Prof. Teresa Coutinho presented an invited paper entitled “Bacterial wilt of Eucalyptus: an example of opportunism" at the 6th International Bacterial Wilt Symposium (IBWS) held in Toulouse, France, from the 3-7 July 2016.
On a transcontinental trip to research current debates on genetically modified organisms (GMOs) in different countries, an undergraduate student from the Weinberg College of Arts and Science at Northwestern University, Tara Mittelberg visited FABI on July 12. Tara said Americans were polarised in their opinions on GMOs and her project sought to explore the nuances of these different arguments around the world, especially in relation to global food security. Debaters agreed that knowledge transfer and science communication were crucial to the public, policy makers as well as consumers and influenced their opinions of GMOs.
With an animated character theme evoking childhood memories and fantasies, this year’s installation of the Society for the Presentation of Outrageous Findings (SPOOF) was bound to be a barrel of laughs. Stand-out presentations, voted for by FABIans, were “CRISPER: An accurate and versatile took for engineering longevity in failing plant systems” by Darryl Herron as Ace Ventura, Plant Detective and the short film “Little Lab of Horrors” by the Plant Virology group, which bagged the Best Oral Presentation and Best Multimedia Presentation awards respectively. FABIans voted Quentin Guignard Best Dressed Male for his uncanny transformation as eerie villain The Joker. The Spoof 2016 photo gallery can be viewed here.
FABI welcomes Bianca Murray, a Grade 12 learner at Moore House Academy in Johannesburg, as she makes the institute her home for the duration of her school holidays.
Five Grade 11 learners participating in JuniorTukkie and the University of Pretoria’s science enrichment programme, UP with Science, once again joined forces with FABI’s DST-NRF Centre of Excellence in Tree Health Biotechnology (CTHB) to experience hands-on scientific research unlike what they are taught at school! The learners in the CTHB group delivered their presentation, “The life and times of Syzygium and Eucalyptus: From a small wound to a dead tree”, which they had prepared under the supervision of Dr Markus Wilken and postgraduate students Juanita Avontuur, Arista Fourie, Palesa Madupe and Benedicta Swalarsk-Parry. Nine departments in the Faculty of Natural Agricultural Sciences took part in the UP with Science programme and they were represented by different groups of Grade 11 learners.
Research leader of the Molecular Plant-Pathogen Interactions group, Prof. Dave Berger, was awarded the National Science and Technology Forum (NSTF)-South32 special theme award at its annual awards evening on June 30.
During the past week 15 TPCP students in FABI participated in a Mycology workshop. The workshop was presented by a team of mycological experts from the National Collection of Fungi (PREM) and the Plant Protection Research Instistute (PPRI) at the Agricultural Research Council (ARC) and academic staff members at FABI.
About 200 blankets collected by staff and students at FABI as part of the institute’s Annual Blanket Drive have brought some warmth and comfort to homeless people in the suburbs surrounding the University.
Champagne corks popped on 14 June when the TPCP research team in FABI celebrated the first, first-author publication of a degree, by seven postgraduate students in the group. The seven papers are listed below: Abate BA, Malan AP, Tiedt LR, Wingfield MJ, Slippers B, Hurley BP. Bush SJ, Slippers B, Neser S, Harney M, Dittrich-Schroder G. Beukes CW, Stepkowski T, Venter SN, Clapa T, Phalane FL, le Roux MM, Steenkamp ET. Kanzi AM, Wingfield BD, Steenkamp ET, Naidoo S, Van der Merwe NA. Maphosa MN, Steenkamp ET, Wingfield BD. Palmer M, De Maayer P, Poulsen M, Steenkamp ET, Van Zyl E, Coutinho TA, Venter SN. Wondafrash M, Slippers B, Garnas J, Roux G, Foit J, Langor DW, Hurley BP.
While grapevine leafroll disease has been controlled for decades within the South African Vine Certification Scheme, where virus-free nuclear stocks of vine cultivars are produced following heat-therapy and meristem tip culture, such material remains susceptible to viral infection and often progeny from the nuclear plants, planted in the field become infected again. Prof. The Vergelegen team, led by Managing Director Don Tooth and winemaker Andre van Rensburg, worked closely with Prof.
