18 May 2015

Annual Symposia of the DST/NRF CTHB and the TPCP

Prof. Mike Wingfield predicted “lots of science” would come out of the CTHB symposium during his welcome address, and that was exactly what our visitors got!


15 May 2015

Double PhD Celebration at FABI

FABI would like to congratulate both Mingliang Yin and Stephen Taerum on presenting their prestige seminars and successfully passing their PhD examinations this past week. Minliang’s primary supervisor was Dr. Stephen Taerum was under the primary supervision of Prof. Mingliang is looking forward to return to China to be with his wife and young daughter while Stephen will continue his research activities at FABI.


14 May 2015

FABI professor honoured by the seed industry  

FABI rejoices with Prof. Terry is a seed scientist and conducts research on fungi associated with diseases of seeds.


12 May 2015

FABI researchers unravel Eucalyptus genomics and biology

The journal New Phytologist has published a special online issue celebrating the completion of the Eucalyptus genome published in the prestigious journal Nature in June 2014. Several FABI researchers contributed to eight articles (listed below) in the special issue covering diverse topics such as genome diversity, comparative genomics, carbon allocation, protein evolution, floral development and woody biomass production. Strauss SH, Myburgh AA. Carocha V, Soler M, Hefer CA, Cassan-Wang H, Fevereiro P, Myburg AA, Paiva JAP, Grima-Pettenati J. Kersting AR, Mizrachi E, Bornberg-Bauer E, Myburg AA. Hussey SG, Saïdi MN, Hefer C, Myburg AA, Grima-Pettenati J. Mizrachi E, Maloney VJ, Silberbauer J, Hefer CA, Berger DK, Mansfield SD, Myburg AA. Soler M, Myburg AA, Paiva JAP, Hefer CA, Savelli B, Clemente HS, Cassan-Wang H, Carocha V, Camargo ELO, Grima-Pettenati J. Hudson CJ, Freeman JS, Myburg AA, Potts BM, Vaillancourt RE. Hefer CA, Mizrachi E, Myburg AA, Douglas CJ, Mansfield SD.


11 May 2015

FABI director attends UNFF11 in New York

During the week of 3rd May, FABI Director Mike Wingfield attended and participated in the 11th session of the United Nations Forum on Forests in New York fulfilling part of his responsibilities as current IUFRO President. Photographs include those of IUFRO Executive Director (Alexander Buck), Dr.


11 May 2015

Megan McCaghey from UC Davis joins the maize pathology group at FABI

Visiting RIFA Fellow, Megan McCaghey, hit the ground running after arriving in Pretoria. While at FABI, Megan will be assisting postgraduate students in the MPPI, Seed Science and CFPRG labs, particularly Ncobile Kunene, David Nsibo, and Katrien De Ridder.


8 May 2015

FABI director speaks on global tree health

Prof. A special treat for Mike was to be able to spend time with Dr John Gibbs, one of his first mentors from before he did his Ph.


6 May 2015

Charting the mycology path towards IMC Puerto Rico 2018

The International Mycological Association (IMA) held its first Executive Committee meeting for the 2014-2018 term on 25 April 2015 in Utrecht, The Netherlands. The IMA links mycological and related societies globally and as such acts as the overarching body promoting and ensuring the well-being of mycology internationally.


2 May 2015

Another successful round of pine screening completed

During the past week another round of resistance screening of pine seedlings against Fusarium circinatum has been completed at FABI. As part of its service to the South African forestry industry, the TPCP research group in FABI has been conducting pine screening trials for several years. More detailed information about pitch canker research at FABI can be found in the attached list of research papers.


