The 13th Southern African Plant Breeding Symposium was held at the University of Pretoria’s Future Africa campus from 8-11 March. A special afternoon session was set aside for University of Pretoria students to organise and was sponsored by Corteva™ Agriscience. This session was called the Corteva™ Plant Science Symposia, and is one of many such symposia taking place worldwide. Five FABI students from the Department of Plant and Soil Sciences were selected for the organising committee, including Ingrid Marais, Tanya Welgemoed, Annah Mahlangu, Robert Jansen van Vuuren and Trystan Nadasen. These students coordinated with the SAPBA and Corteva organising committees to arrange a full talk schedule and poster session that included travel bursaries and prizes. One of the keynote speakers of the session, Mr. Emerson Limberger, from Corteva™ Agriscience in Iowa, USA, could unfortunately not make it due to travel restrictions caused by the worldwide COVID-19 pandemic. Luckily, we live in the 21st century and a Zoom teleconference was set up with Mr. Limberger, where he talked about how to utilize Big Data efficiently.

The second keynote speaker was Prof. Mark Laing from the University of KwaZulu-Natal (UKZN), who spoke on how to manage the timeline of your thesis, enabling you to complete your PhD in time. The students really learned a lot from his talk and could take away practical advice on the thesis writing process. A few 15-minute talks were given, including from the travel grant awardee from the University of the Free State (UFS), talking about sugarcane breeding.  FABI’s very own Marja Mostert O’Neill also presented and she won the prize for the best presentation of the day! Her talk focused on the domestication of Eucalyptus grandis for changing climates. Five, five-minute flash talks were given by various students, including three FABIans, with the audience interacting by voting for their favourite flash talk presenter. FABI’s name was held high once again, with the winner of the flash talks being Mary Ranketse who presented her work on whole genome analysis of macadamia for breeding.

The last hour of the day concluded proceedings with 28 people from around the country exhibited their exciting research work in the plant breeding. The posters were judged, and the first prize went to Mr. Gee Dikane from the Central University of Technology in the Free State for a poster explaining his research on the diversity among cowpea varieties. Overall the day was a big success, with each attendee walking away with a propagated spekboom (Portulacaria afra) gift. Around 170 people attended the day and 190 people watched the session via live streaming, enabling people who were unable to attend to login in and listen.