Professors John Leslie, David Geiser, Emma Steenkamp and Dr Martin Coetzee visited the School of Agriculture at the University of Venda in the Limpopo Province on 6 May 2016.
FABI congratulates Sarai Olivier-Espejel for successfully defending her PhD thesis during her oral examination on June 7.
Following the 17th International Fusarium Laboratory Workshop this past week, Professor David Geiser presented a special seminar at FABI on June 8. His talk, “Two Fusarium Stories” focused on different aspects of the Fusarium species.
Dr Peter H. Thrall, a research scientist studying evolutionary ecology of host-microbe interactions at the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) in Australia, presented a special seminar titled “Coevolutionary interactions in the Linus-Melampsora host-pathogen system” at FABI on June 7th.
On Friday 3 June, Prof. Brenda Wingfield, one of FABI’s research leaders received the highly prestigious Harry Oppenheimer Memorial Fellowship Award made by the Oppenheimer Memorial Trust (OMT).
A group of more than 40 delegates and instructors attending the 17th Annual Fusarium Workshop at FABI let their hair down and to enjoy a drumming session under the tutelage of the African Drum Café’s expert team.
The 17th International Fusarium Laboratory Workshop was hosted by FABI from 30 May - 3 June. This annual event, hosted by FABI for the second time (first was in 2004), brings together some of the world’s the leading authorities on this fungal genus species of which are important pathogen of plants, animals and humans.
The director of FABI, Prof. Mike Wingfield, was informed during last week that he has been awarded the Distinguished Leadership Award for Internationals for 2016, by his alma mater, the University of Minnesota.
The Forest Molecular Genetics Programme (FMG) within FABI participated in the "Take a Girl Child to Work" day on Thursday 26 May.
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. Prof. 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. 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. Feedback from the group was extremely positive and they had many questions.
Eager young minds from schools across different provinces made their way to a stall attended to by four FABIans at the 2016 Junior Tukkie/PMA Agri-Food Career Fair at the University of Pretoria on 21 and 22 May. The career fair is an initiative of the Produce Marketing Association, the UP Faculty of Natural & Agricultural Sciences, JuniorTukkie and the UP Graduate Career office.
Following a successful two-day symposium on global tree health, Professors Ying Zhang and Wei He presented special seminars at FABI on May 19. Led by FABI Extraordinary Lecturer Dr. Prof.
The introductory phylogenetics workshop, organised by Inqaba Biotech, was held at FABI from 10 - 13 May 2016. A second phylogenetics workshop will be presented from 7-11 November 2016.
The Tree Protection Co-operative Programme (TPCP) hosted its 27th annual meeting at the University of Pretoria on 17 and 18 May. FABI Director, Professor Mike Winfield chaired the programme, which brought together speakers from Canada, New Zealand, Malaysia, South Africa and the United States. Prof. Prof. It has proven difficult to prevent the introduction of pests and disease because of the illicit pest trade, tourism as well as the movement of untreated wood products and in some cases, bioterrorism. Drs Jeremy Allison of Natural Resources Canada and FABI research fellow Almuth Hammerbacher explored the little-known field of chemical ecology – the study of plants’ own defences against insects and diseases – in their respective presentations and how it has gained traction over the years. In her presentation titled: “Update on Fusarium circinatum research in South Africa”, Prof. Gert van den Berg spoke about the strategies Mondi had adopted to reduce the impact of insects and pathogens on its plantations and the effects of extreme climatic conditions. Dr. PhD student Joey Hulbert spoke about the exciting prospects of an active citizenry that is empowered to spot pests and disease. A complete list of all the presenters and the titles of their presentations is available here.
Presentations on the first day of the annual meeting of the DST-NRF Centre of Excellence in Tree Health Biotechnology (CTHB) at the University of Pretoria reflected the diversity of research conducted by students and staff of the CTHB. Deputy Director of the CTHB, Prof. Prof. Sunet van Aswegen of Rhodes University explored the role of mycorrhizal fungi in Vachellia erioloba in her talk: “Microbial interactions of camel thorn trees”. Ronel Roberts of the ARC spoke about diseases affecting citrus such as a citrus greening disease in: “Variability amongst ‘Candidatus liberibacter africanus’ populations of citrus in South Africa”.
