Widely regarded as the number one Entomology research unit in the country, the Department of Zoology and Entomology launched its groundbreaking Centre for Biological Control (CBC) on Thursday, 2 November 2017.
Biological control at Rhodes University dates back to the 1970s, with highly successful programmes. In 2002, stakeholders in teaching, research and implementation of biological control combined as an informal research team; the Biological Control Research Group (BCRG) where work began in search of alternative techniques to deal with the negative effects of insecticides on public health by using biologically based techniques against threats to agriculture, veterinary and humans.
“We have a transdisciplinary programme that aims to lessen the socio-economic and environmental burdens of evasive species in South Africa and Africa. The Centre prides itself on being a platform for research, teaching and community engagement,” said Professor Martin Hill, Director and founding member of CBC.
With new statistics from Agriculture South Africa showing that at least 48% of agrarian land has been given to previously landless communities in the Eastern Cape, the timing of the launch of the Centre will ensure maximum productivity of the local land.
Deputy Director General for the national Department of Environmental Affairs, Dr Guy Preston commended the University for the Wisdom of investing in such a wonderful and critical resource to improve production and change South Africa’s projections on food security.
The Centre houses two Mass Rearing facilities; the Waainek Mass Rearing Facility and the Uitenhage Biological Control Facility. It also houses a Quarantine Facility for research into host-specificity and fecundity of potential biological control agents. There are 35 staff members and 25 postgrad students working at the facilities.
Dr Sean Moore of Citrus Research International, in his keynote on the value of the Biological Control Centre to Agriculture, shared that over half of the South African population struggles to eat regularly and 28% are at constant risk of going hungry.
“In the next five years, the demand for expertise in biological control will hit the roof, so it is important to invest in it from school all the way to postgrad level,” advised Dr Moore.
The Centre hosted Professor Cliff Moran, Emeritus Professor at the University of Cape Town. Prof Moran was the Head of Entomology at Rhodes in the early 80s, and is today regarded as one the best entomologists in the country.
The Centre will service relevant stakeholders by making biological control agents available free to researchers, implementation officers, reserve and water quality managers, farmers and concerned members of the public who want to get involved in preserving biodiversity and controlling invasive species in their local natural environments.
Since 2002, the Group now known as a Centre has produced 140 peer-reviewed publications, 160 conference papers and its scientific staff members have successfully supervised 34 MSc students and 21 PhD graduates.
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