The Fruit Tree Biotechnology Programme (FTBP) at FABI hosted a one-day seminar for the members of the Hans Merensky Foundation and senior company representatives from its wholly owned subsidiary, Westfalia Technological Services.

This annual event is a platform to gauge progress made in the Programme’s research studies over the past year and as well as determining the direction for future projects and initiatives in the FTBP. Avocado researchers from around the world were also invited to participate. The FTBP will join forces with Dr Enrique Ibarra-Laclette from the Instituto de Ecologia in Xalapa, Mexico, to re-sequence the avocado genome. Prof. Randy Ploetz and Dr Mary Lu Arpaia from the United States provided project feedback in terms of the global avocado research perspective.

The FTBP is a collaborative joint venture with HMF aimed at understanding disease tolerance and resistance of avocado rootstocks against Phytophthora cinnamomi to facilitate the development of superior avocado rootstocks.  

The delegates were welcomed by FTBP leader Prof. Noelani van den Berg before being addressed by the new Chairman of the Hans Merensky Holdings Board, Dr Kevin Mossie. This was followed by project updates from FTBP members. 

Post Doctoral Fellow presentations

Dr Sreedhara Ashok Prabu: Unraveling the molecular basis of interaction between Persea americana (avocado) and Phytophthora cinnamomi through gene silencing

Dr Bianca Reeksting: Identification and functional characterization of root transporters in Persea americana found to be differentially regulated in response to flooding

Dr. Lydia Wabha: Identification and expression profile of miRNAs for tolerant/susceptible avocado root rot

Student presentations

Robert Backer: Molecular cloning and functional characterisation of NPR1-like genes from Persea americana (Mill.)

Michael Bufe: The early physiological response of Avocado rootstocks to infection with Phytophthora cinnamomi

Juanita Engelbrecht: Development of a transient transformation system for Phytophthora cinnamomi

Juanita Hanneman: Phytophthora cinnamomi pathogenicity genes' expression profiles during Persea americana infection 

Nadine Koen: The early expression of Phytophthera cinnamomi pathogenecity genes on susceptible and tolerant avocado roots

Brittany Mitchell: Integrated early analysis of Phytophthora cinnamomi infection in tolerant and susceptible Avocado rootstocks

Buyani Ndolvu: expression analysis of putative rxlr genes from Phytophthora cinnamomi, during in vitro growth and avocado roots infection

Mohamed Seedat: Identification of CRN effector genes in Phytophthora cinnamomi during avocado root infection