14 Oct 2015

Researchers from Mexico’s Institute of Ecology present joint special seminar at FABI

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.


12 Oct 2015

FABIans sizzle at SciBraai Data Quest

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.  


12 Oct 2015

Six FABIans participate in the 20th Australasian Plant Pathology Society conference

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.


8 Oct 2015

FABI collaborates with researchers of Natural Resources Canada

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.


5 Oct 2015

Extraordinary Professor Ian Toth deliveres two lectures at FABI

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.


2 Oct 2015

Plant science experts gather at UP for 2nd Annual DuPont Plant Breeding Symposium Africa

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.


30 Sep 2015

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.  


28 Sep 2015

FABI takes to the courts

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


23 Sep 2015

Heritage Month celebrations at UP honour South Africa’s Champion trees

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.


22 Sep 2015

FABI student conducts outreach at Arbor Week Expo

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.  


17 Sep 2015

South African forestry industry on show at WFC2015

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.


16 Sep 2015

Scientists need skills to bridge the divide between science and practice

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.


15 Sep 2015

IUFRO assembles African forestry research leaders at WFC2015

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)


12 Sep 2015

A Conversation about tree loss, the value of plantations and forest health

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.


10 Sep 2015

Two FABIans attend the International Plant Protection Congress (IPPC) in Germany

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.


9 Sep 2015

Youth Features Prominently at the WFC2015

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.


8 Sep 2015

FABI Presents a World Café Session on Forest Health at the World Forestry Congress in Durban

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.


7 Sep 2015

IUFRO President Opens IFSA Workshop

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.


4 Sep 2015

FABIans make an impact at ICFR symposium

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.


3 Sep 2015

Nine FABIans graduate at Spring Graduation Ceremony 2015

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 


2 Sep 2015

FABIan awarded one of four SARChI chairs to be hosted at UP

Prof. Brenda Wingfield is one of four University of Pretoria incumbents of SARChI chairs announced by the Minister of Science and Technology, Naledi Pandor.


1 Sep 2015

FABIAns present research at Workshop on Genetics of Tree-Parasite Interactions in France

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.


1 Sep 2015

Goodbye winter, welcome spring!

In keeping with tradition, FABIans celebrated the first day of September with tea, cakes and other treats in the FABI courtyard.  A banner above the entrance to the courtyard inscribed "Goodbye Winter, Welcome Spring" summed up the sentiments of many at the tea who looked forward to warmer and brighter days to come.  FABI Director Professor Mike Wingfield thanked the Social Club for organising the event and Esco Technologies (Pty) Ltd for sponsoring the delectable food.


31 Aug 2015

Invasion Biologist Visits FABI

Invasion biologist Prof. He briefed FABI academics on the International Plant Sentinel Network (IPSN) that has membership of over 3000 botanical gardens. The International Plant Sentinel Network (IPSN) is being developed to facilitate collaboration amongst institutes around the world, with a focus on linking botanic gardens and arboreta, National Plant Protection Organisations and plant health scientists. Negotiations are underway to determine in which ways plant pathologists and entomologists at FABI can assist in identifying pathogens and pests in the South African Boitanical Gardens.


28 Aug 2015

Nature Publishing Group visits UP to explore exciting opportunities for promoting science in Africa

Representatives of the Nature Publishing Group (NPG) visited FABI to discuss the establishment of an online portal with a focus on Africa, with the UP principal and other staff members.


26 Aug 2015

Celebrating Science success

During their quarterly meeting, the management committee of the Tree Protection Cooperative Programme (TPCP) in FABI, celebrated the success of the first publication in the journal Science by three of their colleagues. Further north, FABI colleagues at the Centraalbureau voor Schimmelcutures in Utrecht, The Netherlands, also held a small celebration to mark the appearance of the FABI publication in Science. Read more here. Wingfield MJ, Brockerhoff EG, Wingfield BD, Slippers B.


25 Aug 2015

UP with Science introduces school children to hidden world of plant disease

Students from the DST-NRF Centre of Excellence in Tree Health Biotechnology (CTHB) in FABI showcase the exciting world of plant disease research to 50 learners from various Pretoria schools.


25 Aug 2015

New report of a serious fungal pathogen on Eucalyptus in SA

The TPCP team has recently confirmed the presence of a very serious pathogen of Eucalyptus in South Africa. Symptoms of the disease include chlorotic (yellow) lesions with red coloration of the lesion margins and veins on the top surface of leaves. Destructans leaf blight was first described from Indonesia in 1996. To help us gather information on the spread and host range of T. Photos: (A & B): Chlorotic (yellow) lesions with red coloration at the lesion margins and veins on the upper surface of leaves.


