11 Jun 2014

First FABI research paper in NATURE!

We congratulate Prof Zander Myburg and several other members of the FMG (Forest Molecular Genetics) Research Group in FABI with the publication of the first full research article from FABI to appear in the prestigious journal Nature. Eucalyptus grandis is one of the most widely planted commercial forestry crops globally and is grown mainly for timber, pulp and paper production, but increasingly also for “chemical cellulose” – a form of pure cellulose that is used in a wide variety of industrial products from textiles to pharmaceuticals. The project to sequence the Eucalyptus grandis genome involved 80 researchers from 30 institutions across 18 countries. South Africa’s Department of Science and Technology (DST), together with forestry companies Sappi and Mondi, supported Prof Myburg and his team by funding the construction of the genome map used as a scaffold for genome assembly, as well as the sequencing of expressed genes used for annotation of the genome. Photo: A Eucalyptus grandis tree and the University of Pretoria authors on the Nature article. Other publications from the FMG group related to the Eucalyptus genome can be viewed here.  

9 Jun 2014

Congratulations to Amy Wooding for completing her MSc Cum Laude!

As her thesis title states, Amy's project investigated the “Sex determination and symbiont transmission in the Sirex-Amylostereum mutualism”. For her experimental chapters she worked on collections from two distinct regions. The second and third research chapters of Amy’s MSc focused on South African populations of S. Through this thesis Amy made an exceptional contribution to the knowledge in the field. We congratulate Amy and wish her well for her PhD at Auburn University in the USA. Supervisors: Bernard Slippers, Jaco Greeff, Brett Hurley, Jeff Garnas, Mike Wingfield

7 Jun 2014

New book in honour of the late Prof Wally Marasas, Extraordinary Professor in FABI

A new visually, artistically and taxonomically interesting book, compiled by three mycologists with links to FABI, was recently launched at a special ceremony during the Annual Spring Symposium of the CBS held at the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences in Amsterdam, The Netherlands. Prof Walter Marasas, or Wally, as most people knew him, was one of the best known mycologists ever to come from South Africa. The team followed a unique approach. Sadly, Prof Marasas passed away in June 2012 before the project was completed.    

2 Jun 2014

FABIans organize the 2014 SA Bioinformatics and Genetics Society Congress

A team of FABIans, under the leadership of Prof Zander Myburgh, are on the organizing committee of the next joint SA Bioinformatics and Genetics Society Congress to be held at Kwalata Game Ranch north of Pretoria from 23-26 September 2014. According to Prof Myburgh they have a fantastic line-up of international guest speakers and a great conference venue in the African Bushveld that will allow excellent opportunities for interaction with the plenary speakers and with other attendees (picture evening discussions around a camp fire in the boma! The extended deadline for abstracts (for oral presentations) is 30 June, but they expect that the main lodge accommodation will soon fill up. Please contact the Congress Secretariat if you would be interested in booking out one of the nearby lodges for your research group or department.  

30 May 2014

20th Advanced Phylogenetics Workshop held in FABI

During the past week (26-30 May 2014) the 20th Advanced Phylogenetics Workshop took place in FABI. Photo: A happy (but somewhat mentally tired!

29 May 2014

DISEASE ALERT: A new disease of black wattle in South Africa

Earlier this year a new disease of Acacia mearnsii (black wattle) was reported to the TPCP by farmers in the KZN Midlands.

28 May 2014

Arista Fourie passes her MSc Cum Laude!

We are pleased to announce that Arista Fourie received a distinction for her MSc thesis entitled: Distinguishing between cryptic species in the Ceratocystis fimbriata sensu lato species complex. Congratulations Arista! Photo: Arista (middle in blue) celebrates her achievement with fellow lab mates Alisa Postma, Dr Irene Barnes (Supervisor) and Katrin Fitza.  

