Two PhD prestige seminars were presented in FABI during the past week. PhD Prestige seminars mark the second last step towards earning a PhD degree in FABI. Gerda Fourie and Markus Wilken respectively presented their PhD projects on November 11 and November 12. In her presentation titled: “Evolution of mitochondrial genomes in the Fusarium fujikuroi species complex”, Gerda highlighted the role that mitochondria play in explaining the fungal species’ origins. Markus’s seminar was titled: “Mating in Ceratocystis” and he explained how he unravelled some of the highly complex mating systems in this fungal genus.
A delegation from the TPCP/CTHB research groups in FABI presented talks at an international workshop regarding the evolutionary dynamics of tree invasions: drivers, dimensions, and implications for management. The meeting, hosted by the Centre of Excellence for Invasion Biology (CIB) at Stellenbosch University on 9-10 November, had three primary aims: - To synthesise our current knowledge on the key processes underlying tree invasions worldwide, - To elucidate the dimensions of these processes to better understand across which temporal, spatial and taxonomic scales such changes can occur, - To explore how such processes may bias management and control approaches and how research could reduce such biases, thereby increasing our general knowledge of, and ability to manage, tree invasions The nexus between sustainable commodity production and sustainable ecosystems was a hot topic, and this workshop certainly helped to progress our understanding of this nexus. FABI and associates presented the following talks: Prof. Dr Casper Crous - A deadly game of catch-up and host jumps. Prof. Joey Hulbert - Early detection and monitoring of invasive plant pests with citizen science: an international review Prof. Prof.
During the past week, the construction of a new, state-of-the-art semi-quarantine tunnel started at the FABI Biocontrol Centre (FBC) on the experimental farm of the University of Pretoria. Funding for the climate controlled tunnel that will cost almost R 1 million to construct, was obtained as part of a larger grant by the FSA / DST Sector Innovation Fund. Insect pests and diseases are some of the most important threats to the sustainability of commercial forestry in South Africa. During the past decade, research done at the FBC has led to the development, successfull release and continuous production of several biocontrol agents. The new tunnel at the FABI Biocontrol Centre will enable TPCP researchers to grow plants in the absence of pests. The FBC facilities are managed and insects reared by a dedicated team technical staff members. Research at the FBC is done by a growing number of postdoctoral fellows, PhD and MSc students. Photos 1,2: Dr Wilhelm de Beer together with some of the contractors on the site where construction of the new semi-quarantine tunnel started at the FABI Biocontrol Centre (FBC) this week. Photos 3,4: Insects and plants don't strike!
Prof. He discussed the role of fungal mating genes of asexual fungi in host specificity in a presentation titled: "Speciation of plant-pathogenic fungi: Does host specificity matter?
DongHyeon Lee presented his prestige seminar at FABI on November 4th. DongHyeon was the first student from South Korea to register for and complete a PhD at FABI. DongHyeon presentation, titled "Invasive biology of Ceratocystis in South Africa", covered all aspects of his study of the pathogen Ceratocystis albifundus. Lee DH, Roux J, Wingfield BD, Wingfield MJ.
The 14th IUFRO Root and Butt Rot of Forest Trees conference was held in Turkey from 12-18 October and organised by Dr Tugba Doğmuş Lehtijärvi (Lüleyman Demirel University) and her team. During the conference researchers presented talks with the focus on root and butt rot of forest trees. In addition to the scientific talks, areas with trees affected by Heterobasidion (fungi in this genus cause root and butt rot on conifers in the northern hemisphere) were visited. Captions: 1. 2. 3. 4.
With a name eerily similar to the novel and film Fight Club, it could put fear in the hearts of anyone looking to join. The first FAME Club seminars took place at FABI on October 28 with students showcasing their passion and skills in communicating scientific endeavours in short but creative and fun presentations. Joey Hulbert presented on the paper: "Citizen Science helps predict risk of emerging, infectious diseases". Darryl Herron presented on how the evolving human diet could influence the genetic structure of bacteria in the gut. The audience voted Elsie Cruywagen the first FAME Club champion and Angelica Marsberg and Darryl Herron the two runners-up.
Brigitte Langenhoven, a PhD student in the Cereal Foliar Pathogen Research (CFPR) research group in FABI, attended and presented a poster on her research at a summer school on plant-microbe interactions held by the Sainsbury Laboratory in Norwich from 17-28 August. Topics covered by the summer school included: pathogenomics, effectors, effectors and immunity, surface immunity, synthetic biology, resistance proteins, cellular defence, proteomics and translation to the field The title of Brigitte’s poster: Brigitte Langenhoven, D.
