25 Jan 2016

FABI publishes a record number of papers in 2015!

During the past year, FABIans has set a new record for the highest number of research or review papers in internationally recognized journals since the Institute was established in 1998. The 91 papers were published in 43 different journals. Eleven FABI papers have already appeared online in 2016. A complete list of all FABI publications can be viewed here.

25 Jan 2016

TPCP/CTHB team at FABI strategises for 2017

As has become custom during the past few years, the management committee of the TPCP-CTHB research programmes in FABI has met for two days off-campus to strategise for the year ahead.

21 Jan 2016

FABIans help to clean up the campus

When the UP campus opened today after the past week’s disruptions, a group of FABIans rolled up their sleeves to clean up litter strewn in the area around the FABI buildings during the protest actions.

18 Jan 2016

FABI Professor appointed as the American Society for Microbiology (ASM) South African ambassador

FABI would like to congratulate Professor Teresa Coutinho who has been appointed as the American Society for Microbiology (ASM) South African ambassador for a three-year term.

18 Jan 2016

FABIans attend joint SAAB and SASSB Conference

The joint 2016 conference for the South African Association of Botanists (SAAB) and the Southern African Society for Systematic Biology (SASSB) took place from 10-13 January at the University of the Free State in Bloemfontein.

14 Dec 2015

CTHB roadshow showcases student research projects from UFS and Univen

FABI hosted eight postgraduate students and their supervisors from the University of the Free State (UFS) and the University of Venda (Univen) on December 3.

9 Dec 2015

Visiting collaborator delivers talk on Sirex invasions

PhD student at Dartmouth College and FABI collaborator, Flora Krivak-Tetley, delivered a seminar at the institute on December 3.

7 Dec 2015


7 Dec 2015

FABIans participate in the 36th New Phytologist Symposium

Dr Bridget Crampton (Cereal Foliar Pathogen Research Group) and PhD student, Velushka Swart (Molecular Plant-Pathogen Interactions Group) of FABI attended the 36th New Phytologist Symposium in Münich, Germany from 29 November to 1 December. Poster titles: J. V. In celebration of the symposium, a virtual special issue of New Phytologist: Cell biology at the plant-microbe interface was released. Two upcoming symposia to be hosted by New Phytologist include: 37th New Phytologist Symposium: Plant developmental evolution. 38th New Phytologist Symposium: Colonization of the terrestrial environment.

4 Dec 2015

FABIans plant thousands of Eucalyptus cuttings

Nimble fingers made light work of a day spent planting Eucalyptus cuttings at the FABI Nursery.

2 Dec 2015

FABIan attends EMBO Conference in Spain

Aquillah Kanzi, a PhD student of the TPCP research group in FABI, attended the EMBO Conference in Barcelona, Spain, from 17-22 October where he presented results of his research project. The conference organisers arranged a social activity where attendees toured the ancient Roman city of Girona.

1 Dec 2015

FMG hosts its fourth annual research symposium at UP

The fourth annual research meeting of the Forest Molecular Genetics (FMG) Programme was held at the University of Pretoria on November 25. FMG Director Prof. Prof. Members of the FMG management team, postdoctoral fellows and postgraduate students also presented their research in teams under different themes. Members of Pretoria_UP 2015, a group of predominantly undergraduate students who represented UP at the International Genetically Engineered Machines (iGEM) Giant Jamboree in Boston, Massachusetts in September, also gave a presentation.

29 Nov 2015

Canadian Forest Service scientists helps grow capacity in chemical ecology at FABI

Dr. UP collaborators on these projects include Bernard Slippers, Brett Hurley, Mike Wingfield and Marc Bouwer at FABI and Egmont Rohwer at the Department of Chemistry. Chemical ecology is the study of the role of chemicals in the interactions among and with species. Please contact either Jeremy Allison or Bernard Slippers should you be interested in the jointly supervised PhD projects. Photos: 1.

25 Nov 2015

Macadamia growers visit FABI

FABI recently hosted a visit by board members of the Southern African Macadamia Growers’ Association (SAMAC) to the institute and its biocontrol facility. The group acquainted themselves with the world-class research being conducted at FABI on combatting tree pests and pathogens and the biocontrol work being done at the biocontrol facility on the University’s experimental farm.

25 Nov 2015

CTHB marks a decade of mentorship programmes

A celebratory breakfast marking ten years since the launch of two outreach programmes affiliated to the DST-NRF Centre of Excellence in Tree Health Biotechnology (CTHB), was held at FABI on November 20. Launched a year after the founding of the CTHB, the CTHB Mentoring Programme and the Mpepu Rural Youth Encouragement (MRYE) have since reached out to hundreds of undergraduate students and high school learners. Prof. Prof. Samukelo said MRYE had found a home in the CTHB and because of this support it could continue to uplift rural youth in eight provinces.

