Ms Malira Masoabi, a postgraduate student from the Institute for Plant Biotechnology (IPB), was invited to attend the annual year-end symposium of the South African Sugar Association (SASA), held in Mount Edgecombe in KwaZulu-Natal. This event brings together all the postgraduate students connected to the South African Sugar Research Institute (SASRI) to present their research project progress to peers and other role players in the sugar industry. The IPB has a long-standing association with SASRI, which results in research funding from the sugar industry, as well as collaborative research efforts between the two institutes. Research on sugarcane done at the IPB, and funded by SASA, focuses mainly on carbohydrate metabolism to elevate sucrose levels and on mechanisms to enhance drought tolerance in this crop.
Ms Masoabi presented her work in an oral presentation entitled "Application of chemical mutagenesis and in vitro osmotic selection to enhance drought tolerance in sugarcane". The presented work forms part of Miss Masoabi's thesis, for which she was awarded her MSc degree at the Stellenbosch University December graduation ceremony of the Faculty of Science. Her supervisors for this thesis were Drs Christell van der Vyver and James Lloyd. Miss Masoabi developed a tissue culture-based selection system that can identify sugarcane cells with increased drought tolerance due to random mutations introduced into the cells' DNA. Miss Masoabi is planning to continue with her sugarcane research in 2017 by registering at the IPB for a PhD, which will be co-supervised by Dr Sandy Snyman from SASRI.
In addition to attending the symposium, Miss Masoabi visited the SASRI rain-shelter facilities, which she may use during her PhD studies. She also received further training in sugarcane in vitro multiplication techniques developed by the Variety Improvement Programme headed by Dr Snyman.