During the past week, Prof. Mike Wingfield and some senior academic staff members of FABI hosted several members from the Division Science and Technology of the Chinese embassy in Pretoria. The visitors included Councelor Wei Huang, First Secretary Dong Zhang, and Third Secretary ZhongYang Wang.
Last week FABI welcomed a visiting delegation from the South African Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) and the National Research Foundation (NRF). The delegation were briefed how the Institute serves the forestry industry specifically via the Tree Protection Co-operative Programme (TPCP) and how the Technology and Human Resources for Industry Programme – THRIP funding has aided this successful programme over the past 17 years. The DTI has taken over responsibility for the THRIP funding initiative from the National Research Foundation and the team were acquainting themselves first hand with TPCP research activities. THRIP funding forms an important funding stream supporting technology-driven advances for the South African Forestry Industry.
Two FABI staff members, Profs Fanus Venter and Emma Steenkamp, and PhD student Annie Chan, attended the 6th Congress of European Microbiologists from 7 to 11 of June in Maastricht, the Netherlands. Prof Venter was an invited speaker and participated in the session “The species concept in the genomic era”.
The annual FABI Blanket Drive has exceeded the target for 2015 with 278 blankets collected. The blankets were collected in support of Tuks FM’s Woolly Winter campaign. It was handed over to Nadene Kotzé, Tuks FM Marketing and Events Co-Coordinator, by members of the FABI Social Committee chairman, Robert Backer, along with Dorah Mwangola and Miekie Haasbroek. Prof. Noelani van den Berg is the driving force behind this and numerous other FABI charity initiatives.
FABI and the Department of Genetics hosted a joint seminar by Prof. Rees Kassen from the University of Ottawa on evolutionary genetics. Prof Kassen holds the research chair of Experimental Evolution in the Department of Biology’s Centre for Advanced Research in Environmental Genomics. He is also the author of the book ‘Experimental Evolution and the Nature of Biodiversity’.
During the past few weeks the University of Pretoria opened its doors to high school learners in search of their future careers. Many FABI students and staff members participated in two events to share their passion and experiences about a possible career in science.
A group of eminent international researchers attending the Tree Protection Cooperative Programme (TPCP) annual meeting and symposium joined FABI’s Prof. Jolanda Roux, Dr Brett Hurley and Izette Greyling on a field trip to the KwaZulu-Natal and Mpumalanga Provinces to learn more about the plantation forestry industry in South Africa and the associated challenge posed by pests and pathogens.
During the past week the finalists for the highly-acclaimed 2014/15 NSTF–BHP BILLITON Awards were announced. Two FABI staff members are among the nominees for the 2015 'Science Oscars' recognizing, celebrating and rewarding excellence in Science, Engineering, Technology & Innovation in South Africa.
The final day of the TPCP and CTHB Annual Meetings continued with presentations on global tree health, and the impacts of trade and human movement on tree health especially dominated the morning’s discussions. Attendees traveled through different times in history as presentations looked back as far as the 1600s, took stock of the present and gazed to the future of tree health in the world.
Tree health – both of native and non-native trees – depends not only on being able to predict future threats but also being able to respond rapidly to new outbreaks or introductions of pests and pathogens, attendees of the 26th Annual Meeting of the Tree Protection Co-operative Programme (TPCP) and DST/NRF Centre of Excellence in Tree Health Biotechnology (CTHB) heard today.
Prof. Mike Wingfield predicted “lots of science” would come out of the CTHB symposium during his welcome address, and that was exactly what our visitors got!
FABI would like to congratulate both Mingliang Yin and Stephen Taerum on presenting their prestige seminars and successfully passing their PhD examinations this past week. Minliang’s primary supervisor was Dr. Stephen Taerum was under the primary supervision of Prof. Mingliang is looking forward to return to China to be with his wife and young daughter while Stephen will continue his research activities at FABI.
FABI rejoices with Prof. Terry is a seed scientist and conducts research on fungi associated with diseases of seeds.