24 May 2014

FABIans take part in the UP open day

On Saturday 24 May an estimated 25 000 prospective students and their parents, friends and relatives flooded the UP campus to explore all possible areas of study and career opportunities.

23 May 2014

The CIRCUS is coming to FABI!

The chairperson for the FABI social club, Stephanie van Wyk, today announced the theme for this year's SPOOF meeting: CIRCUS CARNIVAL! All Fabians are invited to attend the Circus Carnival at the Plant Sciences Complex on 25th July at 18:00 (Invitation attached). You have two months for planning your PRESENTATIONS! We are also happy to announce that the TRAVEL GRANTS have been substantially increased from 2. Two months are also enough time to DESIGN your costumes. SEE YOU THERE!  

21 May 2014

Mkhululi Maphosa passes his MSc: congratulations!

Mkhululi Maphosa this week received the results of his MSc thesis examination. Photo: Mkhululi with his thesis and supervisors, Brenda Wingfield (left) and Emma Steenkamp (right).

20 May 2014

Divine Shyntum succesfully defends his PhD

We congratulate Divine Shyntum on passing his PhD oral exam on Tuesday morning after his PhD Prestige on Monday. The topic of his PhD was The functional characterization of the Type VI secretion system in Pantoea ananatis, under the leadership of Prof Teresa Coutinho, Prof Fanus Venter and Dr Lucy Moleleki. Shyntum DY, Venter SN, Moleleki LN, Toth I, Coutinho TA.  

19 May 2014

FABIans contribute more than 180 blankets to the TUKS FM Wooly Winter campaign 2013

On Friday last week members of the FABI social club loaded a FABI 4x4 to the brim with blankets and warm clothes and delivered these to the offices of TUKS FM. We would like to thank the PEP at Hatfield Plaza for their contributions to our blanket drive this year. by Matt Laubscher Photos: (Top) The fabulous FABIans on their way to deliver the blankets at TUKS FM , and (bottom) at the TUKS FM offices together with TUKS FM DJ's Franco Nieman (Back, left) and (front, f. More photo's of the event can be viewed in the gallery.

15 May 2014

FABI says goodbye to our longtime information specialist, Marié Theron

Since 2001, Marié Theron has been the Information Specialist in the UP Department of Library Services tasked with providing support to FABI. Marié recently decided to move closer to her family down in the Western Cape, where she will take up a senior position in the library of the University of Stellenbosch. Photo: Prof Brenda Wingfield, Marié Theron and Prof Mike Wingfield at the farewell tea.

14 May 2014

Bridging the ‘Innovation Chasm’ – Celebrating 25 years of the Tree Protection Cooperative Programme (TPCP)

For many centuries, people all over the globe have been fascinated by the origin of species, which factors safeguard their status quo, and where they are headed given probable change – the trifecta of existence, as it were. The mission of the TPCP to support all stakeholders in plantation forestry in South Africa was highlighted by having Mr. The annual meeting of the TPCP is one of the vehicles used to communicate the latest research results to the industry partners. There was a “golden thread” in most of the talks held this year – as a country South Africa requires an improved understanding of species arriving in the country accidentally. Also invited to address the TPCP was Prof. Concerning field extension, it was clear from the meetings that the advancement of science and technology over the past couple of decades is strongly and positively correlated with the advancement of disease diagnosis and treatment. All in all, after 25 years, it is clear that the TPCP has had a huge impact, and continues to be the world leader in keeping plantation trees healthy. by Dr Casper Crous  Photos Top: Patrick Kime, CEO of NCT with Mike Wingfield, Director of the TPCP. Middle: Prof Manuel Mota from the University of Évora in Portugal, presenting his talk on the global impact of the pinewood nematode. Bottom: An attentive audience of industry stakeholders, researchers and postgraduate students of the TPCP. An extensive collection of photographs covering all the events over the two day symposium can be viewed here, and the programme with titles of presentations during the symposium is attached as a pdf.  

