The SANBI-funded postdoctoral research project, tasked to monitor plant health in botanical gardens across South Africa, has detected and identified many native and alien pests and pathogens in various gardens since its initiation in 2016. The project has also worked towards building the capacity of horticulturists to detect and manage plant health problems. You can visit the Sentinel Plant Network page on the FABI website by clicking here

Linking and working together with historically disadvantaged institutes is one of the requirements of the project. In line with this, Drs. Mesfin Gossa and Trudy Paap initiated a link with the Department of Horticulture at the Durban University of Technology (DUT) to discuss possibilities of student training via the Sentinel Plant Project. During the week of 27 April, Trudy Paap, Felipe Balocchi and Mesfin Gossa travelled to Pietermaritzburg and Durban. There they had fruitful discussions with their partners at DUT, Ms. Indrani Hazel Govender and Drs. Ignatious Matimati and Pravin Mark Maistry on potential areas of collaboration. Following the discussion, demonstrations on plant health assessment and sampling techniques were conducted with 12 students who are currently completing the DUT postgraduate and advanced diploma in Horticulture. It was exciting to see the enthusiasm of the students, which was not in the least bit dampened by the rain on the day. A training workshop for these students will also be conducted during the last week of May 2021.  

In addition to the activities conducted with DUT, plant health assessments were undertaken in the KwaZulu-Natal National Botanical Garden and Durban Botanic Gardens. A number of pest and pathogen problems were detected during the visit, and samples were collected for identification. Horticulturists working for Durban Botanic Gardens and for the Department of Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment have also joined these plant health assessment visits in the Durban Botanic Gardens.