An Assistant Research Officer at the South African Sugar Association (SASA), Mr Sbonelo Nicholus Shezi, has received his Master of Science in Agriculture degree cum laude studying through UKZN and the South African Sugarcane Research Institute (SASRI).
Shezi of Port Shepstone, who chose UKZN for his studies because of its impressive international rating, decided to concentrate on Crop Science so he could play a role through innovative research to help farmers achieve greater yields and thus improve food security.
Knowing his career could provide a better life for his family and having the desire to become a mentor to youth in his community, inspired him to do well in his studies.
Coming from a poor community, he said he had been determined to uplift people in his area and become someone his parents and others could be proud of.
‘It was tough sometimes but when you focus and know that every action has consequences it’s easy to make a decision based on your goals,’ said Shezi.
Shezi’s research involved assessing the agronomic performance of tissue culture (NovaCane®) versus conventional seedcane under rain fed conditions. His study aimed to ascertain growth and yield differences between tissue-cultured (TC) and conventionally (Conv) propagated sugarcane plants for different cultivars across two crops and two different plant spacing in the first vegetative propagation stage, and later at a second stage, established at three planting rates.
Shezi hopes this work will contribute to a complete understanding of any yield penalties associated with the use of TC plants, and help to better advise seed bulking co-operators and commercial growers.
‘The project was an excellent innovation for the manipulation of cane genetic material to enhance production,’ said Shezi’s supervisor, Professor Albert Modi, who congratulated him on his success and on overcoming hurdles along the way.
Shezi thanked Modi for believing in him and affording him the opportunity to pursue his masters with SASRI.
He also thanked his supervisor at SASRI Dr Sanesh Ramburan for his advice and encouragement, Dr Sandy Snyman for her input as well as the Nazareth Tertiary Student Association (NATESA) for their support, prayers and guidance.
Shezi paid special thanks to his family, especially his mother and only sister, for their love, patience and support. He also thanked his friends at UKZN and SASRI, especially Lindani Cebelihle Mchunu.
Shezi plans to continue studying onto doctorate level. His current role at SASA involves assistance with planning, co-ordinating and supervising of field operations associated with variety evaluation trials and plant breeding activities.
Shezi is passionate about the environment and says his job has enabled him to do what he enjoys most: interacting with it.
Words: Christine Cuénod
Photograph supplied by Sbonelo Shezi