12 May 2014

Seeing the Forest for the Trees: The Annual CTHB Research Meeting

Autumn is seen as the season of change. Photo gallery of this meeting.

11 May 2014

FABI leaders shine at the UP Academic Achievers Awards

The University of Pretoria Academic Achievers Awards function, held on Tuesday 6 May, is a highlight on the calendar of the University. Exceptional Academic achievers Prof Zander MyburgProf Jolanda RouxNRF Rated ResearchersProf Brenda Wingfield - ADr Jeff Garnas - YDr Juan Voster - YDr Lucy Moleleki - YThe function was attended by most of the administrative and academic leaders of the University, as well as high-level leaders in science from outside the University. Photo left: Prof Brenda Wingfield receives her NRF A-rating! Photos attached: From top to bottom, Proff Zander Myburg and Jolanda Roux receive their exceptional academic achievers awards, and Drs Jeff Garnas and Juan Vorster being congratulated with their Y ratings.

10 May 2014

Surprise party for FABI director’s 60th birthday

On Friday 9 May, almost 200 FABIans gathered secretly on the roof of the Plant Sciences Building for the 60th birthday celebration of the director of FABI, Prof Mike Wingfield.

9 May 2014

Bertha-Lucia Castro successfully defends her PhD thesis: Congratulations!

Bertha Lucía Castro Caicedo yesterday presented her PhD prestige seminar in FABI, entitled Diseases of coffee with particular reference to those affecting stems and roots in Colombia. Photo: Bertha Lucía Castro together with her supervisors Prof Jolanda Roux (left), Mike Wingfield (right) and her external examiner, Dr Liliane Petrini (second from right), after her thesis defense. Castro BL, Carreño AJ, Galeano NF, Roux J, Wingfield MJ, Gaitán AL. Castro Caicedo BL, Cortina Guerrero HA, Roux J, Wingfield MJ.

6 May 2014

Advanced Microscopy Course Held on 6 May 2014 for FABI Students

Earlier this year the need was identified for regular microscopy courses to assist and guide resident FABI students.

24 Apr 2014

FABI also welcomes the new Honours students in Microbiology

Welcome to the 2014 Honours students of the Microbiology Department who will be doing their projects with FABI supervisors. Back (from left to right): Benedicta Swalarsk-Parry, Ashleigh Geldenhuys, Stefan Priem Front (from left to right): Miranda Erasmus, Inge Pietersen, Boitumelo Ntlatleng, Nompumelelo Msiza Absent: Gibson Gondo and Erika Bruck

24 Apr 2014

“The Winter Heater” FABI Blanket Drive 2014

FABIans, please join us for the annual FABI blanket drive! Blankets and warm clothes can be brought to the foyer in FABI. For more information, you can contact Matt Laubscher, who is the FABI Social Club representative in charge of this year's campaign (Marius. Photo: The 'before photo' of a rather empty looking Winter Heater corner in the FABI foyer.  

23 Apr 2014

FABI welcomes Genetics honours students of 2014

We would like to welcome the new Honours students from the Department of Genetics who will be doing their projects with FABI supervisors. Photo: Back (L-R): Conrad Trollip, Yves du Toit.

23 Apr 2014

Post Doctoral Fellowship opportunity in FABI for 2014-2016

A two year Post Doctoral Fellowship is available at the University of Pretoria related to a dynamic research group (Bacterial Genomics and Host Pathogen Interactions) working on potato plant pests and pathogens.

21 Apr 2014

A successful Science Communication Workshop

On the 14th and 15th of April, 18 FABIans had the opportunity to participate in a Science Communication Workshop by Sally Upfold from the ICFR (Institute of Commercial Forestry Research). Written by Ariska van der Nest and Arista Fourie. Photo: Kavani Sanasi making her impromptu speech, one of the exercises during the workshop.

17 Apr 2014

Registration now open for Advanced Phylogenetics Workshop

Please note that the next Advanced Phylogenetics Workshop is scheduled for 26 - 30 May 2014.

