Ms Jesse Hartley
|Noelani van den Berg|
I am currently undertaking an MSc in Microbiology under the supervision of Professor Noëlani van den Berg within the Avocado Research Programme (ARP). My research focus is the plant pathogen Rosellinia necatrix, which causes white root rot in Persea americana (avocado). The aim of my MSc study is focused on the surveillance and monitoring of the spread, progression and prevalence of R. necatrix in South African avocado orchards through diagnosis of infected trees. A molecular detection technique for the identification of R. necatrix in artificially, as well as naturally, infected soil and plant material will also be optimised, providing a valuable tool for future studies. The development of a selective medium for the isolation of R. necatrix will also fall as a part of my MSc research. A phylogenetic tree of all R. necatrix isolates obtained by the ARP, as well as those obtained from other countries, using 3 gene regions may also provide us with a clear picture of the relationships between them.
As part of my honours research, I identified R. necatrix in commercial avocado orchards, determined its optimal growth conditions, and assessed the susceptibility of common South African avocado rootstocks to white root rot. This work has been published in Plant Disease as a first report of white root rot on avocado in South Africa. My undergraduate studies were also completed at the University of Pretoria; I obtained a BSc degree with specialisation in Microbiology (2016).