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Department

Genetics
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I am the research leader for the Fruit Tree Biotechnology Programme (FTBP). The avocado research project is a joint venture between FABI and The Hans Merensky Foundation. The aim of this project will be to shed light and understand the mechanisms and gene expression pathways whereby tolerant avocado rootstocks, are protected against Phytophthora cinnamomi. My education is in the fields of Plant Pathology and Botany and my research experience is in molecular plant-micobe interactions with a special interest in the identification and isolation of defence-related genes.

The research that I performed during my Ph.D. was the first attempt at isolating defence-related genes in a tolerant banana in response to Fusarium wilt. Panama disease (Fusarium Wilt) of banana is recognized as one of the most devastating diseases in the recorded history of agriculture. Management strategies for the disease currently rely on host resistance and cultural practices. Several banana cultivars and landraces have tolerance/resistance to the pathogen, Fusarium oxysporum f.sp. cubense subtropical race 4. However, these plants are not always suitable for production in South Africa. This project was the first of its kind in this field and molecular techniques such as Suppression Subtraction Hybridization (SSH), Micro-array technology, Quantitative Reverse Transcriptase PCR provided us with tools to identify the genes responsible for resistance/tolerance in this tolerant Cavendish selection or any other germplasm source with resistance to the pathogen. The gene identification can be applied in three ways - firstly, candidate genes can be used as markers for resistance traits in a banana improvement program; secondly, the information lead to a better understanding of the mechanisms whereby resistance is conferred, thereby providing new defence strategies; and thirdly, the genes will be used in banana.

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Publication
Reitmann A, Berger DK, Van den Berg. (2017) Putative pathogenicity genes of Phytophthora cinnamomi identified via RNA-Seq analysis of pre-infection structures. European Journal of Plant Pathology 147(1):211-228. 10.1007/s10658-016-0993-8
Meyer FE, Shuey LS, Ramsuchit S, Mamni T, Berger DK, van den Berg N, Myburg AA, Naidoo S. (2016) Dual RNA-sequencing of Eucalyptus nitens during Phytophthora cinnamomi challenge reveals pathogen and host factors influencing compatibility. Frontiers in Plant Science 7:191. 10.3389/fpls.2016.00191 PDF
Backer R, Mahomed W, Reeksting B, Engelbrecht J, Ibarra-Laclette E, van den Berg N. (2015) Phylogenetic and expression analysis of the NPR1-like gene family from Persea americana (Mill.). Frontiers in Plant Science 6:300. 10.3389/fpls.2015.00300
Reeksting BJ, Coetzer N, Mahomed W, Engelbrecht J, van den Berg N. (2014) De novo sequencing, assembly, and analysis of the root transcriptome of Persea americana (Mill.) in response to Phytophthora cinnamomi and flooding. PLoS ONE 9(2):e86399. 10.1371/journal.pone.0086399 PDF
Reeksting BJ, Taylor N, van den Berg N. (2014) Flooding and Phytophthora cinnamomi: Effects on photosynthesis and chlorophyll fluorescence in shoots of non-grafted Persea americana (Mill.) rootstocks differing in tolerance to Phytophthora root rot. South African Journal of Botany 95:40-53. 10.1016/j.sajb.2014.08.004 PDF
Engelbrecht J, Van den Berg N. (2013) Expression of defence-related genes against Phytophthora cinnamomi in five avocado rootstocks. South African Journal of Science 109(11/12):1-8. 10.1590/sajs.2013/20120058
Engelbrecht J, Duong TA, Van den Berg N. (2013) Development of a Nested Quantitative Real-Time PCR for Detecting Phytophthora cinnamomi in Persea americana Rootstocks. Plant Disease 97(8):1012-1017. 10.1094/PDIS-11-12-1007-RE
Mahomed W, Van den Berg N. (2011) EST sequencing and gene expression profiling of defence-related genes from Persea americana infected with Phytophthora cinnamomi. BMC Plant Biology 11(167) 10.1186/1471-2229-11-167 PDF
Van Den Berg N, Berger DK, Hein I, Birch PRJ, Wingfield MJ, Viljoen A. (2009) Genes up-regulated in tolerant cavendish banana roots in response to Fusarium oxysporum f. sp. cubense infection. Acta Horticulturae 828:273-282. PDF
Van Den Berg N, Berger DK, Hein I, Birch PRJ, Wingfield MJ, Viljoen A. (2007) Tolerance in banana to Fusarium wilt is associated with early up-regulation of cell wall-strengthening genes in the roots. Molecular Plant Pathology 8(3):333-341. 10.1111/j.1364-3703.2007.00389.x PDF
Groenewald S, Van den Berg N, Marasas WFO, Viljoen A. (2006) The application of high-throughput Amplified Fragment Length Polymorphisms in assessing genetic diversity in Fusarium oxysporum f.sp. cubense . Mycological Research 110(3):297-305. 10.1016/j.mycres.2005.10.004
Groenewald S, Van den Berg N, Marasas WFO, Viljoen A. (2006) Biological, physiological and pathogenic variation in a genetically homogenous population of Fusarium oxysporum f.sp. cubense. Australasian Plant Pathology 35:401-409. 10.1071/AP06041
Van den Berg N, Crampton BG, Hein I, Birch PRJ, Berger DK. (2004) High-throughput screening of suppression subtractive hybridization cDNA libraries using DNA microarray analysis. BioTechniques 37(5):818-824.
van den Berg N, Aveling TAS, Venter SL. (2002) The evaluation of six fungicides for reducing Alternaria cassiae on cowpea seed. Crop Protection 21:501-505. PII:S0261-2194(01)00140-5 PDF
van den Berg N, Aveling TAS, van der Merwe CF. (2002) Conidial morphology and development of Alternaria cassiae from cowpea. African Plant Protection 8(1):69-74. PDF