11 Apr 2014

Seven PhD's, six MSc's and many more degrees awarded to FABIans at the Autumn Graduation Ceremony

FABI's presence was felt and seen at the Autumn Graduation Ceremony of the Faculty of Natural and Agricultural Science that took place on Wednesday 9 April. PhD Rodrigo Ahumada - Emerging new diseases of plantation-grown Pinus spp. Nicky Creux - In silica and functional characterization of the cellulose synthase 1 gene promoter of Eucalyptus trees Dawit Degefu - Ecology and genetic diversity of Coryphodema tristis on Eucalyptus nitens in South Africa Karen Eatwell - Remediation of instability in Best Linear Unbiased Prediction (BLUP) in tree breeding populations James Harrison - Phylogeny of the Pegyline and taxonomy of selected southern African Leucopholina (Coleoptera: Scarabaeidae: Melolonthinae}, with an emphasis on genera of agricultural concern Fahimeh Jami - Taxonomy and ecology of Botryosphaeriaceae associated with Acacia karroo in South Africa Eshchar Mizrachi - Functional genomics and systems genetics of cellulose biosynthesis in Eucalyptus MSc Jonathan Botha - Qualitative reporter gene and targeted yeast one-hybrid analysis of the Eucalyptus grandis SND2 promoter region Jane Bredenkamp - Characterization of tolerance to bacterial wilt in the model plant Arabidopsis *Caryn Oates - Transcriptional responses of Eucalyptus clones to the gall wasp, Leptocybe invasa *Darryl Herron - Characterization of Fusarium species from Pinus and Eucalyptus nurseries in Colombia and South Africa *Ronel Roberts - 'Candidatus Liberibacters' found in four indigenous Rutaceous species from South Africa Nicole Rudolph - Efficacy of selected rhizobacterial isolates for biocontrol of Rhizoctonia solani and growth promotion of maize in South Africa BSc Honours (Honours students of last year who did project with FABI supervisors): Juanita Avontuur *Colan Balkwill (prize for the top student in Genetics Honours) Angelique du Preez Afrah Khairalla  *Marius Laubscher  Vusi Letsoalo *Thandekile Mamni Kavani Sanasi Jennifer Wayland BSc (Including FABI mentorship students of 2013 and FABI honours students of this year): *Andrew Behrens (prize for top student in Genetics in third year) Yves du Toit Miranda Erasmus Asleigh Geldenhuys Kayla Noeth Boitumelo Ntlatleng Inge Pietersen Lizel Potgieter Elelwani Ramulifho Benedicta Swalarsk-Parry Karin van der Westhuizen *Martin Wierzbicki (* degrees with distinction)   More photo's on our website gallery.

10 Apr 2014

Microsatellite Workshop held in FABI2

A two-day Introductory Microsatellite Workshop took place on 8 and 9 April 2014 in the Bioinformatics computer laboratory in FABI 2. During the workshop facilitators explained what microsatellite markers are, why we need them, how to use them, and also compared the application of this marker with other technologies and emerging technologies such as RAD sequencing. For the first time this year the afternoon of the second day was dedicated to a microsatellite discussion session where the workshop participants could ask questions and discuss their results with the workshop facilitators. Attendees of the workshop were: Daniela Arriagada-Cares, Jason Bezuidenhout, Ashleigh Geldenhuys, Yves du Toit, Felix Fru, Leonora Haasbroek, Estiene Jordaan, Kishen Mahesh, Pelly Malebe, Masethabela Maphatsoe, Alain Misse, Norman Muzhinji, Simeshini Naidoo, Bonny Oloka, Kennedy Simango, and Bronwynne Strybos. Now we are looking forward to many good publications from these students based on their microsattelite data! Authored by Renate Zipfel.

