UKZN was well represented at the Second International Symposium on Moringa (ISM) held at the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research in Pretoria.
Senior lecturer in the Horticultural Science Discipline, Dr Samson Tesfay served on the organising committee, while PhD candidate, Mr Bonga Ngcobo won the International Society for Horticultural Science (ISHS) Young Minds Award for the best poster presentation.
A total of 150 delegates from 24 countries attended the ISM, which is supported by the ISHS and was hosted by the South African Moringa Development Association and the Agricultural Research Council in collaboration with various universities.
The event brought together moringa experts from all over the world and was aimed at expanding knowledge of the plant and creating networking opportunities.
Discussions at the Symposium themed: The Power of Moringa in Solving Global Challenges, followed a number of sub-themes including the role and use of moringa in nutrition, health, cosmetics, pharmaceuticals, the environment, food security, agro-processing, fuel and energy, bio-extracts, animal feed, and product development, enterprise development and job creation.
‘Moringa, also known as the “miracle tree”, has the potential to address human challenges found in developing countries,’ said Ngcobo, who explained the importance of moringa in the context of undernourishment and food insecurity.
Moringa leaves, seed, and roots have a wide range of applications, including medicinal, horticultural and industrial, and also contain important nutrients, natural anti-oxidants, vitamins and minerals.
Ngcobo’s research focuses on improving the quality and yield of solanaceous (nightshade) crops using innovative horticultural practices such as light, moringa and heat treatment.
He delivered oral and poster presentations on the influence of foliar Moringa oleifera leaf extract (MLE) application on growth, fruit yield and nutritional quality of cherry tomatoes, and on the combined effect of heat treatment and MLE on colour development, quality and the postharvest life of tomatoes.
‘The first study demonstrated that foliar application of 20% and 50% MLE can improve growth and yield and has the potential to increase the nutritional quality and colour of cherry tomatoes,’ said Ngcobo. ‘The second study indicates the potential of 5% and 15% MLE combined with hot water treatment as a suitable postharvest means to improve quality and extend shelf-life of newly developed Snow White cherry tomatoes.’
Ngcobo hopes his PhD research will help determine which MLE concentration is most suitable for improving the commercial production of cherry tomatoes.
Ngcobo was invited to publish a full paper in the European Journal of Horticultural Science and to prepare a summary of his research project to be considered for publication in Chronica Horticulturae. He received a one-year complimentary membership of the ISHS, and his oral paper will be published in the Acta Horticulturae journal.
Ngcobo began his undergraduate studies at UKZN in 2013, and went on to postgraduate studies after excelling in the final-year of his BScAgric degree, earning a certificate of merit for his project. He showed initiative and dedication during his MScAgric studies, setting up a glasshouse trial independently, learning how to use agrometeorological equipment and acquiring laboratory and writing skills. He completed his master’s degree within a year graduating cum laude – a remarkable achievement in Horticultural Science.
Ngcobo paid tribute to the vital support he received from his supervisors, Professor Isa Bertling and Dr Alistair Clulow.
Words: Christine Cuénod