The University of Pretoria's Department of Plant and Soil Sciences and FABI were delighted to again co‑host Professor Eva Stukenbrock of the Christian-Albrechts University of Kiel and Max Planck Institute of Evolutionary Biology, Kiel and Plön, Germany, who visited the Institute between 4-10 February. Prof. Stukenbrock had a packed program for the week. The week started with a presentation on “Microbial interactions contribute to pathogen defence in wheat leaves” during the Monday Morning Meeting on 5 February. The presentation covered an overview of the deep work and insights that Prof. Stukenbrock and her group has contributed to the Zymoseptoria tritici (and related species) – wheat pathosystem, as well as fascinating new work on how members of the microbiome of these plants could influence the development of the fungus and disease. The work addresses fundamental issues related to this pathosystem, and plant pathology in general.

The rest of the week included numerous meetings about current joint projects and student supervisions. Prof. Stukenbrock has been collaborating on the Cercospora zeina genomics project for some time through co-supervision of Tanya Welgemoed, so this was an excellent opportunity to discuss the finishing touches of the PhD study. Prof. Stukenbrock also participated in an open, round table discussion on 7 February with students and researchers, covering various issues related to plant pathology, research in general and the rise of AI. She was keen to meet young researchers to discuss their work, but also talk about career development. Prof. Stukenbrock also engaged in discussions on general topics of the development of plant pathology in South Africa and the broader African context, and how we can jointly contribute to that development.

Prof. Stukenbrock had first visited UP and FABI in 2022 when she was a keynote speaker at the 52nd Congress of the Southern African Society for Plant Pathologists (SASSP) at the Future Africa campus from 1-3 August. She also presented a workshop on Population Genomics at FABI prior to this congress. Prof. Stukenbrock was also one of hosts for recent research visits of Prof. Dave Berger and Prof. Bernard Slippers in 2023.

Researchers involved in the discussions during the week agreed that they foresee many growing opportunities to work with Prof. Stukenbrock in the coming years.