During the IUFRO Eucalyptus 2015 Conference held in Zhangjian city, in the Guangdong Province of China, Tree Protection Co-operative Programme (TPCP) research team members had the opportunity to visit the laboratories of their colleagues at CERC. Funding for this growing collaboration has come from numerous different sources including various bilateral agreements between the Chinese and South African Governments.
The IUFRO Eucalyptus 2015 Conference provided the opportunity to sign an important memorandum of understanding between the China Eucalyptus Research Centre (CERC), an institute of the Chinese Academy of Forestry (CAF) and FABI. The MoU formalises what has been a long-standing collaboration between FABI, CERC and CAF, focused on sharing expertise and opportunities to better understand the health of trees globally.
The IUFRO Working Party 2.08.03 Eucalypt Conference took place in the Chinese city of Zhanjiang in the Guangdong Province of the country from 21-24 October. This meeting focuses on all aspects of eucalypt cultivation and takes place approximately every four years. Scientists, foresters and other stakeholders from 20 countries, representing 204 institutions were present at the meeting.
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. 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. 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. 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
A seminar at FABI on October 15 brought to the fore food safety issues (fears, regulations and safety evaluations) concerning genetically modified (GM) crops. Prof. Prof. A PDF of the slides and of key relevant publications are available from Dr Dave Berger.
FABI PhD student, Erika Viljoen, scooped the second place prize at the 3-Minute Thesis Presentation Competition recently held at the University of the Free State. The competition originated at the University of Queensland, and has since developed into a national competition across Australia, America and the United Kingdom. Erika’s PhD project covers the development of genomics resources for Amaranthus plants.
FABI hosted a special seminar by Drs Enrique Ibarra-Laclette and Claudia-Anahí Perez-Torres from the Instituto de Ecología (Institute of Ecology) in Xalapa, Mexico, on October 14. The two researchers are in FABI by invitation of research leader of the Fruit Tree Biotechnology Programme, Professor Noëlani van den Berg.
It’s not often that scientists, technology junkies and journalists work and socialise together but when they do, boundless creativity and skills get gel in the name of science communication and advancement! Started in 2013 by science communicators Anina Mumm and Engela Duvenage, SciBraai is unique not only because it brings together different players passionate about telling socially-relevant stories about science in an informal setting but was also the first entity in South Africa to host a popular science channel on YouTube. Using data sets from the Global Change and Sustainability Research Institute (GCSRI), groups brainstormed story ideas to communicate science using different media such as podcasts, newspaper and online articles and social media applications.
Professors Mike Wingfield, Dave Berger, Brenda Wingfield, Pedro Crous and Dr Louise Shuey of FABI attended the 20th Australasian Plant Pathology Society conference in Fremantle, Western Australia. The five presentations from FABIans included: MSc student Andi Wilson’s work on “Unisexual mating in Huntiella moniliformis” presented by her supervisor, Brenda Wingfield Dr Alistair McTaggart’s work titled “Uromycladium acacia is the cause of severe rust symptoms on Acacia mearnsii in South Africa” “Transcriptional regulation in a maize population segregating for susceptibility to grey leaf spot disease” from the Molecular Plant-Pathogen Interactions group, and Projects from the Eucalyptus and Pine Pathogen Interactions group on “Eucalyptus grandis defence responses against the myrtle rust pathogen Puccinia psidii” and “Defence responses against Phytophthora cinnamomi in Eucalyptus nitens using Dual RNA sequencing” A highlight from the conference was attending the keynote lecture from Prof. FABI congratulates long time collaborator, Prof. Western Australia is known for the diversity of Myrtaceae and Proteaceae, many of which were in flower (photos). Thanks to Dr Kylie Ireland of CSIRO (@IrelandKylie) for sharing her photos of Fabians presenting at #APPS2015.
Dr Marc Bouwer, a recent FABI graduate, had the opportunity visit the Great Lakes Forestry Research Centre situated in Sault Ste Marie, Ontario, Canada. During the visit Marc had the opportunity to work with state of the art sampling facilities and an electro-antennography system coupled to a gas chromatograph. Marc gained experience in trapping Cerambycid beetles with aggregation pheromones. Photo: Top right: Marc holding an Asian longhorn beetle in the quarantine facility at the Great Lakes Forestry Research Centre.