21 Aug 2015

FABI paper on forest health published in Science

The journal Science this week published a special issue focusing on forest health in a changing world, to which three authors of FABI contributed. The paper draws from decades of research experience of the authors on pest and disease problems of plantation forestry, contextualized against a backdrop of increasing globalisation, international trade, and changing climate patterns. FABI at the University of Pretoria hosts the single largest team of scientists working on tree health problems in the world. Attached to this news item is a full PRESS RELEASE that accompanied the online publication of the paper. Wingfield MJ, Brockerhoff EG, Wingfield BD, Slippers B (2015). An introduction to the special issue of Science and the other review papers is available here.


20 Aug 2015

FABIans act as judges at Northern Gauteng Senior Expo for Young Scientists

FABIans lent their time and expertise to the participants of the Northern Gauteng Senior Expo for Young Scientists held at the University of Pretoria’s LC de Villiers Sports Campus from 14-15 August 2015. This year’s judges included: Drs Gudrun Dittrich-Schröder, Jeanne Korsman and Kershney Naidoo as well as postgraduate students Esna du Plessis, Arista Fourie, Darryl Herron, Brittany Mitchell, Dorah Mwangola, Caryn Oates, Liezl Potgieter, Danielle Roodt and Ariska van der Nest. The expo is held annually and showcases the research projects of Pretoria learners from grades 6 to 12. This included Carla Hollamby and Roenita Grove, who were mentored by members of the DST-NRF Centre in Tree Health Biotechnology (CTHB) earlier this year. As one of the sponsors, the University of Pretoria provides the venue for the expo.  


20 Aug 2015

TPCP researchers release biocontrol agent for the red gum lerp psyllid

August 2015 marked the first releases of the parasitoid wasp Psyllaephagus bliteus in eucalypt plantations in South Africa. Glycapsis brimblecombei is native to Australia but has become a serious pest of eucalypt trees in regions where it has been accidentally introduced. Populations of P. The initial releases of P.


20 Aug 2015

FABI celebrates 7th prestige seminar for 2015

FABIans celebrated another milestone on August 14. David was supervised by Extraordinary Professor Gerhard Pietersen, leader of the Plant Virology Group in FABI. In his talk titled "Improving co-existence of the citrus industry and citrus tristeza virus through better genotype detection and understanding populations", David highlighted the contribution his research would have on the citrus industry with improvements to the control measures of the citrus tristeva virus (CTV). CTV is the most destructive viral pathogen with citrus, with grapefruit cultivars being most sensitive to infections.


19 Aug 2015

FABI participates in the South African Emergency Plant Pest Response Plan

Dr Brett Hurley of FABI was invited to participate in the South African Emergency Plant Pest Response Plan (SAEPPRP) workshop that took place at the Protea Hotel Fire and Ice, Pretoria from 11-14 August. The SAEPPRP provides an outline on the effective detection, identification, rapid response and mitigation of new plant pest arrivals in South Africa. The development of an effective national strategy to respond to the increasing rate of plant pest introductions is crucial.  


17 Aug 2015

FABIAns attend 48th Congress of the Brazilian Phytopathology Society

 Two of FABI’s researchers recently attended the 48th meeting of the Brazilian Phytopathology Society in São Pedro, Brazil. During the week in Brazil they also had the opportunity to visit some field sites with one of their hosts, Dr Ana Carolina Firmino, who works on Ceratocystis species in Brazil. Photo captions (top down, L-R): Drs. Jolanda sharing information on diseases caused by Ceratocystis species in Africa and Asia with congress attendees. Ana Carolina showing Irene and undergraduate students a root disease of fig trees.


15 Aug 2015

FABI academics hit the airwaves

FABI Professors Zander Myburg and Bernard Slippers participated in a two-hour live broadcast on radio station SAfm as guest speakers at the NRF Science for Society lecture series discussing the topic “Biotechnology: Productive forest plantations as a possible answer to our energy and material needs”. Guests from academia, industry and government packed the Senate Hall at the University of Pretoria where Vice Chancellor and Principle of the University of Pretoria, Prof. Veteran radio presenter Ike Phaahla hosted the lecture on SAfm’s “The Talkshop” radio programme. Prof. Prof. This is the fourth year that the NRF has been running the Science for Society lecture series as a means of bridging the divide that exists between science and community issues and to help society relate to how science, research and technology positively impact on our day-to-day lives and on future generations.