Dr Lindsay Muchena is originally from Zimbabwe but has gotten to know South Africa well during her studies. She started her journey in 2010 in the Eastern Cape, where she obtained her BSc in agronomy and crop science from the University of Fort Hare. She then moved to Gauteng for her MSc in horticultural science at the University of Pretoria.
“In the third year of my studies, I applied for a bursary from the Citrus Academy,” says Muchena. “That’s when I started working on citrus, and I saw that horticulture is an interesting branch of agriculture, so from then on, I specialised in horticulture.”
For her MSc research, she tested various kelp products and vermicompost extracts on the growth of citrus seedlings in a hydroponic system. “We found that the vermicompost extracts promoted root growth more than the kelp products, but the kelp products promoted above-ground growth and photosynthesis,” she recalls.
Muchena met Prof. Stephanie Midgley at the combined congress of the South African Societies for Horticultural Sciences and Crop Production, and the Soil Science Society of South Africa. This led to Muchena applying for a PhD at Stellenbosch University, where she worked on the response of different apple rootstocks to water stress.
After completing her PhD research, Muchena joined the University of the Free State as a lecturer in horticultural science.
When asked which part of South Africa is her favourite, Muchena answers without hesitation. “The Western Cape! In terms of the agriculture happening there, it was amazing to see the extent to which farmers are planting, whether it’s apples or pears or grapevines.”
Although she is concerned about the potential impacts of climate change on agriculture, Muchena believes that research can support growers in mitigating the risks. “There is a need to adopt new technologies,” she affirms, “and to make use of new information that is coming out of research.”