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The bacterial genomics and host pathogen interactions research group is interested in understanding molecular pathogen-host interactions between potato plants and their various pathogens. The objectives of the research include molecular identification of potato pathogens and pests, functional characterisation of bacterial virulence factors and elucidation of potato plant responses elicited by potato pathogens. We ultimately endevour to contribute knowledge toward the control of pathogens and pests under study.

The research group focusses on the interaction between cereal plants and foliar fungal pathogens. Pathosystems currently under study include grey leaf spot in maize (GLS) caused by Cercospora zeina, and northern corn leaf blight (NCLB) in maize and sorghum caused by Exserohilum turcicum. Projects are aimed at studying population structure of these pathogens, identification and functional characterisation of pathogen effectors causing disease, and cereal plants’ response to pathogen infection.

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 Fruit Tree Biotechnology Programme (FTBP), a programme of the Forestry and Agricultural Biotechnology Institute (FABI), represents a cooperative venture between The Hans Merensky Foundation and the University of Pretoria, to deal with avocado disease problems, especially the avocado/Phytophthora cinnamomi interaction. HMF has committed a substantial amount to establish this research project at FABI and The University of Pretoria in turn provides the infrastructure necessary to conduct research.

The Macadamia Protection Programme is a collaborative venture between the Southern African Macadamia Growers’ Association, the Agricultural Biotechnology Institute (FABI) and the University of Pretoria. The overall aim of this research partnership is to address the threats posed to Macadamia production by pests and diseases. More specifically, this research programme aims to provide biologically relevant information on important pests and pathogens, in order to improve integrated pest management systems. The programme will also aim to contribute to the development of biological control agents and natural products, as well as to conduct research that assist in the selection of resistant or tolerant cultivars.

The Molecular Plant Physiology group collaborate with research groups in the UK, USA, Canada and Belgium to study the effect of biotic and abiotic stress in plants though a combination physiology, phenomics, functional genomics and proteomics. Using a holistic approach we aim to better understand the mechanisms underlying plant stress tolerance and resistance as well as the identification of potential biological markers that can then be used in plant improvement.

The Molecular Plant-Pathogen Interactions (MPPI) Group is located in the Plant Sciences Complex at the University of Pretoria and is headed by Prof Dave Berger. Research focuses on the molecular basis of plant-pathogen interactions using a range of approaches from whole plant phenotyping to functional genomics. We study the maize – grey leaf spot (Cercospora zeina) pathosystem, and bacterial wilt in Arabidopsis.

The Phytobacteriology programme at FABI has two main research areas, viz. taxonomy and pathogenicity. Several plant pathogenic bacteria are currently being characterized using a range of techniques, and are also being formally described. As one of our main focus areas, the pathogenicity factors of Panteoa ananatis, an opportunistic plant pathogen, are being investigated using a functional genomics approach.

Research by this group focuses on the epidemiology, etiology, detection and identification of the two most important viruses of wine grapes and citrus respectively in order to improve control of the disease they induce. The group also does research on fastidious bacteria associated with Rutaceae (Citrus-family), which on citrus is associated with citrus greening disease.

The group is actively involved in seed science research. Our research fields include seed health tests, general seed pathology, seed vigour and seed germination according to ISTA rules. We are also involved in evaluating industry, or developing novel, environmentally sustainable, seed treatments. The research focuses on grains, herbs and vegetables.

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.