Mr Claudio de Nuzzo

MSc student


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Primary Supervisor
Dave Berger

I am an MSc Biotechnology student in the Molecular Plant Pathogen Interactions (MPPI) group under the supervision of Prof. Dave Berger. My project is titled activation of anti-fungal and anti-herbivore defence mechanisms in maize. The project focusses primarily on three topics namely Cercospora zeina, the fall armyworm and elicitors as tools to elucidate defence responses in maize.

C. zeina is the causal agent of grey leaf spot disease of maize in South Africa and results in yield losses up to 69%. The recent invasion of the fall armyworm will result in crop losses will results in billions of rands of damage across Africa. Control measures focus around the use of fungicidal and insecticidal sprays however these control measures are costly and thus can’t be sustained by subsistence farmers. Elicitors may prove to be a cheaper alternative control as they are known to be up-regulators of defence related genes associated with both anti-fungal and anti-herbivory defence and pattern triggered immunity.

In this project, I will be trying to understand the optimal time for elicitor application in order to combat grey leaf spot disease as well as to determine if elicitors have any effect on the development of the fall armyworm. The project will hopefully take strides forwards towards the development of alternative control measures against grey leaf spot disease and the fall armyworm. My Honours degree was also completed within the MPPI research group under the supervision of Prof. Dave Berger in which I quantified fungal infection in different maize lines.