FABIans were treated to two seminars the past week by Extraordinary Professor Ian Toth of the James Hutton Institute in Scotland. In his lecture “Genomics research on Pectobacterium and Dickeya” Prof. In this he explored the prevalence and sustainability of genetically modified (GM) crops in Europe. Societal fears about the effects that GM crops could have on human health and the environment have however resulted in some countries in the European Union banning GM crop production.
Scientists and industry leaders in plant science shared the latest advances in plant breeding at the 2nd Annual DuPont Plant Breeding Symposium Africa at the University of Pretoria (UP) on September 29.
Forest Molecular Genetics (FMG) student team participates in international synthetic biology competition
The International Genetically Engineered Machines (iGEM) competition, started at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), draws hundreds of high school and university teams from around the world annually to compete in what has become the premier international synthetic biology student competition. The Forest Molecular Genetics (FMG) Programme, with support from the Department of Science and Technology (DST), sponsored seven undergraduate and one BSc Honours student to participate in the iGEM 2015 competition. The Pretoria_UP iGEM initiative is a community project within the FMG Programme, which aims to attract and develop scarce skills in synthetic biology innovation. Photo captions: 2015 Pretoria_UP iGEM team (from left to right): Mr. Pretoria_UP team representatives Gert Pietersen and Nomakula Zim presenting the "Switch-coli" project in the New Application track at the 2015 iGEM Giant Jamboree.
FABI entered three volleyball teams in the University of Pretoria’s annual Spring Day celebration sports tournament held on Wednesday 23 September. The FABI teams, "Natural Selection", "Cranium Crushers" and the "FABI-lous Phantoms" were definitely the most cosmopolitan with 18 players representing nine countries from five continents taking on the opposition in a knock-out tournament. This annual tournament is one of the most anticipated events on the University calendar. The Cranium Crushers and FABI-lous Phantoms suffered early defeats, after narrowly loosing their games. Despite the results, the teams came together and showed true character in the face of tough opposition. Congratulations to all the FABI teams: Natural Selection: Tuan Dong, Redzuan Rauf, Darryl Herron, Andi Wilson, Mohammad Sayari and Alex Osorio Cranium Crushers: Alistair Mctaggart, Louise Sheuy, Madelein van Heerden, Martha Mahlangu and Joey Hulbert (special sub: Morné Booij-Liewes) FABI-lous Phantoms: Conrad Trollip, Daniela Cares, DongHyeon Lee, Danielle Roodt, Deon de Jager and Marc Bouwer
Many have outlived the people who planted them by centuries while others have grown to dizzying heights. Speakers included the coordinator of the Champion Trees project at DAFF, Izak van der Merwe, Enrico Liebenberg, photographer and co-author of "We are the Champions: The Champion Trees of South Africa" as well as Jason Sampson and Phillip Rousseau of the University of Pretoria’s Manie van der Schijff Botanical Gardens. The initiative recognizes and protects indigenous and exotic trees unique to South Africa because of their size, age, contribution to tourism and their historical and cultural significance. Included are trees Van der Merwe considered the Big Five Indigenous species: Baobab trees (Adansonia digitata). Wild Fig trees (Ficus spp. Outeniqua Yellowood (Afrocarpus falcatus). Monkey Thorn (Acacia galpinii). The Matumi (Breonadia salicina). The Big Five Exotic species include: Saligna Gum trees (Eucalyptus spp. Red River Gum (Eucalyptus camaldulensis) at the University of the Witwatersrand planted more than 80 years ago has the largest spread of any tree at 38 m width and a trunk diameter of 7. Moreton Bay Fig (Ficus macrophylla). Camphor trees (Cinnamomum camphora). Redwood (Sequoia sempervirens). Other remarkable trees include a giant Lowveld cabbage tree (Cussonia spicata) towering above the canopy of a natural forest at the Kurisa Moya Nature Lodge near Magoebaskloof.
PhD student, Joey Hulbert recently attended the Arbor Week Expo in Stellenbosch to conduct outreach, raise awareness, and engage secondary school students in his plant pathology research. Phytophthora species have a long history in the Cape floristic region, where P.
