Two FABIans, Ms. ESOF16 had more than 150 sessions, 700 speakers and was attended by approximately 4,500 individuals from more than 90 countries. In addition to the talks at ESOF16, emerging researchers including the FABI team members had the opportunity to enjoy lunch with a distinguished scientist and have an informal discussion about their careers, advice for emerging researchers etc. The conference ended on Wednesday evening with the closing ceremony highlighting events of the past few days. Danielle and Gudrun thank the Robert Bosch Stiftung for making their participation at this event possible.
The Forest Molecular Genetics (FMG) Programme hosted an eight-day training workshop on R statistics, quantitative genetics and genomic selection from 25 July to 3 August in Hilton in the KwaZulu-Natal Province.
Prof. Noelani van den Berg and Dr Bridget Crampton recently attended the European Plant Biology EPSO/FESB Congress from 26 -30 June in Prague in the Czech Republic.
Two FABIans, Dr Brett Hurley and Prof. Mike Wingfield joined approximately 60 scientists from all over the world for a workshop of the IUFRO Biological Invasions Task Force in the USA.
The International Society for Molecular Plant-Microbe Interactions (IS-MPME) congress was held in Portland, Oregon from 17-21 July 2016. Professor Dave Berger, research leader of the Molecular Plant-Pathogen Interactions research group was invited to give a talk entitled “Integration of resistance QTL, expression QTL and co-expression modules reveals molecular responses of maize to the fungal pathogen Cercospora zeina” and also presented two posters. Other researchers representing South Africa at the congress were Prof.
Grade 10 learners taking part in the CTHB Tree Disease Treasure Hunt at FABI on July 23 needed a combination of smarts, speed and sweat to complete the challenge and claim their prizes. The learners, who are in their first year of the UP and JuniorTukkie’s science enrichment programme UP with Science, were mentored by staff and students in the CTHB.
On 7 July Anthony Hitchcock, Nursery, Living Collections and Threatened Species Manager at Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden, hosted a small function where Prof. Fanus Venter (CTHB / Department of Microbiology and Plant Pathology) had the opportunity to hand over a copy of a publication in which a new bacterial species was named after the gardens.
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.