WSU STUDENTS’ RESEARCH DISCOVERS HOW CITRUS WASTE CAN PRESERVE MAIZE

 Greenwood Farm

Research done by Walter Sisulu University students has led to the discovery of alternative ways in which citrus waste can be used as a pesticide in maize preservation.

The PhD, Masters, and Honours students from the fields of Chemistry, Economics, and Zoology tested how citrus leaves and peels can repel maize eating pests when processed into powder,.

WSU’s Department of Chemical and Physical Sciences lecturer, Professor Adebola Oyedeji, said that the research would solve major food security problems for maize farmers, and curb the health implications of using dangerous pesticides on food for human consumption.

“We are looking at how we can convert the peels and leaves of citrus into medicine that can be used for human beings and post-harvest preservation. Maize is a major staple food in South Africa, and we find that the moment a weevil enters a bag of maize, it is ruined. So instead of discarding citrus waste, we blend it into powder and use it to preserve maize,” said Oyedeji.

Following successful lab testing, they obtained funding from the Department of Science and Innovation, as well as the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research.

“The government is now funding us to bring this project right into the farm land. So from here we will take it to farmers and teach them how to use the powder to preserve their harvest,” said Oyedeji

The DSI-CSIR and the RTF- NRF grants have the following investigators:

  • Prof Adebola O Oyedeji - WSU Department of Chemical and Physical Sciences
  • Dr SK Kuria - WSU Department of Biological and Environmental Sciences
  • Dr YS Hosu - WSU Department of Economics and Business Sciences
  • Prof OO Oyedeji - UFH Department of Chemistry
  • Mr MG Miya - WSU Department of Chemical and Physical Sciences

South Africa is one of the four major exporters of citrus and its by-products. This means that tons of waste are generated in the process, and are simply discarded into the environment. With this new and exciting development by WSU’s Chemical and Physical Sciences Department, that waste will be diverted from reaching the environment and turned into something useful.

Not only will this research help sustain farmers’ crops and have health benefits for consumers, but it is also going to influence the environment positively.

Speaking on the partnerships with farmers, Mzolisi Payi, Director of Community Engagement and Internationalisation at WSU said:

“This partnership between Walter Sisulu University and the citrus farmers is clear evidence of the university's impact on our communities. Through this project, we are able to assist farmers in developing smart and effective ways in which they can use and manage their waste. They in turn, by availing their farms for research purposes, help in the development of our students and academics in terms of their research on alternative uses of waste on the farm.”

So far, three farms have been roped into the project, including Greenwood Citrus farm in Fort Beaufort.

- Yanga Ziwele