Original Research

The role of botany in the development of the Republic of South Africa with special emphasis on the contributions of the Botanical Research Institute

D. J. B. Killick, D. de Winter, N. Grobbelaar, D. Edwards, M. J. Wells, S. A. Hulme, D. M. Joubert
Bothalia | Vol 12, No 4 | a1447 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/abc.v12i4.1447 | © 1979 D. J. B. Killick, D. de Winter, N. Grobbelaar, D. Edwards, M. J. Wells, S. A. Hulme, D. M. Joubert | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 12 November 1979 | Published: 12 November 1979

About the author(s)

D. J. B. Killick, Botanical Research Institute, Department of Agricultural Technical Services, South Africa
D. de Winter,
N. Grobbelaar, Departement Plantkunde, Universiteit van Pretoria, South Africa
D. Edwards, Botanical Research Institute, Depart­ ment of Agricultural Technical Services, South Africa
M. J. Wells, Botanical Research Institute, Department of Agricultural Technical Services, South Africa
S. A. Hulme, Akkerbou en Weiding, Departement van Landbou-tegniese Dienste, South Africa
D. M. Joubert, , Wetenskaplike en Nywerheidsnavorsingsraad, South Africa

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Abstract

Five papers cover different aspects of the contributions to and role of botany in the development of the Republic of South Africa. Two papers sum up the contributions for the non-agricultural and agricultural sectors.

The introductory paper by D. J. B. Killick provides a short historical account of the Botanical Research Institute, followed by a discussion of the contributions of the Institute to botany in South Africa through its National Herbarium and identification service as well as researches in taxonomy, plant anatomy, cyto-genetics, ecology, economic botany and data processing.

B. de Winter emphasizes the fundamental role of taxonomy and bio-systematics for planning and the optimal use of the natural plant resources. The current support for taxonomy and biosystematics is examined and proposals made for improving progress in the Flora of Southern Africa series.

For plant physiology, N. Grobbelaar discusses, firstly, the ways whereby the productivity of a plant species with its characteristic genetic constitution can be raised by determining and modifying for optimal response the effects of environmental factors such as spacing, mineral nutrition, water provision, etc.; and, secondly, usually when the first means has been achieved, of improving plant productivity by altering the genetic constitution of the plant so that it can perform better than its ancestors under the prevailing conditions.

After discussing and illustrating the applications and roles of plant ecology, D. Edwards concludes that basic plant ecological research is required, firstly, at the regional level through regional plant ecological studies to supply the essential local knowledge needed by researchers, planners and users of the land; and, secondly, at the more detailed level where knowledge is needed of the processes and factors that govern the behaviour of vegetation so that it can be properly used, managed and manipulated.

M. J. Wells discusses the role of economic botanists for priority research assessment, and for research on problem plants, such as weeds, and on plants for food and other useful products, especially from the rich and untapped South African flora of over 17 000 species. The needs for an adequate base of primary botanical data are stressed, and for ethnobotanical work to assist exploration of plant uses.

S. A. Hulme, in his summing up for the agricultural sector, points out that despite the emergence of the specialist agricultural disciplines, botanical research remains fundamental to the understanding of the plant. Following on the important contributions that botany has made to agriculture, there remain many important contributions to agriculture for the future through physiological and other botanical studies.

In his summing up for the non-agricultural sector, D. M. Joubert illustrates the ways whereby the influence of the Botanical Research Institute and its co-operation with other institutes and organizations extends beyond the purely agricultural field to other national programmes involving terrestrial and inland water ecosystems, in plant alkaloid research, in nature conservation, etc.


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