Elsie Cruywagen presented her prestige seminar at FABI on May 13 in front of her friends, family and colleagues before undergoing and passing her PhD oral examination. FABI director and primary supervisor Prof. She found that the largest group of fungi isolated from baobab trees were the Botryosphaeriaceae represented by an assembly of different species, some of which produced lesions in pathogenicity trials. Elsie has already published three research papers from her PhD. Cruywagen EM, Crous PW, Roux J, Slippers B, Wingfield MJ. Crous PW, Wingfield MJ, Guarro J, Cheewangkoon R, van der Bank M, Swart WJ, Stchigel AM, Cano-Lira JF, Roux J, Madrid H, Damm U, Wood AR, Shuttleworth LA, Hodges CS, Munster M, de Jesús Yáñez-Morales M, Zúñiga-Estrada L, Cruywagen EM, et al. Cruywagen EM, De Beer ZW, Roux J, Wingfield MJ.
FABIans were treated to a special seminar by renowned forest pathologist, Prof. Drawing on years of research in the areas of forest pathology and the management of forest tree diseases, Prof. Following his seminar he was hosted on a visit to the FABI biocontrol facility where Prof.
Seminar by visiting PhD student shines the spotlight on public perceptions about genetically engineered trees
Scientists hope that genetic engineering approaches will revive Castanea dentata, the American Chestnut. American Chestnut blight has contributed to the expansive death of the trees, which are not only economically important but are also socially and culturally significant. Katie is visiting the Forest Molecular Genetics research group and other departments at the University of Pretoria as she explores these themes of her research by focusing on genetically modified trees in South Africa and New York State.
On 5 and 6 May the Ceratocystis Genome Jamboree was held in the Bioinformatics computer centre at FABI.
FABI welcomed a group of tree growers from Argentina visiting South Africa to acquaint themselves with the local forestry industry. FABI entomologist Dr.
As the challenges we face in the world, and especially in Africa, become more complex, a different style of science leadership is required. Prof Bernard Slippers, who leads the Future Africa and ASLP initiatives at UP said that: “It is a feather in the cap of the University of Pretoria that it has so successfully supported the establishment of this programme, in collaboration with leading global institutions. The eight-day ASLP workshop commenced on 11 April and focused on the new group of twenty-two fellows for the first 6 days of the intensive programme. Professor Derick de Jongh, the Director of the Albert Luthuli Centre for Responsible Leadership at UP joined the workshop on day one as a provocateur. The leadership programme identifies early-career academics who have demonstrated leadership potential and an interest in developing key leadership skill. The workshop covered elements of collective leadership, creative and systems thinking, development of effective networks, stakeholder engagement for change, maximising the efficiency and impact of collaborative efforts, advanced dialogue and communication skills, effective problem solving and decision making, and much more. The programme aims to, within Africa, continue the formation of a community of like-minded researchers who possess qualities that will contribute towards solving the complex challenges that face Africa. “The ASLP initiative gave me an unexpected new vision of what leadership is, and our collective roles in the development of African science.
The second FABI monthly tea hosted by the 2016 FABI Social Club was held in the FABI courtyard on May 4.
With winter fast approaching, contributions to the annual FABI Blanket Drive have been filling up the FABI reception area. The annual FABI Blanket Drive is headed by Prof.
Wearing his IUFRO "hat", FABI Director Professor Mike Wingfield spent three days during the week of 20 April with colleagues at the IUFRO Headquarters in Vienna.
Monday 25 April at 15h00 and a historic moment for the University of Pretoria, for Science in Africa and for FABI. At the sod turning ceremony, University of Pretoria Principal and Vice-Chancellor Prof. Although this need for trans-disciplinary research is recognised globally, there is still a shortage of spaces that encourage and enable collaboration of scientists from different disciplines. In his address at the event Bernard made the point that: "Future Africa will first and foremost be a people and team-centred space that is focused on developing the future generation of leaders and research teams and networks on the continent. Numerous activities of Future Africa will be very closely aligned with research projects in FABI and they will build on the cross-disciplinary vision and team approach to research that has underpinned the remarkable 18-year history of FABI. A short video of the ceremony can be viewed here.
The annual board meeting of the International Mycological Association (IMA) took place on Saturday 18 April 2016, in Utrecht, The Netherlands. The IMA is the overarching body for all mycological associations across the world and acts as custodian of the four-yearly International Mycological Congress (IMC).