During the past week, a group of 15 Sappi staff members from the Mpumalanga region, under the guidance of Duncan Ballantyne, Fire Risk Manager for Sappi at Ngodwana, visited FABI. This is the third year that Mr Ballantyne has organized such a visit. The purpose of the visit was to expose Sappi staff to the research being done in terms of pests and diseases for the forestry industry by the Tree Protection Cooperative Programme (TPCP) in FABI. 

Prof. Wilhelm de Beer provided the group with a brief overview of the research done by the TPCP, and Sappi's support to the programme over 27 years. Dr Brett Hurley, with the help of some other staff members, guided the group through the FABI biocontrol centre, showing them what the most important forest pests look like and explaining some details about the biocontrol agents that is being produced and developed by the TPCP to counteract the pests.

At FABI on the main campus, Izette Greyling, extention officer for the TPCP programme, explained to the group how the programme in FABI is linked to day-to-day forestry practices in the field with the ultimate aim of combatting fungal and insect pests and reducing their impact. Members of the TPCP is virtually in the field every day of the year, diagnozing problems, advising foresters, and monitoring the spread of pests and diseases and the impact of the biocontrol agents.

Darryll Herron, manager of the TPCP diagnostic clinic, explained to the guests how diseased plant material sent to FABI for diagnosis, is treated upon arrival here. These included basic practices like fungal isolation, PCR, DNA sequencing, and inoculation studies, that are all employed to ensure accurate and responsible diagnoses that inform sound advice to the people in the field.

Feedback from the group was extremely positive and they had many questions. The visit again underscores how important information sharing between researchers in the laboratory and the end consumers in the field is.