Between 28 June to 3 July 2015, FABI PhD student Osmond Mlonyeni had the privilege to attend the 65th Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting in Germany as a Horst Köhler Fellow, following his nomination by the Global Young Academy and Robert Bosch Stiftung.
In an effort to better prepare their students for the important decision of choosing subjects for their final three years of school, Woodhill College in Pretoria requires Grade 9 pupils to partake in a work shadowing experience. Two learners from this school, Nadia Santosuosso and Lenschen Greyling with an interest in genetics, joined Danielle Roodt, Andi Wilson and Mariette Ferreira for some hands-on experience in the lab. They had a tour of the FABI facilities, did their own PCR, gel electroph
The Director of the Forest Molecular Genetics (FMG) Programme, Prof. Zander Myburg, has been awarded the prestigious TW Kambule – NSTF Award for research and outputs over the last 5-10 years by an individual. The award acknowledges his outstanding overall contribution to forest molecular genetics research, but in particular highlights the recent research from his group which has uncovered the genomic control of wood formation in fast-growing Eucalyptus trees.
FABI and the Department of Genetics welcomed plant molecular biologist Dr Nicky Creux who presented a special seminar entitled "The circadium rhythms regulating heliotropism, floral development and pollinator visits in Helianthus".
High school learners from various schools participating in the University of Pretoria’s UP with Science programme presented their mini-research projects to a packed auditorium at Sci-Enza. Under the supervision of Dr Martin Coetzee as well as PhD and MSc students in the DST-NRF Centre of Excellence in Tree Health Biotechnology (CTHB), six learners investigated the effects of disease and stress on plant life.
FABI congratulates Jeanne Korsman who presented her prestige seminar entitled "Molecular responses of maize to its foliar pathogen, Cercospora zeina" and passed the oral examination afterward.
Prof. David Collinge of the Department of Plant and Environmental Science at the University of Copenhagen presented a special seminar at FABI. His lecture was titled: "From transgenic plants to endophytic fungi: contrasting approaches to disease control in plant".
Professor Emma Steenkamp and PhD students Darryl Herron and Gerda Fourie attended the 16th Annual Fusarium workshop hosted at Kansas State University in Kansas, USA from 21-26 June 2015.
Dr. Marie-Agnès Jacques from the French National Institute for Agricultural Research – Institut National de recherché Agronomique (INRA) presented a special seminar at FABI. Her presentation, entitled "Emergence of Xylella fastidiosa in Europe: diversity and biology of the causing agent" described how this bacterium devastated Olive trees in southern Italy following its introduction to Europe.
FABI would like to congratulate Tania Weller-Stuart on passing her PhD examination. Tania becomes the fifth FABI PhD candidate to pass their exam this year.
FABI member, Dr Eshchar Mizrachi is one of twenty outstanding scientists from across Africa to be chosen as a Fellow of the Africa Science Leadership Programme (ASLP). The project, led by FABI’s Prof. Bernard Slippers, a past co-chair of the Global Young Academy, kicked off with a week-long workshop on “Leading a new paradign for African science”.
During the past week, Prof. Mike Wingfield and some senior academic staff members of FABI hosted several members from the Division Science and Technology of the Chinese embassy in Pretoria. The visitors included Councelor Wei Huang, First Secretary Dong Zhang, and Third Secretary ZhongYang Wang.
Last week FABI welcomed a visiting delegation from the South African Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) and the National Research Foundation (NRF). The delegation were briefed how the Institute serves the forestry industry specifically via the Tree Protection Co-operative Programme (TPCP) and how the Technology and Human Resources for Industry Programme – THRIP funding has aided this successful programme over the past 17 years. The DTI has taken over responsibility for the THRIP funding initiative from the National Research Foundation and the team were acquainting themselves first hand with TPCP research activities. THRIP funding forms an important funding stream supporting technology-driven advances for the South African Forestry Industry.
Two FABI staff members, Profs Fanus Venter and Emma Steenkamp, and PhD student Annie Chan, attended the 6th Congress of European Microbiologists from 7 to 11 of June in Maastricht, the Netherlands. Prof Venter was an invited speaker and participated in the session “The species concept in the genomic era”.
The annual FABI Blanket Drive has exceeded the target for 2015 with 278 blankets collected. The blankets were collected in support of Tuks FM’s Woolly Winter campaign. It was handed over to Nadene Kotzé, Tuks FM Marketing and Events Co-Coordinator, by members of the FABI Social Committee chairman, Robert Backer, along with Dorah Mwangola and Miekie Haasbroek. Prof. Noelani van den Berg is the driving force behind this and numerous other FABI charity initiatives.
FABI and the Department of Genetics hosted a joint seminar by Prof. Rees Kassen from the University of Ottawa on evolutionary genetics. Prof Kassen holds the research chair of Experimental Evolution in the Department of Biology’s Centre for Advanced Research in Environmental Genomics. He is also the author of the book ‘Experimental Evolution and the Nature of Biodiversity’.
During the past few weeks the University of Pretoria opened its doors to high school learners in search of their future careers. Many FABI students and staff members participated in two events to share their passion and experiences about a possible career in science.
A group of eminent international researchers attending the Tree Protection Cooperative Programme (TPCP) annual meeting and symposium joined FABI’s Prof. Jolanda Roux, Dr Brett Hurley and Izette Greyling on a field trip to the KwaZulu-Natal and Mpumalanga Provinces to learn more about the plantation forestry industry in South Africa and the associated challenge posed by pests and pathogens.
During the past week the finalists for the highly-acclaimed 2014/15 NSTF–BHP BILLITON Awards were announced. Two FABI staff members are among the nominees for the 2015 'Science Oscars' recognizing, celebrating and rewarding excellence in Science, Engineering, Technology & Innovation in South Africa.
The final day of the TPCP and CTHB Annual Meetings continued with presentations on global tree health, and the impacts of trade and human movement on tree health especially dominated the morning’s discussions. Attendees traveled through different times in history as presentations looked back as far as the 1600s, took stock of the present and gazed to the future of tree health in the world.
Tree health – both of native and non-native trees – depends not only on being able to predict future threats but also being able to respond rapidly to new outbreaks or introductions of pests and pathogens, attendees of the 26th Annual Meeting of the Tree Protection Co-operative Programme (TPCP) and DST/NRF Centre of Excellence in Tree Health Biotechnology (CTHB) heard today.
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!
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.
FABI rejoices with Prof. Terry is a seed scientist and conducts research on fungi associated with diseases of seeds.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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!
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.
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.