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Moringa oleifera plant primarily is globally used for its medicinal and nutritional benefits. Its leaves contain more vitamin C than oranges, more potassium than bananas and more protein than eggs and milk, whilst ben oil extracted from Moringa oleifera seeds has anti-inflammatory elements. 

Thus, more applications of Moringa oleifera are being explored in other industries such as the pharmaceutical, cosmetic, animal feed and water treatment industries.

Although known for being a resilient plant, Moringa oleifera can be susceptible to pests and diseases. These pests and diseases present significant threats to tree crop cultivation. In South African particularly, Diplodia rot may occur in waterlogged soils as a result of excessive irrigation of Moringa oleifera plant causing discolouration of the leaves from green to yellow and results in severe wilting that ultimately destroys the plant.

In recent years, the exploration of other applications of Moringa oleifera have led to Moringa oleifera being included in water treatment and animal feed industries. In water treatment, Moringa oleifera seeds can be used as a coagulant. Laboratory based studies have shown positive results on the effectiveness of Moringa oleifera seeds as a coagulant for water purification. 

A study conducted at the University in Namibia concluded that Moringa seeds in water treatment can reduce turbidity up to 92-99% and also decrease clay and bacteria content in raw water. The viability of using Moringa oleifera seeds in a large-scale water treatment such as that of eMalahleni Water Treatment Plant still needs to be investigated and piloted. However, a major constraint identified is the availability of a consistent supply of large volumes of Moringa oleifera seeds.

Also, the use of Moringa oleifera plant as an ingredient into the production of animal feed has been recently explored. Due to the high levels of protein in Moringa oleifera leaves, studies have recommended that it be fed to goats and dairy cows as a supplementary diet. 

In South Africa, a study conducted by the University of Fort Hare on Honeydale farm on cross-bred Xhosa lop-eared goats showed an increase in the quality of goat meat from goats that were fed a meal supplement with Moringa oleifera leaf when compared to the quality of meat that of goats fed sunflower seed cake meal.

Another study was conducted by the University of Limpopo to determine the effects of a Moringa oleifera seed-supplemented diet on the productivity of Ross 308 broiler chickens.

From the study, Ross 308 broiler chickens aged 1 to 21 days that were fed Moringa oleifera seed diet showed an improved growth rate and reduced mortality rate. Both studies provide an indication of positive effects that Moringa oleifera may have on animals when fed a Moringa oleifera leaf and seed supplemented diet.

It is evident the applications of Moringa oleifera may be explored in various industries such as pharmaceuticals, cosmetics, food and environmental management. Thus, an integral part in the application Moringa oleifera in the industries highlighted above is to understand its chemical composition and what role the soil composition plays when growing Moringa oleifera.

The chemical analysis conducted on Moringa oleifera plant (leaves and seeds) and soil in this research study displayed variability in the nutritional composition on the samples collected from the ten farms. Generally, the chemical composition of leaves and seeds from various Page 91 of 107

Growing and Agro-Processing of Moringa oleifera with commercial potential in South Africa farms throughout South Africa indicated Moringa oleifera to be a good source of protein, fibre, lipids, polyphenolic, flavonoids and vitamins.

Furthermore, the leaves were noted as an excellent source of minerals such as Ca, Cu, Co, Fe, K, Mg, Na and Zn. High nutritional data derived from the nutrient characterisation of Moringa oleifera clearly indicates that the plant’s leaves have the potential to be used as a

food supplement with multiple purposes. However, the results of the macro-elements from the leaves exhibited concerning high content of macro-elements and iron when compared to the maximum limit set by different international organisations. 

Thus, the high content of macroelements and iron need to be further investigated in order to understand the dynamic extraction mechanism of these macro-elements and iron from the leaves that are often harvested to produce Moringa oleifera based products for human ingestion. In addition, the clinical implication of these elements must be investigated to determine the toxicology of Moringa oleifera ingested over a period of time.

Moringa oleifera trading has grown to be a billion Rands sector, with India having the highest market share of Moringa oleifera. The growing trend to consume plant-based herbal products such as Moringa oleifera products presents an opportunity to formalise trading and commercialisation of Moringa oleifera. Therefore, there is opportunity for South Africa to increase its trading of Moringa oleifera in the formal sector.

The three proposed business models can be implemented to further develop and formalise the trading of Moringa oleifera. Although most Moringa growers lack the technical agricultural knowledge, it is recommended that support be provided through the implementation agri-hubs or business incubators. Moringa oleifera farmers may gain better understanding of good framing practices and most importantly, effective pest control measures.

The chemical analysis conducted on Moringa oleifera revealed high content of macroelements and iron. It is recommended that further research be conducted with the objective to understand the dynamic extraction mechanism of these macro-elements and iron from the leaves that are often harvested to produce Moringa oleifera based products for human ingestion. The toxicology of Moringa oleifera was not part of the scope of this study, thus, targeted study with clinical trials on these elements needs to be investigated to determine the toxicology of Moringa oleifera when ingested over a period of time.

Finally, the application of Moringa oleifera in water treatment has only been proven to work at a small scale. The viability of applying of Moringa oleifera at a large scale could not be established as part of this study. Therefore, the feasibility of Moringa oleifera application on a large scAle in water treatment, still needs to be investigated through a pilot study.


Abel van der Merwe | +27 61 493 2256 | 

Rian Malan | +27 83 885 1660 |   



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