Bursary Programme at South African Sugarcane Research Institute

Posted on :

17 Oct, 2016

Category :

Bursaries in South Africa

The South African Sugarcane Research Institute (SASRI) is a division of the South African Sugar Association. As primary provider of agro-technical expertise to the South African sugar industry, SASRI delivers diverse research and development (R&D) outcomes to the industry.
To support and promote innovation in these key R&D areas, SASRI hosts a dynamic post-graduate student and post-doctoral researcher programme in conjunction with several leading South African universities, including the University of KwaZulu-Natal, University of Pretoria, University of the Free State and Stellenbosch University.

This post-graduate bursary offers tuition fees and board and lodging on site at the Sugarcane Research Institute in Mount Edgecombe. The successful candidates will be based at SASRI (Mount Edgecombe) and will register with one of the South African Universities.

Available Opportunities

1. MSC Agric Engineering Bursary
Determining yield variances within fields would provide valuable information that can be used by farmers for precision agriculture applications. Potential postgraduate research opportunities exists within the sugarcane industry to investigate, propose, develop and field test technology and techniques that can be used to determine and map infield yield variability. It is envisaged that various technique(s) prior or during the harvesting operations be investigated to test if such objectives can be achieved with reasonable accuracy. The integrated use of on-board sensors linked to GNSS posit ioning of loading or extraction equipment is a potential solution worthy of investigation. Protocols to gather field data combined with hardware, software, sensors and logger integration that can be used within GIS applications would provide an ultimate solution. The solution needs to be cost effective and practical to allow for easy adoption by farmers.

2. MSC Entomology Bursary

Yellow sugarcane aphid (YSA),Sipha flava, has recently become established as a pest in the South African sugar industry, making it important to estimate crop yield losses so that the benefits of managing the aphid can be determined. Experiments using artificially infested potted sugarcane will be employed in this study as a means to predict yield loss due to YSA at different intensities of infestation, over differing infestation periods, and in varieties of differing susceptibility. An attempt will be made to incorporate the findings, especially YSA leaf feeding damage and effects on photosynthesis, into an existing crop growth model as a means enhance the accuracy of crop yield predictions. Statistical analysis will also aim to identify the independent variables that best explain observed leaf damage, photosynthetic activity, and crop growth, as a function of initial aphid numbers and infestation period in susceptible versus resistant varieties.

3. MSC Plant Sciences Bursary

NovaCane is a tissue culture process used to micropropagate sugarcane by shoot multiplication in vitro. There is some evidence to suggest that the plants have thinner stalks and tiller more profusely when planted in the field. Various factors in the in vitro culture process may cause the altered phenotype e.g. build-up of ethylene in vessels and the effect of a novel class of plant hormones, strigalactones, which have been observed to cause high tillering in the cereals. The project will involve production of sugarcane plants in vitro using modifications to the current protocol and subsequent evaluation of stalk phenotype in the field.

4. MSC Crop Production Bursary

Harvest age (HA) is one of the most important management factors affecting productivity of sugarcane in South Africa. The recent release of new, faster growing sugarcane varieties, the availability of insecticides to control the eldana sugarcane borer (which increases in older sugarcane), and questions around the economics of different harvest ages, have led to uncertainty around the optimal HAs for the different regions. This project will involve data mining of experimental and production databases, crop model simulations of different HA options, and an economic analysis of available data, to determine the optimal HA for the three major production regions in the industry Guidelines will be developed to assist growers with HA decisions under different yield potential conditions.

5. Post Doctorate in Plant Sciences

Sugarcane cultivars are released after a long plant breeding selection process during which multiple beneficial traits are targeted. With the increasing frequency, duration and severity of drought, leading to outbreaks of the stalk boring lepidopteran pestEldana saccharina, novel methods of producing resistant sugarcane cultivars are desirable. A possible solution to this problem is the generation of resistant cultivars from otherwise elite material by exploiting epigenetic variation.

The aim of the project is to generate epigenetic variation within the genetic redundancy of this highly polyploid species. Epigenetic ‘re-programming’ of the genome will be achieved in vitro through DNA de-methylation using azacytidine, followed by re-methylation in the presence of PARP inhibition and/or chemical defence priming, plus various stress treatments (e.g. PEG and heat/cold) in vitro. Regenerated plants will be further characterised using various biochemical assays as well as methylation sensitive and insensitive AFLP.


MSc in Engineering (Agricultural)
BSc Hons in Entomology
BSc Honours in Plant Sciences/Biochemistry/Genetics/Plant Biotechnology
PhD in Plant Sciences/Biochemistry/Genetics/Plant Biotechnology
BSc Hons in Crop Production/Agronomy

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