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PhD student

Department

Microbiology and Plant Pathology
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Primary Supervisor
Jolanda Roux

Co Supervisor
Martin Coetzee

I'm a first year Ph.D student working with Prof. Jolanda Roux, Dr Martin Coetzee, Prof Mario Rajchenberg and Dr Didier Begoude. My PhD project focuses on wood-rotting fungi as pathogens of trees in Native forest ecosystems. Our aim is to study their impact, identity and epidemiology in forests of Cameroon and the Garden Route National Park (GRNP) of South Africa.

Native forests in the GRNP are selectively harvested, based on the occurrence of signs of wood rot and crown death of trees (Anonymous, 2012).  In most cases very little is known regarding the cause of this decay and death.  Based on some preliminary studies (Roux et al. 2011; Roux et al. 2013), it is hypothesized  that it may be due to attacks by wood-rotting fungi, as fruiting bodies resembling species of the pathogenic wood rot genera Phellinus sensu lato (s.l.) and Ganoderma s.l. were commonly observed on the dying trees and stumps.  However, due to the narrow size of the sample in the previous studies, further and thorough surveys will conducted in order to better elucidate the causal agents as well as their impact and the epidemiological factors that drive the spread of the root and butt rots disease encountered in the GRNP .

 

In comparison to South Africa, similar observations were also made in cacao (Theobroma cacao) plantations in Cameroon, one of the most important economic crops of the country. It was originally thought that Phytophthora megakarya was the only major threat to cacao production in Cameroon.  However, a preliminary field investigation by Roux et al. (2012) in the humid forest zone revealed the presence of signs and symptoms of root and butt rot disease caused by an  Armillaria species, a group of well-known root pathogens in the Southern part of the continent (Coetzee et al. 2000a, 2003a, 2005; Wingfield et al. 2010). Using this preliminary report as baseline, our research project will attempt to determine if Armillaria species represent an important threat to cacao production in Cameroon and also clarify the exact identity of the Armillaria species causing root rot of cacao trees.

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Publication
Tchotet Tchoumi JM, Coetzee MPA, Vivas M, Rajchenberg M, Roux J. (2017) Wood-rotting basidiomycetes associated with declining native trees in timber-harvesting compartments of the Garden Route National Park of South Africa. Austral Ecology 10.1111/aec.12524