solutions’.

The symposium was an excellent opportunity for participants to network, deepen collaborations and engage with members from across the agricultural sector, including researchers, industry members and policy makers.

We thank Prof. Adré Minnaar-Ontong and others from the UFS for hosting us in Bloemfontein and we look forward to the ARC-Grain Crops hosting the 2025 Research Day in Potchefstroom.