Dennis Omondi, an MSc student in Plant Breeding from Maseno University in Western Kenya, made his second visit to the Molecular Plant-Pathogen Interactions research group in FABI and the Department of Plant and Soil Sciences.

His MSc has two components: (i) maize resistance breeding in collaboration with senior maize breeder at CIMMYT-Kenya, Dr Yoseph Beyene (ex-Fabian), and (ii) population genetics of two geographically distinct populations of the grey leaf spot disease pathogen Cercospora zeina from the central highlands of Kenya.

In his first visit, he learned about single spore isolation, culturing and identification of Cercospora zeina, the causal agent of grey leaf spot disease in maize.  In the current visit, Dennis carried out molecular diagnostics and population genetic analysis of the fungus. Dennis has been mentored by PhD student David Nsibo on both visits.  The data generated will contribute to larger population genetics study on the pathogen in East and southern Africa that has been driven by David in his PhD studies.

The exchanges have been made possible through a South Africa-Kenya joint Science and Technology collaboration entitled “Population genetics of grey leaf spot disease of small holder maize in South Africa and Kenya” funded by the NRF of each country, led by Prof Mathews Dida at Maseno University and Prof Dave Berger at the University of Pretoria.