Phytophthora diseases have long been a problem in commercial forestry in many countries. In South African plantations, the prevalence of Phytophthora infections has grown dramatically in recent years as a result of climate change and various other factors. Sappi, in collaboration with Dr Tanay Bose (Forestry South Africa funded postdoctoral Fellow) and Prof. Almuth Hammerbacher from the Tree Protection Co-operative Programme (TPCP), launched numerous disease resistance trials to address this issue.

Dr. Bose and Prof. Hammerbacher, together with Sappi's research programme leaders Prof. Jolanda Roux and Mr Wayne Jones, inoculated 19 families of Eucalyptus benthamii with Phytophthora alticola during the week of 27 September 2021. Five months post-inoculation, these E. benthamii plants were harvested on 1 February. The pathogenicity was measured by recording the fresh root and shoot weights, root volumes, plant heights, the diameter of the root collar and several more variables. Isolations were also done to fulfil Koch's postulates. Besides this, Dr Bose, along with Lihan Esterhuizen and Johannes Christoff Joubert, collected leaf reflectance data using an ASD FieldSpec to assess if there was a difference in leaf reflectance between control and infected plants. Data emerging from this trial will assist Sappi in screening their commercial families of E. benthamii against P. alticola and possibly other Phytophthora species prevalent in the commercial forestry environment of South Africa.