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Birhan Abate is the latest student at FABI to complete a PhD degree and the first to deliver a prestige seminar in 2017. He passed his PhD oral examination on 27 January, a day after presenting his prestige seminar. Prof. Mike Wingfield presented him with a framed certificate of completion, an award accorded to FABIans who reach this milestone, and congratulated him for his “trailblazing” work.  

Birhan’s presentation was titled "Molecular characterization and evaluation of entomopathogenic nematodes in South African forestry plantations". It summarised his research project, the focus of which was the use of entomopathogenic nematodes (EPNs) as biological control agents against white grubs and other insect pests in South African plantations.

Birhan isolated and described a new species of nematode, Steinernema fabii (named after FABI) from soil samples at an Acacia mearnsii plantation in the Mpumalanga province that is different from other Steinernema species. He also highlighted some of the challenges in the application of EPNs such as their poor survival rates after application due to UV radiation, dehydration and the availability of host targets.

 

Birhan conducted his research under the supervision of Dr Brett Hurley as primary advisor (becoming Dr Hurley’s second student to complete a PhD degree) as well as Profs Bernard Slippers and Mike Wingfield. His external examiners were Prof. Mary Barbercheck from Pennsylvania State University in the United States, Prof. Driekie Fourie from North-West University and Prof. Fanus Venter from the University of Pretoria. Dr Hurley applauded Birhan for publishing two chapters from his PhD thesis and for his hard work, passion and persistence despite the challenges he encountered. 

New Publications

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Marincowitz S, Duong TA, Heiniger U, Wingfield BD, Wingfield MJ, De Beer ZW. (2017) A new Leptographium species from the roots of declining Pinus sylvestris in Switzerland. Forest Pathology 10.1111/efp.12346
Faulkner KT, Hurley BP, Robertson MP, Rouget M, Wilson JRU. (2017) The balance of trade in alien species between South Africa and the rest of Africa. Bothalia 47 10.4102/abc.v47i2.2157
Van der Linde JA, Wingfield MJ, Crous CJ, Six DL, Roux J. (2017) Landscape degradation may contribute to large-scale die-offs of Euphorbia ingens in South Africa. South African Journal of Botany 111:144-152. 10.1016/j.sajb.2017.03.022 PDF
Kenis M, Hurley BP, Hajek A, Cock MJW. (2017) Classical biological control of insect pests of trees: facts and figures. Biological Invasions 10.1007/s10530-017-1414-4
Van der Linde JA, Six DL, Wingfield MJ, Roux J. (2017) Fungi and insects associated with Euphorbia ingens die-off in South Africa. Southern Forests 10.2989/20702620.2016.1263004 PDF