The journal New Phytologist has published a special online issue celebrating the completion of the Eucalyptus genome published in the prestigious journal Nature in June 2014. Several FABI researchers contributed to eight articles (listed below) in the special issue covering diverse topics such as genome diversity, comparative genomics, carbon allocation, protein evolution, floral development and woody biomass production. Strauss SH, Myburgh AA. Carocha V, Soler M, Hefer CA, Cassan-Wang H, Fevereiro P, Myburg AA, Paiva JAP, Grima-Pettenati J. Kersting AR, Mizrachi E, Bornberg-Bauer E, Myburg AA. Hussey SG, Saïdi MN, Hefer C, Myburg AA, Grima-Pettenati J. Mizrachi E, Maloney VJ, Silberbauer J, Hefer CA, Berger DK, Mansfield SD, Myburg AA. Soler M, Myburg AA, Paiva JAP, Hefer CA, Savelli B, Clemente HS, Cassan-Wang H, Carocha V, Camargo ELO, Grima-Pettenati J. Hudson CJ, Freeman JS, Myburg AA, Potts BM, Vaillancourt RE. Hefer CA, Mizrachi E, Myburg AA, Douglas CJ, Mansfield SD.
During the week of 3rd May, FABI Director Mike Wingfield attended and participated in the 11th session of the United Nations Forum on Forests in New York fulfilling part of his responsibilities as current IUFRO President. Photographs include those of IUFRO Executive Director (Alexander Buck), Dr.
Visiting RIFA Fellow, Megan McCaghey, hit the ground running after arriving in Pretoria. While at FABI, Megan will be assisting postgraduate students in the MPPI, Seed Science and CFPRG labs, particularly Ncobile Kunene, David Nsibo, and Katrien De Ridder.
Prof. A special treat for Mike was to be able to spend time with Dr John Gibbs, one of his first mentors from before he did his Ph.
The International Mycological Association (IMA) held its first Executive Committee meeting for the 2014-2018 term on 25 April 2015 in Utrecht, The Netherlands. The IMA links mycological and related societies globally and as such acts as the overarching body promoting and ensuring the well-being of mycology internationally.
During the past week another round of resistance screening of pine seedlings against Fusarium circinatum has been completed at FABI. As part of its service to the South African forestry industry, the TPCP research group in FABI has been conducting pine screening trials for several years. More detailed information about pitch canker research at FABI can be found in the attached list of research papers.
As has become custom over the past few years, Duncan Ballantyne, Silviculture Development Manager at Sappi Forests in Ngodwana, recently brought a group of 15 Sappi foresters to visit FABI. The group first visited the FABI Biological Control Centre and Research Nursery on the experimental farm, where Dr Wilhelm de Beer provided them with a brief background and overview of the research and extention services conducted in the TPCP. From the enthusiastic response by the visitors and their positive feedback afterwards, it was clear that visits like these are essential to build a better understanding and relationship between the foresters in the field, and our researchers in the laboratory.
Five members of the Molecular Plant Pathogen Interactions (MPPI) or Cereal Foliar Pathogen Research Group (CFPRG) graduated with MSc (Biotechnology) degrees at the 2015 Autumn graduation at the University of Pretoria.
