Chemical ecology is the study of the role that chemicals play mediating interactions between organisms and organisms and their environment, and the consequences of those interactions in ecological and evolutionary time. It is not an autonomous discipline but rather an approach to ecology, one of viewing ecological interactions through a chemical lens world.


The CTHB promotes the health of trees indigenous to South Africa through the use of biotechnology. This is accomplished through projects that typically consider the pathogens and pests associated with native trees and woody hosts. The CTHB also explores the possible effects that factors such as climate change, society, natural forest health and plant genetics may have on the health of native woody resources and ecosystems.


The EPPI group undertakes to gain an understanding of host broad-spectrum resistance to curb disease or pest incidence in Eucalyptus and Pine. Genomic approaches are employed to investigate Eucalyptus interactions to the insect pest Leptocybe invasa, the oomycete pathogen Phytophthora cinnamomi and the fungal pathogen Chrysoporthe austroafricana. In Pine, induced resistance is being investigated as a means to improve tolerance against Fusarium circinatum.

The Forest Molecular Genetics (FMG) Programme focuses on the genetic control of wood development in fast-growing plantation trees. We utilise a number of research and technology platforms, namely: tree genomics; high-throughput DNA marker analysis; functional genetics; as well as wood pheno¬typing. We work in close collaboration with South African forestry companies to develop capacity and resources for the application of tree biotechnology in operational tree improvement programmes.

The Polyphagous Shothole Borer (PSHB) outbreak in South Africa is the largest geographical outbreak of this beetle in the world. It is affecting trees in all sectors: the agricultural and commercial forestry sector, urban trees (public spaces, streets, gardens), as well as native trees in natural forests. Over the past year or more, researchers at FABI had been in contact with senior academics from seven universities in relation to PSHB research.

The RGE-FABI Tree Health Programme (RGE-FABI THP) was established in 2018 as a collaborative venture between the Indonesian-based Royal Golden Eagle (RGE) Group and the Forestry and Agricultural Biotechnology Institute (FABI) at the University of Pretoria. This partnership addresses challenges posed by pests and diseases to RGE’s forestry operations in Indonesia and Brazil. The initiative involves FABI researchers working in partnership with RGE’s divisions: Asia Pacific Resources International Holdings Limited (APRIL) and Brazil based Bracell Limited.

The Tree Protection Cooperative Programme (TPCP) represents a cooperative venture between the major players in the South African Forestry Industry and the University of Pretoria, to deal with tree disease problems. The programme is based on a membership concept where forestry organisations are members and contribute to a collaborative effort through the payment of annual fees. The University of Pretoria in turn provides the infrastructure necessary to conduct research into tree pests and diseases, which is technologically complicated and thus expensive.