25 Nov 2015

FABIan engages homeschool students in research project

Combining educational outreach with hypothesis driven research is Joey Hulbert’s goal with Cape Citizen Science - an initiative designed to engage the public in a research project about plant disease in the fynbos biome of the Western Cape. Joey is interested in surveying the Phytophthora species present in the fynbos for his PhD project and managers at the Kirstenbosch NBG had reported the presence of this pathogen in their Protea garden. More information and pictures from the activity can be found on the projects blog: http://citsci.  

24 Nov 2015

FABIans visit Shizouka University, Japan

As part of a joint research grant funded under the NRF/JST Agreement on Cooperation in Science and Technology, Professors Teresa Coutinho and Fanus Venter visited Professor Yuichi Takikawa and his colleagues. Legend to photo:Left to right:  Profs Takikawa, Furutani, Coutinho, Azegami, Hakato.

23 Nov 2015

Two more biocontrol agents arrive at the FABI biocontrol centre

Biological control is one of the most important strategies to manage the increasing number of forestry insect pests, but the viability of this approach depends largely on international collaboration.

20 Nov 2015

FABI celebrates 18th anniversary at the Annual Year-End Gala Dinner and Awards Ceremony

The 2015 FABI year-end gala dinner and awards ceremony was indeed a ‘monumental’ occasion! FABIan of the Year: Darryl Herron FABI Award Recognising Contributions by a Person External to the Institute: Managing Director of Sappi Forests, Dr Terry Stanger (in absentia) FABI Award for UP staff member (or something like that): Prof. The 2015 FABI Honours students were also each presented with a unique FABI t-shirt. Photos of the event can be viewed in the Gallery.

19 Nov 2015

22nd Advanced Phylogenetics Workshop in FABI

The 22nd Advanced Phylogenetics Workshop took place in FABI from 9 to 13 November 2015. The workshop provided attendees with hands-on experience in the different software that is currently used to infer phylogenies.

18 Nov 2015

FMG researchers represent FABI and UP at 11th International Plant Molecular Biology (IPMB) meeting and visit FuturaGene, Brazil

Fabians in the Forest Molecular Genetics Programme (FMG), Prof.   The following FABI research was presented: Hussey, S. Laubscher, M. Myburg, A. Naidoo, S. Prior to the meeting, the FMG delegation visited the laboratory and greenhouse facilities of the biotechnology company FuturaGene in Itapetininga, Brazil, where they were hosted by Esteban Gonzalez, Sara El Kadri and Othon Abrahão of FuturaGene.  

17 Nov 2015

Canadian fungal molecular biologist presents special seminar at FABI

Professor Louis Bernier from the Université Laval in Québec City, Canada presented a special seminar in FABI titled "Analysis of the yeast-mycelium dimorphism in the Dutch elm disease fungi. His research group focuses on the identification and characterisation of genes contributing to pathogenicity and fitness in the Dutch elm disease fungi Two subspecies of Ophiostoma novo-ulmi have collectively killed an estimated one billion adult elm trees during the last 100 years in Europe and North America. Prof.    

13 Nov 2015

Two PhD prestige seminar celebrations at FABI

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.

12 Nov 2015

FABI delegation attends international tree invasion workshop

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.

7 Nov 2015

Construction of a new semi-quarantine tunnel starts at the FABI Biocontrol Centre

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!

6 Nov 2015

Plant pathologist from Washington State University presents a special seminar at FABI

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?

5 Nov 2015

FABI celebrates ninth PhD degree pass for 2015

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.  

4 Nov 2015

FABI represented at the IUFRO Root and Butt Rot of Forest Trees Conference in Turkey

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.

30 Oct 2015

FABIans ‘floored’ at the first FAME Club seminars

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.

29 Oct 2015

FABIan attends Sainsbury Lab Summer School

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.  

28 Oct 2015

FABI tree health team visits colleagues at the China Eucalyptus Research Centre (CERC)

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.  

28 Oct 2015

Memorandum of Understanding established between FABI and CERC

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.

27 Oct 2015

TPCP team members attend IUFRO Eucalypt Conference in China

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.

27 Oct 2015

FABI’s Fruit Tree Biotechnology Programme hosts Merensky Foundation

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

26 Oct 2015

GM food safety and allergies under the spotlight at seminar in FABI

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.

20 Oct 2015

FABI student excels at thesis competition

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.