Fruit industry will benefit from outcome of research
Nompumelelo Prudence Mtsweni wants to use the fruits of her love and labour to help fellow South Africans. Mtsweni is working on ways to establish early detection methods that will warn farmers of the onset of disease on the fruit plants. While her work in focused on one fruit – papaya – her work is expected to assist the agricultural industry – a major contributor of jobs and economic growth – to save their fruit crops and prevent losses caused by the diseases.
The outcome of Mtsweni’s research will be crucial to the South African fruit industry, whose success and profitability depends on plant disease management that includes preventative and curative measures based on improved scientific agricultural technology. Mtsweni’s current research is looking at the characterization and the pathogenicity of the fungi Colletotrichum on papaya fruits in SA. The research aims at developing early detection methods of the pathogen on the fruits for better management strategies and prevention of the spread of disease. Mtsweni hopes that her research will make the fourth industrial revolution work for women by raising income levels of women in the agriculture sector which will improve the quality of life for all people. Her research will also assist the policymakers for the export market so that more crops can be exported.
Mtsweni obtained a National Diploma (2014) and a BTech. degree in Biotechnology (2016) from the Tshwane University of Technology. She is currently enrolled for an MTech. degree at the same institution, with a focus on the post-harvest disease of subtropical fruits. She received the student recognition awards at both the 2016 and 2017 Biotech Fundi sponsored by the Gauteng Department of Agriculture and Rural Development. In 2017, she was named the best performing student at the same awards. Through the travel award offered by the International Congress of Plant Pathology in partnership with the American Phytopathological Society, Mtsweni presented her research in Boston, USA, in July 2018. She also presented her research to the SA Association of Botanists in 2018, and at the SA Society of Plant Pathology held in January. Mtsweni is also involved in community work in Mamelodi with programmes aimed at restoring hope and helping young people fight against drugs, alcohol and teenage pregnancies.