The two forestry orientated research programmes in FABI, the Forest Molecular Genetics (FMG) Programme and Tree Protection Cooperative Programme (TPCP), were part of the 21 academic institutions, commercial forestry companies and industry associations that joined forces to showcase the South African forestry industry at the recent 14th World Forestry Congress 2015. This display was the brainchild of the Institute for Commercial Forestry Research’s (ICFR) Sally Upfold who, through tremendous effort on her part, saw this co-operative venture reach fruition and present a united front to the visitors from around the world. Participants included FABI (along with the FMG), the Institute for Commercial Forestry Research (ICFR), Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University – George Campus, Stellenbosch University, the University of KwaZulu-Natal, Forestry SA, Institute for Timber Construction, Masonite, Merensky, Mondi, NCT Forestry, NTE/Mimosa Extract Company, the Paper Manufacturer’s Association of South Africa (PAMSA), Sappi, Sawmilling SA, SA Forestry Contractors Association, SA Wood Preservers Association, the Southern African Institute of Forestry, TWK Agri, UCL Company (Pty) Ltd, and the Wood Foundation. More than 50 other exhibitors from around the globe also participated in the expo that ran concurrent to the congress.
Scientists should aspire to have skills that would make them leaders in their field and enable them to bridge the gap between science and its practice in society, said Margaret Krebs at a presentation on leadership at FABI on 14 September. The Leopold Leadership Program arms academic researchers with skills to transfer their knowledge into action and to communicate science to industry and decision-makers to address environmental challenges. Krebs spoke about the transformation that the programme has undergone since its inception in 1999 and the benefits of networks not only in scientific collaborations but also in communicating science to those who drive policies and to communities.
International Union of Forest Research Organizations (IUFRO) President, Prof. This dialogue was aimed at better understanding the status of African forestry research and how to address the challenges these researchers and students face. Collaboration across borders is seen as key to improving this statisti. Two student representatives, one each from Nigeria and South Africa, from the International Forestry Student’s Association (IFSA), also spoke of their experiences, the challenges they face and their expectations as future researchers and forestry professionals. (From left to right) Front row: Mercy Gichora (IUFRO Africa Liaison Officer, KEFRI); Victor Agyeman (CSIR Ghana); Ben Chikamai (Director: KEFRI and Network for Gums and Resns in Africa (NGARA)); Dos Santos Silayo (Acting Dean: Faculty of Forestry and Nature Conservation, Sokoine University of Agriculture, Tanzania) Second row: Joe Cobinnah (FORNESSA); John Parrotta (IUFRO Vice President); Björn Hånell (IUFRO Vice President); Godwin Kowero (Executive Secretary: AFF); August Temu; Paxie Chirwa (University of Pretoria); Peter Mayer (Deputy Coordinator SP Directors Forum) Third row: Bamidele Oni (Green Impact International – Nigeria); Brendan Marais (Student: Stellenbosch University); Josh Louw (HOD: Saasveld College); Ronald Heath (Forestry SA); Pierre Ackerman (Stellenbosch University); Colin Dyer (ICFR); Alexander Buck (IUFRO Executive Director); Michael Kleine (IUFRO Deputy Executive Director); Mike Wingfield (IUFRO President)
Two recent influential documents mapped the current state of forest resources, and how it has changed over time. The second report is the FAO State of World Forest Resources report, that was launched during the just past World Forestry conference in Durban. This loss would have been greater was it not for the 110 million ha of forest plantations that were planted in the same time. Both natural and planted forests are under severe pressure from emerging pests and pathogens, either invasive or adapting from surrounding hosts. A FABIan, Prof. Consider signing up to either receive news or to write for The Conversation on their website.
Prof. The conference was held in Berlin, Germany from the 24th – 27th of August. Challenges (Food crisis in a stressed world – reasons and challenges) Tradition and Innovation (Planting future – plants resistant to biotic and abiotic stresses) Integration and precision (Raising and sustaining productivity of plant production systems Social aspects and co-operations (Social participation – Key factor for food security) For more details about sub-topics and presentations and photographic highlights visit IPPC 2015.
The youth are the future of the forestry industry. Leading the cause is the International Forestry Student’s Association (IFSA) that hosted a workshop on Forestry education in Africa at the WFC2015. South Africa will host the IFSA International Forestry Students Symposium (IFSS) in 2017 so it was apt that such a large group of students, especially those from across Africa were in attendance. IFSA President, May Anne Then, welcomed everyone saying that she was excited to learn more about African students and researchers’ experiences in Africa and to further the cause of forestry education for the youth. Addressing the large group of students at the opening of the IFSA pre-side event workshop, IUFRO President and FABI Director, Prof. Prof. Again addressing the students at the wrap-up session of the workshop, Prof.
