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Research Features

This research programme focuses on bacterial diseases of trees, both plantation and native tree species and to a lesser extent, fruit trees. We have two major research focuses – one on taxonomy and the other on pathogenicity factors exhibited by a select group of pathogens. The taxonomic research involves identifying new species using modern approaches, mainly in the Enterobacteriaceae. The majority of bacteria we have identified thus far have been opportunistic plant pathogens whilst others have been associated with plants as endophytes. This has led to a number of studies where we have attempted to understand how these opportunists can function as successful plant pathogens despite the fact that they occur in other ecological niches which are often diverse, such as in diesel fuel.

Our interest has primarily been on Pantoea ananatis and related Pantoea species, although we do have research projects on Xanthomonas spp. and Ralstonia solanacearum. P. ananatis is responsible for bacterial blight and die-back of Eucalyptus, brown stalk rot of maize and occurs on onion seed in South Africa. Our studies have centred on taxonomy and on developing rapid and reliable methods of distinguishing between the species of Pantoea. We are now expanding this research and are using a phylogenomic approach to examine this genus. Other elements currently under investigation include understanding the epidemiology and biology of primarily P. ananatis, but this has been expanded to include the other pathogens mentioned above as well. We have identified a number of pathogenicity factors in P. ananatis and this has given us some insight into its life as a phytopathogen. The approach we have used has involved both comparative and functional genomics. The pathogenicity factors investigated have included motility, Type VI secretion system, quorum sensing and exopolysaccharide production.

New Publications

Ramaswe JB, Steenkamp ET, De Vos L, Fru FF, Adegeye OO, Wingfield BD. (2024) Sex pheromone receptor Ste2 orchestrates chemotropic growth towards pine root extracts in the pitch canker pathogen Fusarium circinatum. Pathogens 13:425. 10.3390/pathogens13050425
Marais I, Buitendag C, Duong TA, Crampton BG, Theron J, Kidanemarium D, Berger DK. (2024) Double-stranded RNA uptake for the control of the maize pathogen Cercospora zeina. Plant Pathology Online first:1-11. 10.1111/ppa.13909
van Heerden A, Pham NQ, Wingfield BD, Wingfield MJ, Muro Abad JI, Durán A, Wilken PM. (2024) LAMP assay to detect Elsinoë necatrix; an important Eucalyptus shoot and leaf pathogen. Plant Disease 10.1094/PDIS-01-24-0086-RE
Silva GA, Oliveira MES, Rêgo GMS, Wingfield BD, Wingfield MJ, Ferreira MA. (2024) Chrysoporthe brasiliensis sp. nov. pathogenic to Melastomataceae in southeast Brazil. Fungal Biology 10.1016/j.funbio.2024.04.001
Fick A, Swart V, Bombarely A, van den Berg N. (2024) Comparative transcriptional analysis of Persea americana MYB, WRKY and AP2/ERF transcription factors following Phytophthora cinnamomi infection. Molecular Plant Pathology 25(4):e13453. 10.1111/mpp.13453 PDF
Van Lill M, Venter SN, Muema EK, Palmer M., Beukes CW, Chan WY, Steenkamp ET. (2024) SeqCode facilitates naming of South African rhizobia left in limbo. Systematics and Applied Microbiology 47(2-3):126504. 10.1016/j.syapm.2024.126504 PDF
Visagie CM, Meyer H, Yilmaz N. (2024) Maize–Fusarium associations and their mycotoxins: Insights from South Africa. Fungal Biology 10.1016/j.funbio.2024.03.009
Elisa P, Allison J, Hurley BP, Slippers B, Fourie G. (2024) Lethal and sublethal effects of insecticides on Bathycoelia distincta (Heteroptera: Pentatomidae). African Entomology 32: e16992:1-9. 10.17159/2254-8854/2024/a16992
Pietersen G, Morgan S, Read DA. (2024) First report of Citrus concave gum-associated virus (CCGaV) on apple (Malus spp.) in South Africa. Journal of Plant Pathology 10.1007/s42161-024-01629-9
Gush S, Lebre P, Coutinho TA, Cowan DA, van der Waals JE. (2024) Disentangling shifts in the soil microbiome of potatoes infected with Rhizoctonia solani Anastomosis Group 3-PT in search of potential biocontrol agents. Phytobiomes Journal 10.1094/PBIOMES-06-23-0046-R