A local researcher and lecturer in the field of agriculture was recently elected as a member of the Southern African Plant Breeders’ Association (SAPBA) executive committee that will serve until March 2022.
Dr Angeline van Biljon was named a member during the SAPBA conference in Pretoria.
An expert in agricultural research, Van Biljon is a senior lecturer in the Department of Plant Sciences at the University of the Free State (UFS). Her election was based on her knowledge of the industry.
Van Biljon collaborates on work regarding wheat quality with researchers in the wheat industry at the Agricultural Research Council (ARC) Small Grain Institute in Bethlehem. She is a committee member of Cereal Science and Technology South Africa and also serves on several other platforms, contributing to the plant breeding industry.
Van Biljon is delighted that her appointment to the new position brings with it the possibility for her students to work closely with people in industry.
“Other members of the committee are breeders in seed and breeding companies,” she said.
Currently Van Biljon is focusing on her research, which involves the study of the nutritional value of various crops by determining, among other things, the beta-carotene values of butternut squash, the starch quality of wheat and the tryptophan value of quality protein maize.
“I also look at the influence of abiotic stress on the crop quality and nutritional value of various crops.”
For the past two years, she has been giving online lectures on biofortification as part of a National Research Foundation and Swedish Foundation for International Cooperation in Research and Higher Education (Stint/NRF) group in Alnarp, Sweden. However, she regards a working visit to the Nanjing Agricultural University in China as one of her biggest highlights.
Although genetics had been one of her passions as student, Van Biljon said she eventually found herself as a flower breeder at the ARC Roodeplaat.
Years later she returned to the UFS to complete her PhD in Plant Breeding, and today she helps students see the difference plant breeding can make in crop improvement and food security.