Thursday 11 February marked a sad day on the FABI calendar as we said farewell to Marlene Harney. We thank Marlene for her amazing contribution to FABI and wish her the very best for her future.
The University of Pretoria and the Forestry and Agricultural Biotechnology Institute (FABI) will host the 2016 International Fusarium laboratory workshop from 29 May to 3 June. Internationally recognised Fusarium researchers will present the workshop and participants will be introduced to standard morphological, genetic and molecular biological techniques used to identify and characterise strains of Fusarium.
FABI congratulates Ritesh Mewalal on passing his PhD oral exam on January 29, becoming the second FABIan to do so in 2016. His external examiners were Professors Jeffrey Dean of the Department of Biochemistry, Molecular Biology, Entomology & Plant Pathology at Mississippi State University in the United States, Peter Constabel of the Centre for Forest Biology at the University of Victoria in Canada, and Laigeng Li of the Institute of Plant Physiology and Ecology Chinese Academy of Sciences in Beijing.
Dates: 16-18 May 2016 Venue: FABI, University of Pretoria The annual meeting of the Tree Protection Co-operative Programme (TPCP) and DST/NRF Centre of Excellence in Tree Health Biotechnology (CTHB) is rapidly drawing closer. As has been the case in the past, the 27th annual meeting of the TPCP will focus on key issues relating to forest tree health in South Africa. •Prof. •Dr. •Dr. We look forward to welcoming you in Pretoria and once again to use this opportunity to exchange ideas and to further the important goal of “KEEPING TREES HEALTHY”.
The sixth bi-annual African Centre for Gene Technologies (ACGT) Proteomics workshop, organised by Project Co-ordinator at the ACGT, Mr Thabo Khoza, was hosted by the University of Pretoria on 1-2 February 2016. Lectures were presented by Professor Lennart Martens and Ms Tracey Hurrell. Overall, this two-day workshop attracted 34 attendees from different academic backgrounds including Dr Stoyan Stoychev from CSIR, Dr John Becker from ACGT, Prof Duncan Cromarty from the Department of Pharmacology (University of Pretoria) and three FABI PhD students: Ms Lizahn Zwart, Ms Elodie Ekoka and Mr Johan Liversage. For those interested in proteomics, several beginner-friendly tutorials recommended by Prof.
Ronishree Mangwanda presented the first prestige seminar of 2016 on January 27 at the Plant Sciences Auditorium, University of Pretoria. Ronishree’s supervisors were Drs Sanushka Naidoo, Albe van der Merwe and Prof. During her PhD project Ronishree studied the immune responses and defences of Eucalyptus grandis to infection by the fungus Chrysoporthe austroafricana.
Count yourself lucky if you can still fill your glass with water from a tap. FABI has committed to bringing some relief to communities in need of water by collecting 2000 litres of water between January 25 and February 1. The dire situation is graphically illustrated by these images supplied by FABIan Ludwig Eksteen showing the desert-like conditions in the Bothaville District of the Freestate Province.
The first FABI ‘Monday Morning Meeting’ of 2016 kicked off in spectacular fashion on January 25 when FABI Director, Prof. Prof. In response to the nationwide drought and subsequent water shortages in some communities, Prof.
FABI MSc students Angie du Preez and Khumbuzile Bophela attended the 19th Biennial South African Society for Microbiology (SASM) congress held in the Coastlands Umhlanga Convention Centre in KwaZulu-Natal from 17-20 January 2016. The welcome ceremony opened with a lead plenary address by Dr Karen Nelson of the J. Angelique du Preez: Pantoea ananatis strains from different niches: a flagellin glycosylation island comparison Khumbuzile Bophela: Characterisation and pathogenicity of Enterobacter species associated with bacterial blight and die-back of Eucalyptus seedlings and cuttings This SASM conference reflected on disciplines such as Industrial Microbiology and Biotechnology.
During the past year, FABIans has set a new record for the highest number of research or review papers in internationally recognized journals since the Institute was established in 1998. The 91 papers were published in 43 different journals. Eleven FABI papers have already appeared online in 2016. A complete list of all FABI publications can be viewed here.
As has become custom during the past few years, the management committee of the TPCP-CTHB research programmes in FABI has met for two days off-campus to strategise for the year ahead.