9 Apr 2014

Photo by FABI postdoc selected for exhibition at the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow

Dr Lucas Shuttleworth recently entered a photo in the Commonwealth Woods Photographic Competition. The photo depicts local children using makoros near Malabwe, in the Western Province of Zambia, with native forests in the backgound. This once again illustrates how valuable good photographs from field research can be.  

7 Apr 2014

USDA Fellowship pushes forward research on grey leaf spot of maize

Prof Dave Berger from the Plant Science Department, Forestry and Agriculture Biotechnology Institute (FABI) at the University of Pretoria, South Africa was awarded a 2013 U. These Fellowships were set up in honour of Norman Borlaug, recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize in 1972 for his role in breeding improved varieties of wheat that led to the Green Revolution. Prof Berger spent three months of his Sabbatical hosted by Dr Burt Bluhm in the Department of Plant Pathology at the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville. The Fellowship also afforded Prof Berger the opportunity to attend the World Food Prize in Des Moines, Iowa, considered to the be the “Nobel Prize in Agriculture”. A serendipitous meeting at the World Food Prize between Prof Berger and Prof Willi Meyers, Director of the CAFNR International Programs at the University of Missouri led to a new collaboration on the impact of fungal diseases on small-holder farmers in KwaZulu-Natal. Further outcomes of the Borlaug Fellowship is the planned visit of a student from Dr Bluhm’s lab to UP in May 2014 with a USDA-funded follow up visit by Dr Bluhm to Prof Berger’s lab in mid-2014. Photo: Prof Berger receiving Fellowship certificate from Karen Utrecht, Africa Program Manager, Borlaug and Scientific Exchange Programs, USDA, together with Dr Burt Bluhm, University of Arkansas.

4 Apr 2014

Two Masters students hand in their theses

Two Masters students handed in their theses for examination today. Congratulations! Photo: Arista in the process of handing in.

3 Apr 2014

FABI teamwork: almost 1500 genes annotated in 5 hours!

FABI is well known for using the power of many to get certain jobs done faster, more effectively and with more enjoyment. On 4 April, FABI students and staff joined a jamboree to curate more than 1400 genes of a tree pathogen, Ceratocystis albifundus.

1 Apr 2014

Another FABI PhD dissertation successfully defended

Yesterday, Michael Mbenoun, a PhD candidate from the TPCP/CTHB group in FABI, presented a prestige seminar on his dissertation entitled Diversity, ecology and taxonomy of tree infecting Ceratocystis species in Africa.   Photo: Michael Mbenoun (middle) just after the presentation of his Prestige Seminar, together with Prof Paal Krokene (left) and his supervisors, Profs Mike Wingfield, Jolanda Roux and Brenda Wingfield.

1 Apr 2014

St Mary’s DSG visits FABI

On Tuesday 18 March the Matric Life Sciences class from St Mary’s DSG visited FABI.

28 Mar 2014

FABI students break a tree planting record!

Today 43 students of the TPCP/CTHB research groups in FABI have broken two records. The group not only included South African students, but students from countries as far as Canada, Colombia, Chile, Spain, Czech Republic, Germany, Kenya, Cameroon, Ethiopia, India, Thailand, China and Korea. You can view photos of the students in action here.

26 Mar 2014

Undergraduate Students Exposed to Biocontrol Research at FABI

The FABI Biocontrol Centre based at the UP Experimental Farm is a modern research facility that focuses on the experimentation and rearing of biological control agents to control forestry pests.

7 Mar 2014

New Eucalyptus pest

Another insect feeding on Eucalyptus species was recently detected by Prof. Stefan Neser in Pretoria. The identity of this insect must still be confirmed, but it is expected to be in the genus Spondyliaspis (shell lerp psyllids). As with the red gum lerp pysllid (Glycaspis brimblecombeii), detected in South Africa in 2012, this pysllid is a sap-sucking insect where the nymphs are covered by a protective casing called a lerp. In the case of Spondyliaspis the lerp has the appearance of a shell, he