1 May 2015

Sappi foresters visit FABI

As has become custom over the past few years, Duncan Ballantyne, Silviculture Development Manager at Sappi Forests in Ngodwana, recently brought a group of 15 Sappi foresters to visit FABI. The group first visited the FABI Biological Control Centre and Research Nursery on the experimental farm, where Dr Wilhelm de Beer provided them with a brief background and overview of the research and extention services conducted in the TPCP. From the enthusiastic response by the visitors and their positive feedback afterwards, it was clear that visits like these are essential to build a better understanding and relationship between the foresters in the field, and our researchers in the laboratory.


29 Apr 2015

Five MSc (Biotechnology) graduates from the MPPI and CFPRG groups

Five members of the Molecular Plant Pathogen Interactions (MPPI) or Cereal Foliar Pathogen Research Group (CFPRG) graduated with MSc (Biotechnology) degrees at the 2015 Autumn graduation at the University of Pretoria.


28 Apr 2015

39 FABI students graduate at the UP Autumn Graduation Ceremony

FABI is proud to have had two PhD, 21 MSc and 16 Honours students capped at the Autumn 2015 graduation ceremony of the Faculty of Natural and Agricultural Sciences held on 22 April. PhD Dr. Dr. MSc Microbiology Tondani Kone: Characterization of sex-pheromone receptor genes of Fusarium species and other Sordariomycetes Olga Mashandule: Population biology of Fusarium circinatum Nirenberg et O'Donnell associated with South African Pinus radiata D. Linda Ndove: Botryosphaeriaceae associated with Podocarpaceae in South Africa Plant Pathology Renate Botha: Evaluating Cavendish banana clones for tolerance to Fusarium oxysporum f. Silvia Mausse Sitoe: Diseases of Eucalypts in Mozambique with particular reference to the Cryphonectriaceae Medicinal Plant Science Sarah Stanton: The polyamines and endophytes of gousiekte-causing and non-pathogenic Vangueria and Pavetta species Bioinformatics Jon Ambler: Genome characterisation, with special reference to gene silencing mechanisms, of Armillaria fuscipes Biotechnology Monique Heystek: Promoter analysis of three defense gene family members from maize in response to Cercospora zeina Degracious Kgoale: Gene expression study of candidate Arabidopsis defence genes in response to the bacterial wilt pathogen Brigette Langenhoven: Characterisation of three putative effector genes from the maize foliar pathogen Cercospora zeina Rynier Lourens: Identification and characterisation of the Eucalyptus grandis non-expressor of pathogenesis related 1 (NPR1) genes. Mischa Muller: Molecular diversity of the maize pathogen Cercospora zeina in South Africa Thomas Schmidt: Transient biolistic transformation in maize leaves Pooja Singh: Transcriptome-wide analysis of predicted proteome variation segregating in a Eucalyptus hybrid family Erik Visser: Pinus patula transcriptome assembly Entomology Katie Termer: Biotic and abiotic determinants of resource quality for the larvae of the European woodwasp, Sirex noctilio Genetics Elrea Appelgryn: Characterization of Phytophthora cinnamomi from avocado Sitha Ramsuchit: Establishment of cross-pathogenicity of two different Phytophthora cinnamomi A2 isolates on hosts, Persea americana and Eucalyptus spp. Danielle Roodt: The mating genetics and core genome of Ceratocystis albifundus Plant Science Jean Hakizimana: Understanding the role of endophytes in avocado root health and in enhancing its tolerance against Phytophthora cinnamomi MSc Agric Plant Pathology Edgar Mangwende: Seed-borne fungi of herbs cultivated in South Africa and evaluation of non- chemical seed treatments to control Alternaria sp. BSc Honours with projects in FABI Bioinformatics Riaan Swanepoel Biotechnology Elelwani Ramulifho Genetics Andrew Behrens Yves du Toit Lizel Potgieter Mohamed Seedat Conrad Trollip Microbiology Erika Bruck Miranda Erasmus Ashleigh Geldenhuys Kirsten Kenchenten Nompumelelo Msiza Biotumelo Ntlatleng Inge Pietersen Stefan Priem Benedicta Swalarsk-Parry


24 Apr 2015

FABI academics shine at the 2015 UP Academic Achievers Awards

Every year the University of Pretoria hosts a special gala dinner rewarding academics that have shown exceptional achievement in the preceding year. Prof. Dr Wilhelm de Beer - B2 (absent from the awards ceremony as he was attending ICTF and IMA board meetings in the Netherlands)  Prof. Dr Irene Barnes - Y1  Dr Brett Hurley - Y1  Dr Sanushka Naidoo - Y2  We congratulate all the recipients from FABI for their achievements and for flying the FABI banner at the ceremony!