When the UP campus opened today after the past week’s disruptions, a group of FABIans rolled up their sleeves to clean up litter strewn in the area around the FABI buildings during the protest actions.
FABI would like to congratulate Professor Teresa Coutinho who has been appointed as the American Society for Microbiology (ASM) South African ambassador for a three-year term.
The joint 2016 conference for the South African Association of Botanists (SAAB) and the Southern African Society for Systematic Biology (SASSB) took place from 10-13 January at the University of the Free State in Bloemfontein.
FABI hosted eight postgraduate students and their supervisors from the University of the Free State (UFS) and the University of Venda (Univen) on December 3.
PhD student at Dartmouth College and FABI collaborator, Flora Krivak-Tetley, delivered a seminar at the institute on December 3.
Dr Bridget Crampton (Cereal Foliar Pathogen Research Group) and PhD student, Velushka Swart (Molecular Plant-Pathogen Interactions Group) of FABI attended the 36th New Phytologist Symposium in Münich, Germany from 29 November to 1 December. Poster titles: J. V. In celebration of the symposium, a virtual special issue of New Phytologist: Cell biology at the plant-microbe interface was released. Two upcoming symposia to be hosted by New Phytologist include: 37th New Phytologist Symposium: Plant developmental evolution. 38th New Phytologist Symposium: Colonization of the terrestrial environment.
Nimble fingers made light work of a day spent planting Eucalyptus cuttings at the FABI Nursery.
Aquillah Kanzi, a PhD student of the TPCP research group in FABI, attended the EMBO Conference in Barcelona, Spain, from 17-22 October where he presented results of his research project. The conference organisers arranged a social activity where attendees toured the ancient Roman city of Girona.
The fourth annual research meeting of the Forest Molecular Genetics (FMG) Programme was held at the University of Pretoria on November 25. FMG Director Prof. Prof. Members of the FMG management team, postdoctoral fellows and postgraduate students also presented their research in teams under different themes. Members of Pretoria_UP 2015, a group of predominantly undergraduate students who represented UP at the International Genetically Engineered Machines (iGEM) Giant Jamboree in Boston, Massachusetts in September, also gave a presentation.
Dr. UP collaborators on these projects include Bernard Slippers, Brett Hurley, Mike Wingfield and Marc Bouwer at FABI and Egmont Rohwer at the Department of Chemistry. Chemical ecology is the study of the role of chemicals in the interactions among and with species. Please contact either Jeremy Allison or Bernard Slippers should you be interested in the jointly supervised PhD projects. Photos: 1.
FABI recently hosted a visit by board members of the Southern African Macadamia Growers’ Association (SAMAC) to the institute and its biocontrol facility. The group acquainted themselves with the world-class research being conducted at FABI on combatting tree pests and pathogens and the biocontrol work being done at the biocontrol facility on the University’s experimental farm.
A celebratory breakfast marking ten years since the launch of two outreach programmes affiliated to the DST-NRF Centre of Excellence in Tree Health Biotechnology (CTHB), was held at FABI on November 20. Launched a year after the founding of the CTHB, the CTHB Mentoring Programme and the Mpepu Rural Youth Encouragement (MRYE) have since reached out to hundreds of undergraduate students and high school learners. Prof. Prof. Samukelo said MRYE had found a home in the CTHB and because of this support it could continue to uplift rural youth in eight provinces.
Combining educational outreach with hypothesis driven research is Joey Hulbert’s goal with Cape Citizen Science - an initiative designed to engage the public in a research project about plant disease in the fynbos biome of the Western Cape. Joey is interested in surveying the Phytophthora species present in the fynbos for his PhD project and managers at the Kirstenbosch NBG had reported the presence of this pathogen in their Protea garden. More information and pictures from the activity can be found on the projects blog: http://citsci.
As part of a joint research grant funded under the NRF/JST Agreement on Cooperation in Science and Technology, Professors Teresa Coutinho and Fanus Venter visited Professor Yuichi Takikawa and his colleagues. Legend to photo:Left to right: Profs Takikawa, Furutani, Coutinho, Azegami, Hakato.
Biological control is one of the most important strategies to manage the increasing number of forestry insect pests, but the viability of this approach depends largely on international collaboration.