As with many inter-disciplinary and wide-encompassing congresses like the 14th World Forestry Congress, there were many break-away sessions to home in on subject-specific forestry crises. Moderated by Dr Crous, the panelists of this session were left to freely comment on the topic: Is one tree worth the forest? The panelists consisted of the following people, and it was a privilege to have them join this most important discussion: Prof. Dr Brett Hurley (Forest Entomologist, FABI) Dr Clement Chilima (Director of Forestry, Government of Malawi) Roger Coppock (Head of Analysts, Forestry Commission, UK) Rory Mack (Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry: KwaZulu-Natal Division) Philip Ivey (South African National Biodiversity Institute, Cape Town) Joey Hulbert (PhD candidate, Forest Pathology, FABI) This topic was chosen to help us re-assess how to deal with the massive increase in forest invasive pests due to the import and export of live plants. Some key discussion points raised were that there needs to be more investment in human infrastructure (forest researchers) and physical infrastructure (quarantine facilities) to ensure that developing nations can also more rapidly and accurately detect new invasions. The dialogue session was a success, with the only draw-back being the 90 minute allotted time we were given to have this session – many things were left unsaid.
International Union of Forest Research Organisations (IUFRO) President Prof. More than 60 students from across the world including numerous African delegates from the Cameroon, Kenya, Morocco, Namibia, Nigeria and South Africa met in Durban to discuss the current state of forestry education in Africa. IUFRO sponsored 10 African forestry students’ attendance at the WFC 2015 as part of Prof. In his opening address Prof. He also encouraged them to use their time well to communicate their experiences from this workshop and, later, their professional work worldwide through writing editorials and thereby increase awareness about forestry.
FABI was well represented at the one-day Institute for Commercial Forestry Research (ICFR) symposium “Underpinning sustainable tree plantations in southern Africa,” held in association with the International Union of Forest Research Organisations (IUFRO), on 4 September in Durban. The symposium showcased the depth and breadth of forestry research across South Africa, highlighting how research provides innovation, knowledge and technology to advance operational and management objectives, and influence policy and strategic decision-making, while growing the skills and knowledge base The symposium was opened by South Africa’s National Minister of Science and Technology, Naledi Pandor, who emphasised the importance of scientific research in South Africa and outlined how local research was making an impact in the international scientific community. FABI Director, Prof. Prof. Prof.
FABI applauds the nine graduates who made the Institute proud at the Spring Graduation Ceremony of the Faculty of Natural and Agricultural Sciences on September 3. PhD Dr. Supervisor: Prof Dave Berger Co-supervisor: Dr. Dr. Supervisor: Dr. External co-supervisor: Prof Chris Cullis (Case Western Reserve University, USA) Dr. Supervisor: Prof. Co-advisor: Dr. Dr. Supervisor: Prof. Co-supervisors: Prof. Dr. Supervisor: Dr. Co-supervisors: Dr. MSc Francois Boshoff – Diversity and evolution of rhizobia associated with native and non-native Acacia species in South Africa Supervisor: Prof Emma Steenkamp Co-supervisor: Prof Fanus Venter Jackie Lubbe – Molecular and biological characterization of three Citrus tristeza virus candidate cross-protection sources Supervisor: Prof Gerhard Pietersen Johan Liversage – Functional characterisation of the Cercospora zeina crp1 gene in pathogenesis Supervisor: Dr. Co-supervisor: Prof Dave Berger Molly Malefo – Characterisation of selected pathogenicity factors in Cercospora zeina Supervisor: Dr. Co-supervisor: Prof Dave Burger
Prof. Brenda Wingfield is one of four University of Pretoria incumbents of SARChI chairs announced by the Minister of Science and Technology, Naledi Pandor.
Two PhD students, Ronishree Mangwanda and Caryn Oates, postdoctoral fellow María Vivas, and a senior lecturer, Irene Barnes, attended and presented their research findings at the 5th International Workshop on the Genetics of Tree-Parasite Interactions. The main topics of the Workshop were: • Resistance / tolerance and virulence / aggressiveness mechanisms • Breeding and management strategies for durable resistance in a changing environment • Host-parasite co-evolution • Novel host-parasite interactions due to emerging or non-native pests and pathogens • Population genetics of pests, pathogens and vectors. • New frontiers in tree-parasite interactions: from genes to landscape and communities The FABIans also visited public and a private forests, where they had the opportunity to have a closer look at pine red band needle blight, poplar rust and oak dieback. The titles of their presentations were: Caryn Oates, Myburg A, Slippers B, Naidoo S, Denby K. Ronishree Mangwanda, Van der Merwe A, Myburg A, Naidoo S. Maria Vivas, Kemler M, Slippers B. Irene Barnes, Rodas CA, Granados GM, Wingfield MJ.