On 17-18 May, the FABI Grain Research Programme (GRP) extension team consisting of Dr David Read, Kholiwe Mbanyane, Kholosa Maqolo and Dr Mahlane Godfrey Kgatle visited a FABI-CropWatch Africa sentinel plot in Komatipoort. This plot was initiated as part of a process to monitor and collect maize pests for rearing and Bt monitoring projects, as well as a sentinel for diseases in the area and new diseases that might enter across the north-eastern borders.

The purpose of the field trip was to firstly test the newly-developed CropWatch Biosecurity App for GRP sample logging and in field data capturing. Taking this approach will allow the team to provide farmers with an in-depth preliminary report as soon as field observations are made. In the process, we will also help capture information in a centralized database on the distribution of pests and diseases in the grain industry. Secondly, we aimed to collect pest and disease samples in maize, soybean and sunflower sentinel plots. Some of the work has already been done (e.g. virus identifications), and fungal isolations from the ears, stems and leaves. Several maize plants showed symptoms that were consistent with maize lethal necrosis (MLN), noting that these are often similar to those caused by maize streak virus. Samples tested negative for MLN but we continue to monitor for this disease not present in the country as of date.

We would like to thank Gerrit Venter, Roedolf Nieuwenhuis and Ruan van Rooyen (CropWatch Africa) and Albert Schmitt (PiDelta) for guiding us through the various plots and for their awesome hospitality.