FABI is proud to have had two PhD, 21 MSc and 16 Honours students capped at the Autumn 2015 graduation ceremony of the Faculty of Natural and Agricultural Sciences held on 22 April. PhD Dr. Dr. MSc Microbiology Tondani Kone: Characterization of sex-pheromone receptor genes of Fusarium species and other Sordariomycetes Olga Mashandule: Population biology of Fusarium circinatum Nirenberg et O'Donnell associated with South African Pinus radiata D. Linda Ndove: Botryosphaeriaceae associated with Podocarpaceae in South Africa Plant Pathology Renate Botha: Evaluating Cavendish banana clones for tolerance to Fusarium oxysporum f. Silvia Mausse Sitoe: Diseases of Eucalypts in Mozambique with particular reference to the Cryphonectriaceae Medicinal Plant Science Sarah Stanton: The polyamines and endophytes of gousiekte-causing and non-pathogenic Vangueria and Pavetta species Bioinformatics Jon Ambler: Genome characterisation, with special reference to gene silencing mechanisms, of Armillaria fuscipes Biotechnology Monique Heystek: Promoter analysis of three defense gene family members from maize in response to Cercospora zeina Degracious Kgoale: Gene expression study of candidate Arabidopsis defence genes in response to the bacterial wilt pathogen Brigette Langenhoven: Characterisation of three putative effector genes from the maize foliar pathogen Cercospora zeina Rynier Lourens: Identification and characterisation of the Eucalyptus grandis non-expressor of pathogenesis related 1 (NPR1) genes. Mischa Muller: Molecular diversity of the maize pathogen Cercospora zeina in South Africa Thomas Schmidt: Transient biolistic transformation in maize leaves Pooja Singh: Transcriptome-wide analysis of predicted proteome variation segregating in a Eucalyptus hybrid family Erik Visser: Pinus patula transcriptome assembly Entomology Katie Termer: Biotic and abiotic determinants of resource quality for the larvae of the European woodwasp, Sirex noctilio Genetics Elrea Appelgryn: Characterization of Phytophthora cinnamomi from avocado Sitha Ramsuchit: Establishment of cross-pathogenicity of two different Phytophthora cinnamomi A2 isolates on hosts, Persea americana and Eucalyptus spp. Danielle Roodt: The mating genetics and core genome of Ceratocystis albifundus Plant Science Jean Hakizimana: Understanding the role of endophytes in avocado root health and in enhancing its tolerance against Phytophthora cinnamomi MSc Agric Plant Pathology Edgar Mangwende: Seed-borne fungi of herbs cultivated in South Africa and evaluation of non- chemical seed treatments to control Alternaria sp. BSc Honours with projects in FABI Bioinformatics Riaan Swanepoel Biotechnology Elelwani Ramulifho Genetics Andrew Behrens Yves du Toit Lizel Potgieter Mohamed Seedat Conrad Trollip Microbiology Erika Bruck Miranda Erasmus Ashleigh Geldenhuys Kirsten Kenchenten Nompumelelo Msiza Biotumelo Ntlatleng Inge Pietersen Stefan Priem Benedicta Swalarsk-Parry
Every year the University of Pretoria hosts a special gala dinner rewarding academics that have shown exceptional achievement in the preceding year. Prof. Dr Wilhelm de Beer - B2 (absent from the awards ceremony as he was attending ICTF and IMA board meetings in the Netherlands) Prof. Dr Irene Barnes - Y1 Dr Brett Hurley - Y1 Dr Sanushka Naidoo - Y2 We congratulate all the recipients from FABI for their achievements and for flying the FABI banner at the ceremony!
Members of the Molecular Plant Pathogen Interactions (MPPI) and Cereal Foliar Pathogens Research (CFPRG) groups attended the 11th Regional Plant Biotechnology Forum (RPBF) at the University of Johannesburg.
Sarah Wild, multiaward-winning science journalist, published an extensive article on the combat against the pine-killing Sirex wood wasp in this week's Mail & Guardian.
FABI was well represented at the IUFRO expanded Board Meeting held in Vienna, Austria, on 15-16 April where Director and current IUFRO President, Prof. Prior to the Board meeting IUFRO, in partnership with the Austrian Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry, Environment and Water Management (BMLFUW), hosted the Bio-Economy Symposium with the theme “Sowing Innovation – Reaping Sustainability: Forests’ Crucial Role in a Green Economy”. In his opening address to the delegates, Prof.
Prof. Photo (Left to right): Dr Helen Neale, Prof.
It has been a very busy start to the year for the staff managing the CMW Fungal Culture Collection at FABI. The FABI collection is one of the largest private collections of fungal cultures in the world and was established in the 1980's by FABI Director, Prof. The collection is especially known for accommodating focus groups of fungal agents of tree disease in commercial forestry, and includes some of the most comprehensive collections in existence of the ophiostomatoid fungi (Ophiostoma, Sporothrix, Ceratocystis etc. The preparation, storage, maintenance and cataloguing of this collection is of vital importance and this is done by a group of six staff and postgraduate students. The fungal cultures are preserved in four different media: sterile water, agar slants, mineral oil and freeze dried with a skim milk formula. Dr Marincowitz runs a tight ship with every culture sample coming in being logged and recorded both electronically and manually on data cards. The CMW collection forms the foundation of much of the research in FABI.
