Dr Bart Lombard was born on 12 January 1936 on a Swartland wheat farm in the district of Malmesbury, and due to this it can possibly be stated that he was pre-destined to serve the community from whose bowels he emerged and which formed his personality and value system. After matriculating from the Swartland High School in Malmesbury in 1953, he spent the first three years of his adult life assisting his parents on the mixed farming enterprise in the Malmesbury district, a period of apprenticeship which would later in life stand him in good stead, when he embarked on his scientific career as a plant breeder of wheat, barley and lupins in the Western Cape.
In 1957 he registered at the University of Stellenbosch for the degree BSc. Forestry, which he in 1958 switched to BSc (Agric) with Agronomy and Animal Husbandry as major subjects. He completed his graduate studies in 1961, and then registered for an MSc-degree, under the tutorship of the legendary Prof FX Laubscher, which he completed in 1963; the title of his thesis was: ‘n Studie oor die erflike grondslag van stamroesweerstand by koring (A study on the hereditary basis of stem rust resistance in wheat). In more than one way this study was to lay the foundation for his future life, for not only did it lay the foundation of his future career as a very successful plant breeder in which he closely studied and consciously exploited the close host/pathogen relationships, leading to many resistant and successful wheat, barley and lupin cultivars; but more importantly, he also met his future wife who ably supported him with the technical pathologic assistance for many years. To a large degree, this initial study put South African wheat breeders on the international path in combatting stem rust in wheat by the deployment of effective major resistance genes. In this process he established the first local set of differential cultivars for the identification of specific stem rust pathotypes in South Africa.
In March 1963, Lombard joined the Department of Agriculture as wheat breeder in Bethlehem, where he was tutored by Mr Ernst Pieper, wheat breeder/agronomist, regarding wheat production practices in the Highveld Region. At that time the cultivar Scheepers was still the dominant cultivar, used as an all -round crop for grazing and for the production of a poor quality bread wheat, however it succumbed to stem rust, until Lombard released a selection named Scheepers 69, which, due to its drought resistance is still in production in marginal areas to this day. In this period Lombard also established contact with Prof Ian Watson and Prof Bob Mc Intosh at the University of Sydney, and this collaboration was critical in his career as a scientist and a very successful researcher, and eventually culminated in a PhD-degree in 1986, conferred by the University of Stellenbosch in collaboration with the University of Sydney, Australia, the title being: Host pathogen interactions involving wheat and Puccinia graminis tritici in South Africa.
Together with Pieper he later released the cultivars Betta, Belinda, Barta and Benita which made the production of high quality wheat in the Free State a reality, and paved the way for a large expansion of wheat production in the Free State Province of South Africa. In 1975, Lombard severed his ties with the Department of Agriculture, and joined SENSAKO Seed Company, with the undertaking to transfer him back to the Welgevallen Greenhouse Complex, University of Stellenbosch, where he remained until his eventual retirement from Monsanto in February 2000. In 1977 the really productive period started for Lombard, and he masterfully exploited the backcross method to insert single major resistance genes into already existing high yielding quality cultivars of wheat, barley and lupins. In the case of winter wheat he released cultivars SST102, SST 103 and SST 124, while a whole range of new spring wheat cultivars emerged in the Western Cape of which SST44 and SST88 were probably the most important, and slowly emerged as dominant wheat cultivars and over a long period of time; in the case of SST 88, this cultivar is currently still being produced although it is not actively marketed any more. Using the same method, with different pathogens, he released barley cultivars SSG525 and SSG 532, while lupin varieties SSL2, SSL 4 and SSL 6, also made large contributions over many years. In order to circumvent lodging due to eyespot disease (Helgardia herpotrichoides), Lombard successfully introduced the solid stem genes (originally introduced by Prof R de V Pienaar) and released the cultivars SST 57 and SST 95 with this trait; SST 57 being the more successful as it also contained useful stem rust resistance genes. Lombard’s success can be attributed to hard work, intimate knowledge of the life cycle of various pathogens, the genetics of host cultivars and especially the interaction between host and pathogen.
By nature Dr Bart Lombard is a quiet-spoken and unassuming individual, however he actively participated in the activities of the Western Cape Wheat Development Committee (better known under the acronym KKOV), and by whom he was honored with honorary membership as well as with a merit award. In 1998 he was nominated Western Cape scientist of the year by the Agricultural Writers Association and later in the same year he was named the national Agricultural Scientist of the year.
Although Bart Lombard did not actively participate in the activities of the SAPBA, it is apt that he be honored by this Association due to the exceptional services he rendered to the industries he served, both as a scientist of distinctive merit and a mentor to many post graduate students.