Vou Shutt successfully defended her PhD thesis on 21 November, marking the final stage of completing her degree by delivering a prestige seminar at FABI. Her presentation was titled “Bacterial pathogens of tomato in South Africa: Identification, population diversity and cultivar susceptibility”. Vou completed her study under the supervision of Professor Teresa Coutinho, Prof Jacquie van der Waals from the Department of Plant and Soil Sciences and Dr Teresa Goszczynska from the Agricultural Research Council. Her external examiners were Prof. Nöelani van den Berg, Dr Deidre Fourie from the Agricultural Research Council-Grain Crops Institute and Dr JR Lamichhane from the French National Institute for Agricultural Research. 

Her study investigated the population diversity of bacterial species infecting tomato (Solanum lycopersicum L.) cultivars grown commercially in South Africa. She said chemical control measures against these pathogens were not successful and therefore the results would contribute to integrated disease management strategies, which would be beneficial to commercial farmers. Vou’s study was the first to characterise molecularly Ralstonia species infecting tomato and she found that both Ralstonia pseudosolanacearum and R. solanacearum were present in SA. She warned that crops produced in colder regions were at risk of infection from the cold adapted strain identified. This study was the first to report Xanthomonas campestris pv. campestris causing black spot on tomato. Vou confirmed the identity of Clavibacter michiganensis subsp. michiganensis (Cmm) on commercially cultivated cultivars and found that genetic diversity was low within these strains. She found that all the cultivars in her study were susceptible to Cmm but four were resistant to Ralstonia species.