23 Apr 2015

FABIans attend the 11th Regional Plant Biotechnology Forum

Members of the Molecular Plant Pathogen Interactions (MPPI) and Cereal Foliar Pathogens Research (CFPRG) groups attended the 11th Regional Plant Biotechnology Forum (RPBF) at the University of Johannesburg.


20 Apr 2015

Sirex research features in Mail & Guardian

Sarah Wild, multiaward-winning science journalist, published an extensive article on the combat against the pine-killing Sirex wood wasp in this week's Mail & Guardian.


19 Apr 2015

FABIans at the IUFRO Board Meeting and Bio-Economy symposium in Vienna

FABI was well represented at the IUFRO expanded Board Meeting held in Vienna, Austria, on 15-16 April where Director and current IUFRO President, Prof. Prior to the Board meeting IUFRO, in partnership with the Austrian Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry, Environment and Water Management (BMLFUW), hosted the Bio-Economy Symposium with the theme “Sowing Innovation – Reaping Sustainability: Forests’ Crucial Role in a Green Economy”. In his opening address to the delegates, Prof.  


14 Apr 2015

FABI professor gives plenary lecture at conference in the UK

Prof. Photo (Left to right):  Dr Helen Neale, Prof.


11 Apr 2015

A busy year for the CMW Culture Collection

It has been a very busy start to the year for the staff managing the CMW Fungal Culture Collection at FABI. The FABI collection is one of the largest private collections of fungal cultures in the world and was established in the 1980's by FABI Director, Prof. The collection is especially known for accommodating focus groups of fungal agents of tree disease in commercial forestry, and includes some of the most comprehensive collections in existence of the ophiostomatoid fungi (Ophiostoma, Sporothrix, Ceratocystis etc. The preparation, storage, maintenance and cataloguing of this collection is of vital importance and this is done by a group of six staff and postgraduate students. The fungal cultures are preserved in four different media: sterile water, agar slants, mineral oil and freeze dried with a skim milk formula. Dr Marincowitz runs a tight ship with every culture sample coming in being logged and recorded both electronically and manually on data cards. The CMW collection forms the foundation of much of the research in FABI.  


2 Apr 2015

First publications of FABI students in ISI-rated journals celebrated

The TPCP-CTHB groups in FABI have a tradition of officially celebrating the first publication of a paper in an ISI-rated scientific journal by a postgraduate student from the work of either their PhD or MSc. At the first publication party for 2015, the first publications of seven students were celebrated last week. THE PUBLICATIONS Fourie A, Wingfield MJ, Wingfield BD, Barnes I. Herron DA, Wingfield MJ, Wingfield BD, Rodas CA, Marincowitz S, Steenkamp ET. Lee DH, Roux J, Wingfield BD, Wingfield MJ. Liu FF, Mbenoun M, Barnes I, Roux J, Wingfield MJ, Li GQ, Li JQ, Chen SF. Nesamari R, Millar IM, Coutinho TA, Roux J. Osorio JA, Wingfield MJ, Roux J. Taerum SJ, Duong TA, De Beer ZW, Gillette N, Sun J, Owen DR, Wingfield MJ.  


