Ms Katrien de Ridder
My current study in Plant Pathology involves conducting a disease survey of maize foliar and ear rot diseases in small-holder farms in KwaZulu-Natal under the supervision of Prof T.A.S. Aveling and Prof D.K. Berger from the Department of Plant Sciences.
Maize small-holder farms in South Africa usually have low yields (1.4 ton/ha) compared to commercial farms (>5 ton/ha) due to pests and diseases. Infection by foliar pathogens such as Cercospora zeina, the causal agent of grey leaf spot, and Exserohilum turcicum, the causal agent of northern corn leaf blight, contributes greatly to low maize yields obtained in KwaZulu-Natal. Although commercial farmers are able to mitigate losses by means of chemical control, small-holder maize farmers often cannot afford fungicide sprays. A large knowledge gap on the incidence, diversity and impact of foliar and ear rot pathogens and the diseases they cause on small-holder maize farms therefore exists. This study aims at surveying and identifying the major pathogens responsible for causing various maize foliar and ear rot diseases while also determining the mycotoxin levels in several maize varieties developed specifically for small-holder farmers.