Mr Sizwe Mthembu

PhD student


Plant and Soil Sciences
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Primary Supervisor
Nicky Creux

I, Sizwe Goodman Mthembu a PhD student working on a maize project titled: Evaluation of maize genotypes' health, planting dates and environmental stress based on thermal infrared sensor phenotyping in South Africa. 

The project aims to assess late maize (Zea mays L.) plantings and its association with late rain, and other extreme weather events in Gauteng and North West Provinces of South Africa. Therefore, the study will test the utility of thermal imaging-derived data to gain a deeper understanding of physiological traits that may determine the effect of late maize planting dates and environmental stress occurring at different growth stages of crop growth, health and development, and how these affects subsequent grain production. Drones and thermal infrared sensor will be utilize on five maize genotypes across the four different planting dates in up to two different maize growing regions monitoring crop growth, development health and environmental stress through physiological traits. The usage of new technologies such as UAVs commonly known as drones in the Agricultural sector is growing significantly. The utility is expected to grow even further to become more ubiquitous among both smallholder and commercial farmers in the near future. The data derived from UAV helps farmers to monitor and plan their planting, treatments, schedule irrigation accordingly and detect irregularities on the field. The motive of the study is to determine risk factors associated with environmental conditions and planting date on maize growth, development, health, and grain yield components, and able to establish a crop loss prediction model based on maize planting date associated with environmental conditions using thermal imaging. There is a knowledge gap that correlating the effect of late planting dates and environmental conditions on grain yield, especially between the month of December and January using thermal imaging. Therefore, this project sought to bridge that.  

In my previous research project (Masters) done at University of KwaZulu-Natal (UKZN) I worked on the Response of potato genotypes to production sites and water deficit imposed at different growth stages. The main objective of the study was to address the issue of water scarcity, we aimed to gain a deeper understanding of how we can use water efficiently and still obtain optimum yield. Furthermore, the study wanted to evaluate the sensitivity of eight potato genotypes to four potato growth stages.  The objectives of the study included: (1.) Determine morpho-physiological traits related to water use efficiency among different potato genotypes subjected to water deficit imposed at the different growth stages, (2.) Determine the effect of water deficit imposed at different growth stages on yield performance and internal tuber quality of different potato genotypes, and (3.) Investigate the effect of different production sites on growth, physiological and yield responses of potato (Solanum tuberosum L.) genotypes.

The first and second objectives produced papers published with The Journal of Scientia Horticulturae and The Journal of Agricultural Water Management.