1 Apr 2015

High school students visit FABI

FABI hosted two groups of High School students over the past two weeks. The visit by students from St Mary’s is now an annual occasion where the girls are also addressed by female academics. The girls were then given the opportunity to do gel electrophoresis preparation to tie in with the biotechnology module currently being covered in their school syllabus. Affies is located close to the University and this is the second year the school has sent its students to visit the Institute to get an insight into the work being done at the University and gain a practical insight into research being conducted. The students are currently studying bacteria and viruses and were hosted by Prof. Students were briefed on biological Nitrogen fixation in plants, given a chance to inoculate and plate bacterial cultures before being told about fungal and bacterial symbioses in indigenous Protea species. Visits by scholars forms an important part of FABI’s mandate to educate the youth and instill an interest in Science by exposing them to high level research being conducted at the Institute.


30 Mar 2015

Many hands make light work

In a joint effort, staff and students again showed that many hands make light work at the year’s first TPCP-CTHB Tree Planting Day. Everyone swapped their labcoats for shovels, secateurs, wheelbarrows, trolleys and brooms to ensure the tasks were finished by lunchtime. The Tree Planting Day is a team building exercise as much as a time saving effort by the FABI staff under the watchful eye of Dr Wilhelm de Beer. More photos here.


29 Mar 2015

Africa Science Leadership Program (ASLP) launched at the University of Pretoria

The University of Pretoria, in partnership with the Global Young Academy and Robert Bosch Stiftung, has recently launched the Africa Science Leadership Program (ASLP). FABI research leader and also leader of the Africa Science Leadership Initiative, Prof. Dr Eva Alisic, co-chair of the Global Young Academy and researcher at Monash University in Australia, spent the first two months of the year in FABI to support the launch of the program. The program will commence with a first group in June 2015, and will run annually for an initial period of three years. More information on the Africa Science Leadership Program (ASLP). Reference Slippers B, Alisic E.


27 Mar 2015

American student to start a citizen science research project at FABI

In April 2015, Joey Hulbert will join FABI as a PhD student in the Department of Microbiology and Plant Pathology. Photo: Joey Hulbert next to a tanoak (Notholithocarpus densiflorus) tree infected with Phytophthora ramorum — the species responsible for Sudden Oak Death in North America.


25 Mar 2015

TPCP/CTHB Diagnostic Clinic heads to Limpopo and Mpumalanga for a week of in-field training

The TPCP/CTHB Diagnostic Clinic serves the member companies of the TPCP with diagnoses and advice with regards to tree disease problems. Last week saw the TPCP/CTHB Diagnostic team go on their annual training trip. Some of the familiar plant diseases encountered on this trip included pitch canker and Armillaria root rot of pine; bacterial wilt and MLB (Mycosphaerella leaf blotch) of Eucalyptus; and pink disease on yellow wood. Pests and diseases were not the only part of the trip, however.


24 Mar 2015

The 2015 CTHB mentorship program kicks off with a meet-and-greet

The DST/NRF Centre for Tree Health and Biotechnology (CTHB) has been running a highly successful mentorship programme for over a decade. A meet and greet function for the successful mentees and their mentors was held on 27 February in the FABI courtyard.      


19 Mar 2015

Launch of FABI’s annual Blanket Drive 

FABI has launched its annual Blanket Collection campaign and aims to collect 200 blankets this year. Charity drives and social awareness is an important part of FABI’s annual events calendar and gives people pause to think of those less fortunate than they are and in need. Blankets can be dropped off in the FABI reception area or cash donations of R50 per blanket can be made to Prof Noelani van den Berg.


11 Mar 2015

Two Centres of Excellence join forces in research on La Reunion Island

FABI, the DST-NRF Centres of Excellence in Tree Health Biotechnology (CTHB)  and Invasion Biology (C•I•B) joined forces during early March 2015 to investigate microbiological aspects of the relationship between Acacia koa and A.


7 Mar 2015

FABI PhD student to attend the 2015 Lindau meeting

A PhD student in FABI, Osmond Mlonyeni, has been chosen as a 2015 Lindau Fellow to attend the 65th Lindau meeting in Germany in June 2015.


