The Sentinel Plant Project, funded by the South African National Biodiversity Institute (SANBI) and hosted by the Forestry and Agricultural Biotechnology Institute (FABI), at the University of Pretoria is tasked to monitor plant health in botanical gardens in South Africa. Since its initiation in 2016, many pests and pathogens, including the Polyphagous Shot Hole Borer (PSHB), have been detected and identified from the botanical gardens. The project has also undertaken capacity building activities for botanical garden, city park and government department staff, interns and students.

In April 2021, Drs. Mesfin Gossa and Trudy Paap met with staff members of the Department of Horticulture at Durban University of Technology (DUT) to discuss possibilities for student training through the Sentinel Plant Project. Following this, Drs Gossa and Paap, in collaboration with Ms. Indrani Hazel Govender and Dr Pravin Mark Maistryfrom DUT, hosted a three-day training workshop between 24-26 May. Twelve DUT horticulture students and two eThekwini Municipality horticulturists attended the training. The workshop consisted of presentations including an introduction to pests and pathogens and their management; pest and pathogen surveillance; urban tree health; Phytophthora biology, impact and management; and the PSHB invasion in South Africa.  

In addition to the presentations, the students visited PSHB monitoring sites in Durban North. The visit was led by Garyn Delport, a PhD candidate in FABI who has been monitoring the incidence and impact of PSHB in natural vegetation. Students had an opportunity to see the signs and symptoms of PSHB infestation, and how the sites are being monitored. Visits to the Zimbali Estate and Amanzimnyama Garden (a private garden in Tongaat) were also made, with the objective to identify student projects linked to plant health. This training workshop is valuable as it helps to build plant health capacity in South Africa.