The 2015 FABI year-end gala dinner and awards ceremony was indeed a ‘monumental’ occasion! FABIan of the Year: Darryl Herron FABI Award Recognising Contributions by a Person External to the Institute: Managing Director of Sappi Forests, Dr Terry Stanger (in absentia) FABI Award for UP staff member (or something like that): Prof. The 2015 FABI Honours students were also each presented with a unique FABI t-shirt. Photos of the event can be viewed in the Gallery.
The 22nd Advanced Phylogenetics Workshop took place in FABI from 9 to 13 November 2015. The workshop provided attendees with hands-on experience in the different software that is currently used to infer phylogenies.
FMG researchers represent FABI and UP at 11th International Plant Molecular Biology (IPMB) meeting and visit FuturaGene, Brazil
Fabians in the Forest Molecular Genetics Programme (FMG), Prof. The following FABI research was presented: Hussey, S. Laubscher, M. Myburg, A. Naidoo, S. Prior to the meeting, the FMG delegation visited the laboratory and greenhouse facilities of the biotechnology company FuturaGene in Itapetininga, Brazil, where they were hosted by Esteban Gonzalez, Sara El Kadri and Othon Abrahão of FuturaGene.
Professor Louis Bernier from the Université Laval in Québec City, Canada presented a special seminar in FABI titled "Analysis of the yeast-mycelium dimorphism in the Dutch elm disease fungi. His research group focuses on the identification and characterisation of genes contributing to pathogenicity and fitness in the Dutch elm disease fungi Two subspecies of Ophiostoma novo-ulmi have collectively killed an estimated one billion adult elm trees during the last 100 years in Europe and North America. Prof.
Two PhD prestige seminars were presented in FABI during the past week. PhD Prestige seminars mark the second last step towards earning a PhD degree in FABI. Gerda Fourie and Markus Wilken respectively presented their PhD projects on November 11 and November 12. In her presentation titled: “Evolution of mitochondrial genomes in the Fusarium fujikuroi species complex”, Gerda highlighted the role that mitochondria play in explaining the fungal species’ origins. Markus’s seminar was titled: “Mating in Ceratocystis” and he explained how he unravelled some of the highly complex mating systems in this fungal genus.
A delegation from the TPCP/CTHB research groups in FABI presented talks at an international workshop regarding the evolutionary dynamics of tree invasions: drivers, dimensions, and implications for management. The meeting, hosted by the Centre of Excellence for Invasion Biology (CIB) at Stellenbosch University on 9-10 November, had three primary aims: - To synthesise our current knowledge on the key processes underlying tree invasions worldwide, - To elucidate the dimensions of these processes to better understand across which temporal, spatial and taxonomic scales such changes can occur, - To explore how such processes may bias management and control approaches and how research could reduce such biases, thereby increasing our general knowledge of, and ability to manage, tree invasions The nexus between sustainable commodity production and sustainable ecosystems was a hot topic, and this workshop certainly helped to progress our understanding of this nexus. FABI and associates presented the following talks: Prof. Dr Casper Crous - A deadly game of catch-up and host jumps. Prof. Joey Hulbert - Early detection and monitoring of invasive plant pests with citizen science: an international review Prof. Prof.
During the past week, the construction of a new, state-of-the-art semi-quarantine tunnel started at the FABI Biocontrol Centre (FBC) on the experimental farm of the University of Pretoria. Funding for the climate controlled tunnel that will cost almost R 1 million to construct, was obtained as part of a larger grant by the FSA / DST Sector Innovation Fund. Insect pests and diseases are some of the most important threats to the sustainability of commercial forestry in South Africa. During the past decade, research done at the FBC has led to the development, successfull release and continuous production of several biocontrol agents. The new tunnel at the FABI Biocontrol Centre will enable TPCP researchers to grow plants in the absence of pests. The FBC facilities are managed and insects reared by a dedicated team technical staff members. Research at the FBC is done by a growing number of postdoctoral fellows, PhD and MSc students. Photos 1,2: Dr Wilhelm de Beer together with some of the contractors on the site where construction of the new semi-quarantine tunnel started at the FABI Biocontrol Centre (FBC) this week. Photos 3,4: Insects and plants don't strike!
Prof. He discussed the role of fungal mating genes of asexual fungi in host specificity in a presentation titled: "Speciation of plant-pathogenic fungi: Does host specificity matter?