6 Mar 2015

Tim Noakes Lectures at TUKS

A host of FABIans were part of the audience of more than 250 people that filled the Sanlam Auditorium to listen to Prof. Prof. The title of his lecture was Reversing the greatest blunder in the history of medicine: can South African medical science lead the way? Dr Albe van der Merwe, senior lecturer in FABI and a board member of S2A3, presented Prof.  


5 Mar 2015

First PhD graduate from the Fruit Tree Biotechnology Programme

FABI would like to congratulate Bianca Reeksting on passing her PhD exam this week!


28 Feb 2015

Double Distinctions for two FABI MSc students

We would like to congratulate Erik Visser and Danielle Roodt for both passing their MSc degrees with distinction! Erik sequenced and assembled the shoot transcriptome of Pinus patula, creating an important resource to investigate host responses to Fusarium circinatum in future. As part of his MSc studies, Erik spent three months at the University of Connecticut in the laboratory of Prof. Danielle’s thesis is titled "The mating genetics and core genome of Ceratocystis albifundus". Ceratocystis albifundus is a filamentous ascomycete and a pathogen of non-native Acacia mearnsii in southern Africa. Both Danielle and Erik plan to embark on their PhD's this year.


27 Feb 2015

Myrtle rust pathogen, Puccinia psidii, spreading in South Africa

The non-native rust pathogen of Eucalyptus and other Myrtaceae, Puccinia psidii, was first reported from a single tree in a garden on the KwaZulu-Natal South Coast of South Africa in May 2013. During a survey of cycad diseases in the Wolkberg Wilderness Area near Tzaneen, Limpopo Province, two native Eugenia sp. Puccinia psidii, the myrtle rust pathogen, has been known from Brazil and other South and Central American countries for several decades. Infection of plants results in leaf spot, necrosis of leaves, shoot, flower and fruit infections, resulting in death of affected plant parts. The threat of P. We encourage you to spread information on this important pathogen as wide as possible and to report any possible sightings of the disease to Prof.


21 Feb 2015

Encouraging Results in FABI/TPCP Biocontrol Programme

The fight against the ravages of the Bronze Bug Thaumastocoris peregrinus in commercial Eucalyptus forests has been stepped up with the successful release, establishment and spread of the minute parasitic wasp Cleruchoides noackae (Mymaridae). It has been 18 months since the Tree Protection Co-Operative Programme (TPCP), based at FABI, received permission from the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (DAFF) for the release the parasitic wasp. Data from post-release monitoring of C. Thaumastocoris peregrinus was first recorded in South Africa in 2003 (but only in 2005 in forestry areas), having been accidentally introduced from Australia. Photos: 1.


20 Feb 2015

FABI Launches Partnership with CBS

FABI has entered into a research partnership agreement with the Centraalbureau voor Schimmelcultures (CBS)-Fungal Biodiversity Centre located in Utrecht in the Netherlands. FABI Director, Prof. An important part of the partnership is the exchange of expertise and development and nurturing of the scientific talent at FABI. Prof. Species in the fungal genus Fusarium are of crucial importance in several fields. About CBS CBS is an institute of the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences (KNAW). CBS maintains a world-renowned collection of more than 100 000 living filamentous fungi, yeasts and bacteria – the largest and oldest such collection in the world, representing a large percentage of the species in the fungal kingdom that have been cultured to date.


13 Feb 2015

Top science journalist visits FABI

Sarah Wild, Science Editor and multi-award winning journalist for the leading newspaper, The Mail & Guardian, visited FABI on 9 February when she conducted an interview with FABI Director, Prof.  


6 Feb 2015

Population Genetics Guest Lecture

FABI was honoured to co-host a special seminar in partnership with Department of Genetics, by Dr Adam Konecný on the application of Approximate Bayesian Computation (ABC) as a valuable tool for inferring population history from genetic data.