Plant Pathology
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Grapevine Pathology

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​​​​​Programme leader: Dr Lizel Mostert

The field of phytomycology entails the study of fungal systematics and taxonomy of fungal plant pathogens. This knowledge enables the correct identification of causal agents of diseases. The etiology of plant diseases is very important as the first step in understanding the disease aiding in working towards a control strategy. Plant diseases are often complex, being caused by a variety of fungal taxa. The identification and relevance of these taxa are very important. A focus area of research includes the etiology and epidemiology of trunk diseases of grapevine, pome and stone fruit trees.
Phytomycology also entails the development and use of up-to-date molecular identification tools for fungal pathogens that can be used to ensure clean planting material and for early disease warning. The compiling of reliable information regarding the status of fungal pathogens within South Africa is very important. This, together with expertise in phytomycology, is of the utmost importance in order to ensure market access within the agriculture sector, as well as food security in South Africa. Phytosanitary support is provided on an ongoing basis to the deciduous fruit industry (DFPT).

The biological control of plant diseases is important in providing an alternative to chemical control. It allows producers to limit fungicide residues which are becoming an important market requirement. The biocontrol programme focuses on the use of Trichoderma species in the control of grapevine trunk diseases. Various aspects are being researched to understand the mechanisms involved and to optimise the application. These include the formulation, time of application, secondary metabolites produced by the Trichoderma strains, and the host-Trichoderma interactions. Two isolates occurring naturally in grapevines have been tested in vitro and in vivo and is in the process of developing a product that can be used as a pruning wound protectant.