The TPCP-CTHB groups in FABI have a tradition of officially celebrating the first publication of a paper in an ISI-rated scientific journal by a postgraduate student from the work of either their PhD or MSc. At the first publication party for 2015, the first publications of seven students were celebrated last week. THE PUBLICATIONS Fourie A, Wingfield MJ, Wingfield BD, Barnes I. Herron DA, Wingfield MJ, Wingfield BD, Rodas CA, Marincowitz S, Steenkamp ET. Lee DH, Roux J, Wingfield BD, Wingfield MJ. Liu FF, Mbenoun M, Barnes I, Roux J, Wingfield MJ, Li GQ, Li JQ, Chen SF. Nesamari R, Millar IM, Coutinho TA, Roux J. Osorio JA, Wingfield MJ, Roux J. Taerum SJ, Duong TA, De Beer ZW, Gillette N, Sun J, Owen DR, Wingfield MJ.
FABI hosted two groups of High School students over the past two weeks. The visit by students from St Mary’s is now an annual occasion where the girls are also addressed by female academics. The girls were then given the opportunity to do gel electrophoresis preparation to tie in with the biotechnology module currently being covered in their school syllabus. Affies is located close to the University and this is the second year the school has sent its students to visit the Institute to get an insight into the work being done at the University and gain a practical insight into research being conducted. The students are currently studying bacteria and viruses and were hosted by Prof. Students were briefed on biological Nitrogen fixation in plants, given a chance to inoculate and plate bacterial cultures before being told about fungal and bacterial symbioses in indigenous Protea species. Visits by scholars forms an important part of FABI’s mandate to educate the youth and instill an interest in Science by exposing them to high level research being conducted at the Institute.
In a joint effort, staff and students again showed that many hands make light work at the year’s first TPCP-CTHB Tree Planting Day. Everyone swapped their labcoats for shovels, secateurs, wheelbarrows, trolleys and brooms to ensure the tasks were finished by lunchtime. The Tree Planting Day is a team building exercise as much as a time saving effort by the FABI staff under the watchful eye of Dr Wilhelm de Beer. More photos here.
The University of Pretoria, in partnership with the Global Young Academy and Robert Bosch Stiftung, has recently launched the Africa Science Leadership Program (ASLP). FABI research leader and also leader of the Africa Science Leadership Initiative, Prof. Dr Eva Alisic, co-chair of the Global Young Academy and researcher at Monash University in Australia, spent the first two months of the year in FABI to support the launch of the program. The program will commence with a first group in June 2015, and will run annually for an initial period of three years. More information on the Africa Science Leadership Program (ASLP). Reference Slippers B, Alisic E.
In April 2015, Joey Hulbert will join FABI as a PhD student in the Department of Microbiology and Plant Pathology. Photo: Joey Hulbert next to a tanoak (Notholithocarpus densiflorus) tree infected with Phytophthora ramorum — the species responsible for Sudden Oak Death in North America.
The TPCP/CTHB Diagnostic Clinic serves the member companies of the TPCP with diagnoses and advice with regards to tree disease problems. Last week saw the TPCP/CTHB Diagnostic team go on their annual training trip. Some of the familiar plant diseases encountered on this trip included pitch canker and Armillaria root rot of pine; bacterial wilt and MLB (Mycosphaerella leaf blotch) of Eucalyptus; and pink disease on yellow wood. Pests and diseases were not the only part of the trip, however.
The DST/NRF Centre for Tree Health and Biotechnology (CTHB) has been running a highly successful mentorship programme for over a decade. A meet and greet function for the successful mentees and their mentors was held on 27 February in the FABI courtyard.
FABI has launched its annual Blanket Collection campaign and aims to collect 200 blankets this year. Charity drives and social awareness is an important part of FABI’s annual events calendar and gives people pause to think of those less fortunate than they are and in need. Blankets can be dropped off in the FABI reception area or cash donations of R50 per blanket can be made to Prof Noelani van den Berg.